Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Meet the Expert: Older Adult Solutions

“The fitness industry's core membership, 18-to 49-year-olds, will experience virtually no population growth between 2006 and 2016, according to U.S. Census data analysis by the SIR Boomer Project. The impact from this is already being felt, as, for the first time in more than a decade, fitness membership numbers are on the decline. Compounding this decline is the fact that fitness centers keep spending obscene amounts of money to persuade the already-converted to join, while the industry has a yearly attrition rate of 27 percent (according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, Boston, Mass.). That is one full fitness center's worth of members who leave every 3.7 years. In addition, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June 2008, the level of leisure time physical activity rates of adults 18 and older dipped from 31.8 percent in 1997 to 30.8 percent in 2007. Given these statistics, and the fact that the industry's growth now lays squarely on the shoulders of the unconverted baby boomers — a segment of the U.S. population that will increase 25 percent between 2006 and 2016 — the greatest challenge for the fitness industry is to remain relevant. Even though these statistics may seem gloomy, they actually present great opportunities for the fitness industry. If facilities focus on the market beyond the declining numbers of younger generations, then they will find potential members who are loyal, have disposable income and often have time for leisure activities. Most adults ages 65-plus — 88 percent of whom have at least one chronic health condition — are attempting to prevent, delay, manage or improve their ongoing health conditions. And it is not just older adults who are affected. Today, 125 million Americans have one or more chronic conditions (45 percent of the population), and almost half of them have multiple chronic conditions (Projection of Chronic Illness Prevalence and Cost Inflation. RAND Corp., October 2000). The situation is clear: Older adults are seeking solutions, and they are willing to invest in their heath. As a matter of fact, they spend more on their health than on anything else, according to the World Heath Organization. The question is, how can you tap into this opportunity?”

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