5 Ways to Grow Your Senior Programming

For Gym Operators

5 Ways to Grow Your Senior Programming

Seniors have the time, money and motivation to stay healthy and physically active, so make sure you're not overlooking this demographic and the potential members it includes.

Follow these guidelines to start offering valuable senior-specific programming in your club.

The following is a summarization of an education session from the 2015 IHRSA convention, produced with full permission from IHRSA. The full-length video is available for purchase at ihrsastore.com.

About the Speaker

Dori Nugent is the Group Fitness Instructor at Club La Maison Health & Fitness Complex.

The Importance of Senior Programming

Our population is getting older. In the United States, 13 percent of the population is over the age of 65 and represents a sizeable market. Life expectancy has increased and will continue to increase. Older members are more likely to remain at a health club than younger members.

Proper senior programming can aid in retention and consistency within your club.

There are two senior members types: the Baby Boomers and the Lucky Few. Baby Boomers are born between 1946 and 1964, and are your target audience for senior programs. Boomers value individual choice, community involvement, prosperity, ownership, self-actualization, health, and wellness. Their values are different from millennial values. They are a generation of retirement planning and pensions.

Baby Boomers have time and money, want to live longer, be healthy and have independence. They are loyal and do not like change. They are orderly and appointment driven. Interactions with trainers and other members represent an important component in their lives. If a senior genuinely feels that the trainer cares, they will not leave.

Members of the second group, the Lucky Few, are the generation before the Baby Boomers. Between 70 and 85 years old, this group has the time and the money to invest in their health. Their activities are often social in nature, such as card playing and swing dancing. They prefer group settings for recreation and activity. Keep this in mind when designing your programs.

Senior fitness programming

Revenue-Generating Program Ideas

Seniors want to be part of programs that exercise the body and the mind. The right trainers should incorporate both components into their personal training sessions, group exercise and aquatic classes. 

Begin to develop programs designed specifically for seniors. Finding the right staff is vital. Hire employees who are relatable, trustworthy, invested, and patient in order to appeal to seniors. Provide specialized programming such as golf, tennis, and other group activities. Your revenue-driven programs should encompass activities that the older members enjoy doing, while including functional fitness. Include this concept in your marketing materials and support the messaging with marketing images.

Turn the group into an exclusive club by selling T-shirts, pins, hats, and other items reflective of the group activity. The most important element is the social aspect of these groups.

Examine the opportunity to provide off-site training at nursing homes, assisted-living villages, and retirement communities. Get out there and meet people! Make those crucial connections. If members cannot come to you, go to them. Seniors will pay for training that comes to them. Training represents a worthwhile service; it requires a small amount of money in exchange for a huge health benefit. 

With fee-based programs, older trainers can be invaluable. Older trainers can relate to their clients and the senior clients want to emulate them. Establish program competitions to create a sense of accomplishment in your members.


Retention can be easier with seniors because of their sense of loyalty.

They do not want to move once they’ve established relationships. Group fitness represents a huge retention tool because of the social component. Creating clubs within clubs enhances the relationship aspect within the group, which aids in senior member retention. Form singles clubs for members to talk, socialize, and get to know each other. Wine and book clubs would work, too. Community service clubs are also popular. Holding club-exclusive social events and mixers integrates seniors into your club.

Fun and Safety Go Hand in Hand

Gear your programs towards safety while addressing seniors as normal citizens, not as old and frail. Instructors should begin slowly and repeat exercises when needed, being careful to avoid a level of frustration, rather expressing gentle, positive patience. Appropriate music for group exercise classes is important for an appealing sense of environment. Simple instructions are the easiest to follow. Be consistent with program times and days. Challenge seniors both mentally and physically.

Marketing Your Programs

Market your senior club through emails, posters, signs, newsletters, and bulletin boards. Create a sense of understanding when marketing to seniors. Direct outreach to seniors is worded differently than other marketing outreach. Use words like functional fitness, longevity, gentle, safe, and independence.

Marketing Outside Your Club

Market and promote senior programs at senior centers, assisted-living communities, and churches. Partner with physical therapists and doctors, and reward referrals.

Don't miss the opportunity to make the Lucky Few and Baby Boomers feel welcome in your club. By following these guidelines, you can grow a loyal community around your senior programming and improve your aging members' quality of life. 

To learn more about what your facility can do to offer valuable senior-specific programming, contact us today.