According to the US Census Bureau, more than 20% of the US population will be 65 years old or older by 2030. This large baby boomer population cohort, comprised of people born between 1946 and 1964, will be between 66 and 84 in 2030. As more of this group enters retirement age (baby boomers today are between the ages of 56 and 72), they will present a large potential client base for exercise science specialists.
Chronic illnesses and health conditions associated with aging make baby boomers increasingly eager to pursue a healthy lifestyle and exercise regimen, as the IDEA health and fitness organization points out. In addition, the AARP and Huffpost cite that baby boomers control 63% of US financial assets — they will spend on health and well-being.
The fitness industry has a lot to offer baby boomer clients, and baby boomers have a lot to offer fitness professionals in return. However, those training to be fitness and exercise professionals must take into consideration the health concerns and needs of older clients if they want to be successful with baby boomers.
The East Valley Tribune reports that many older people prefer older personal trainers and fitness coaches. Older people have complex health needs, and they know that an aging body must be treated differently than a young person’s body, so they often choose older trainers who understand the needs of an older person because they themselves are experiencing the aging process firsthand. Everyone wants to be trained by someone who can understand their body and their concerns, and this is especially important for older people, for whom serious injury is a major concern when exercising. The same article also explains that older clients frequently have concerns about younger trainers based on previous bad experiences with inexperienced trainers.
Trainers who are baby boomers themselves have the advantage of a built-in trust with older clients, and in the next decades they will have the opportunity to use that trust to do a lot of good for the health of older clients, in turn doing good for their personal business by catering to a populous and wealthy client base. In order to break into the good work offered by working with baby boomer clients, younger exercise science professionals and students will have to work to understand and take into account the nuances of older people’s bodies. In addition, young trainers must be willing to build trust and relationships with older clients, and must be patient and dedicated.
People in the exercise science field looking to attract baby boomer clients should focus on understanding health issues commonly faced by older people, and how these issues can be helped through exercise. Arthritis and joint problems are common among older people, and therefore any exercise program will have to be adapted to minimize stress on painful joints and alleviate pain. Heart problems, spine issues, and the loss of strength and bodily function should all also be considered when developing an exercise plan for an older client, and trainers should be comfortable with being in contact with medical providers. As the IDEA health and fitness organization points out, fitness programs for older people should help clients “manage their health issues, combat the effects of aging, achieve their goals and maintain independence and quality of life.” IDEA’s guide on catering a workout program to older clients is an excellent resource for exercise science professionals looking to work with more baby boomers.
The Human Performance concentration within the exercise science program at William Woods University offers aspiring personal trainers and fitness professionals a broad and thorough understanding of how exercise can benefit the human body, and prepares students to understand the different health needs of different populations, including older people. Baby boomers will be a huge client base for exercise science professionals in the decades to come, but only highly trained, committed, and empathetic trainers and coaches will be able to find success with the baby boomer population.