When I first entered the fitness industry over a decade ago, I never imagined I would have become an Older Adult Fitness Specialist. I was a strength and physique athlete who simply aspired to help others like myself. But before too long I was presented with my first older adult client who was probably just as nervous as I was about the whole situation. She was 66, had severe osteoporosis, a hump on her back (from neck injuries) and COPD, just to make things interesting for me I guess. I embraced the challenge and before long I was meeting with other seniors each and every week.
I couldn’t believe what was happening. What happened to my dream of working with strength and physique athletes? What did these people see in a 230lb powerlifter that made them believe that I could help them? The answer was my compassion, my patience and a general wealth of respect for my elders.
Somehow, my basic personality traits have given me the foundation to work well with older adults. In fact, they quickly became the majority in my stable of clients. Sure, it hasn’t been easy. I’ve trained seniors with dementia, bone and joint problems and chronic disease. In the end it has made me a much better personal trainer, especially for older adults.
In this post I thought I’d share my thoughts on why I find working with older adults and seniors such a rewarding and personally fulfilling experience.
1. I Value Loyalty
Who doesn’t value loyalty? Older adults have shown me that if I give them a good experience in the gym, they’ll stick with me until the end. Remember the client I referenced in the opening paragraph? She’s still my client to this day and she’s doing great. This is loyalty, my friends. In fact many of my older clients have stuck with me over the years and continue to do so today. I can’t express enough gratitude to those who have supported me and my business, especially with so many other options (even more affordable ones) available to them.
2. They Have Realistic Goals
Almost every older adult that comes to see me typically appreciates that exercise benefits will come slowly for them. Fortunately, this is a patient group. Making changes in the body in an older adult is not quite as easy as it is for younger folks, and this group understands that. Younger people tend to want and expect immediate change and rarely consider the long term. I don’t deliver quick fixes, nor do I accept clients who expect it, so I am happier working with people who are more realistic in their goals.
3. They Don’t Have A.A.D.D.
When older adults find something that works for them, it becomes part of their daily routine and it’s unlikely that they’ll stray from it. They don’t have what I refer to as Activity Attention Deficit Disorder. Younger clients have to try everything. Of course this is a normal part of maturing but it’s a nightmare for me. There is nothing more frustrating than planning 6 months of training for a new client, only to have them leave after 6 weeks to try out yoga, return 2 months later, then leave again so that they can try out a bootcamp.
Let’s face it – young people are explorers and don’t typically make the best clients for my business. For my methods to work, people need to commit to a long term plan and older adults allow me to do this.
4. I Feel More At Ease
Perhaps it’s because I was so close to my grandparents that I am so comfortable around older adults. I’m completely at ease and am totally fascinated by the wealth of experience this group has to share. It’s the part of my day when I feel like I can really be myself. I believe it’s my transparency that really endears me to the older adult population and creates a bond that feels more like family.
5. It’s More Rewarding
I get far more satisfaction from helping a senior citizen grow into a strong, independent and vigorous player in the sport of life than I do from toning someone’s arms and thighs. There really is no comparison. I really feel a sense of accomplishment knowing that my clients’ lives have improved and that they are able to better enjoy their lives and interact with the people in them.
6. It’s More Challenging
Health concerns and older adults go hand in hand. This presents a challenge for any personal trainer interested in working with older adults. I’ve invested a great deal of time and money into expanding my education to better serve this group. Avoiding injury and illness is the prime concern and it can be difficult for a trainer to judge how far to push an older client if their only point of reference is themselves. In order to grow as a fitness professional, I need challenge and a chance to be confronted with obstacles and situations that I don’t fully understand. Working with older adults always keeps me growing.
7. More Respect
Older adults are great for my business because they respect my time. They almost always arrive early to their appointments. They also respect my policies and tend to stick to a regular schedule. This make life much easier for me. Many of my younger clients have me constantly rearranging my schedule to accommodate them. This is very inefficient use of my time and my older clients really appreciate this. They also really respect me as a professional, and this I value more than anything else. This creates an atmosphere of mutual respect necessary for the client-trainer relationship to flourish.
Many of my colleagues often ask me why I have so many older adult clients, and I hope this article reveals why. I still train plenty of younger people, as this helps to balance out my day. But getting people over 50 in shape has been the core of my training business for a long time now, and I only see it expanding in the years to come.
If you’d like an opportunity to meet with me personally to discuss your fitness goals, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Or you can check out my Fitness Over 50 program to see if it might be right for you or someone close to you.