How to train your Senior Clients
Stop and think about how you interact with your older clientele.
Are assumptions made based on their age? How do you speak to them? There are a lot of misconceptions that people tend to have towards Older Adults.
Do NOT assume that they are hard of hearing and start talking slowly and loudly. I have seen this happen before with trainers and even though they had no intention of insulting their client…. They did! They ASSUMED because of their age they had hearing loss.
Here are some of the MYTHS that need to be addressed.
1. The chronological age of an older adult determines how they act and feel.
I will always remember the time I was at a painting workshop, and there were quite a few older women there.
Another younger girl in the group asked one of the older women who was in her 70’s… “how does it feel to be that old?” The woman answered with a laugh “I don’t feel that old at all…. When I walk by a mirror and see my reflection, I always say ‘who the heck is THAT!!’ “
I loved her answer! I have always said ‘Age is just a number.’
The process of how we age varies from person to person based on their life experiences, their personalities, their current health and how they respond to aging itself and stresses past and present.
As Fitness Professionals we need to look at our Older Adult clients as individuals. Taking into account their uniqueness, past and where they are at now.
2. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
One of my clients did not start exercising until she was 72! She came to me because of health/physical problems. She loved to learn new things, and at 78 she enrolled in horseback riding lessons!! So she could ride with her grandchildren! Now THAT is how I want to be when I am her age.
Just because you are aging does not mean that you lose your passion for learning and knowledge.
Along with age comes life experiences and wisdom. Learning new things is also a way to keep the mind young and the body fit.
3. As you age, you naturally become ‘Older and Wiser.'
This, of course, is stereotyping an age group… just as saying you will become senile when you age is also not right for all.
4. As someone becomes older, they also become more conservative.
I know some older adults who are far from conservative in all aspects of their lives. Many older adults are very receptive to new ways of doing things if it is positively presented to them.
Especially if it involves their wellbeing. They can find it adds excitement to their lives.
Adults learn continuously from life experiences and therefore are often open to pursuing new interests and goals (Atchley,1999)
5. Productivity at work or in general is low for Older Adults.
This too is not a true statement, and should not be used to generalize all Older Adults. I have found that the work ethic of many of the older adults I have known would be something that many young people can learn from.
According to AARP(2003), 60% of older persons plan to work in some capacity during their retirement. Whether it is from economic need or the satisfaction derived from the work, many will take on part-time employment.
Keeping active in the workforce will not only keep the older adult mentally/physically sharp but can also give them the mental/emotional satisfaction to be able to pass on their knowledge and experience to the next generation. There is a lot we can learn from the older generation.
6. Older Adults prefer their days to be quiet, slow and tranquil.
Many older Adults, especially the Boomers stay active as a critical component to their health and wellbeing. We don’t want to assume that they want to be sedentary or need a low-level fitness program.
The social aspect is also essential to this age group. Being around other people can have such a positive benefit to their mental and emotional health. And this should be considered when developing their exercise program.
7. Senility is inevitable for all older adults.
When an older adult appears confused, or needs more time to process data or directions, or misunderstands what is being said, do not assume it is a sign of decline. If that were the case, many younger people would also be diagnosed with senility.
Although senility is a possibility as we age, it is not a given result.
Take the time in the beginning, when you are screening your Older Adult clients to really get to know them. Treat them as the individuals they are without making any assumptions based on their age.
I genuinely love training Older Clients. You will be amazed at what you can learn from them… there are usually some pretty fun and exciting stories that come out from their past… and present 🙂
Works Cited: 2014. ACE Specialist Program, Senior Fitness Manual
Roy B. Ph.D., FACHE, FACSM. ACE Personal Trainer Manual Fifth Edition. Ch 14. Exercise and Special Populations. pp. 554-557
Skinner J. PH.D. ACE Quality of life and physical activity in an older working -age population. Exercise, Physical Activity, Training and Aging Research from the Scientific Advisory Panel.