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Profiting from Longevity

It's not uncommon to find people in their 60s, 70s and even 80s working out at fitness facilities. If you aren't yet focusing on the needs of older adults in your facility, you're missing out on an enormous opportunity.

We Americans have added 30 years to our life expectancy during the last century. Today, the typical American man lives until he is 74, and the typical American woman lives to be 79. Alan Dowd, a contributing writer for The American Enterprise, published an excellent article reporting on a keynote speech by Dr. Robert Butler (one of the world's leading experts on aging issues, and president of the International Longevity Center-USA), which focused on why human longevity is the solution to society's problems.

"Society has it backward," explains Dowd, "by worrying about how longer life spans for Americans are going to be a liability for society. Instead, thanks to medicine and technology that requires few of us to perform any physical labor in our jobs, longer life spans mean we can contribute longer, thus producing more for society." Dowd stresses that Americans shouldn't focus on retirement "as they cross those invisible finish lines of 55 or 62 or 65 or 67," making the "retirement-to-death gap" bigger and straining the Social Security and Medicare systems. Instead, these more seasoned and knowledgeable workers should focus on working longer, relieving the burden on our economy and retirement system. Work keeps the mind and body active, Dowd explains. And, raising the Social Security retirement age to 71 by 2040 and to 75 by2 070 would save Americans enough money to cover any shortfalls.

While it's uncommon to find many workers at fitness facilities past the current retirement age, it's not uncommon to find people in their 60s, 70s and even 80s working out at fitness facilities. And, if indeed the older generation continues in the work-force, fitness facilities will play an ever more important role in helping this population to keep active and healthy. Work may keep older adults' minds active, but counteracting the inevitable bodily declines as Americans age can only be accomplished through plain old exercise.

In this issue, Dr. Christine Brooks examines the role of Sarcopenia. Not a widely-used term, sarcopenia is the age-related skeletal muscle decline that occurs naturally as individuals gets older. The key to this article is understanding how the process actually occurs and how fitness professionals can not only use this knowledge to help their clients/members understand better what is happening, but also help them to slow and reverse sarcopenia's effects through a regular program of strength training.

To prove just how effective strength training is for older adults, authors Wayne Westcott and Bob Simons, both experts on the subject of strength training, present two studies that show that even frail elderly adults can perform strength exercises at the same intensity as their younger counterparts, and even experience the same benefits.

If you aren't yet focusing on the needs of older adults in your facility, you're missing out on an enormous opportunity. There are currently approximately 50 million Americans ages 50 to 74, and that number is expected to grow by more than 24 million people over the next 15 years-compared to a growth ofonly 3 million people in the 25 to 54 age group. That's a big group of people who will likely make up a majority of your members in the years to come.

Footnote
1Dowd, Alan. (Jun. 5,2006) Prime of Life. The American Enterprise Online, www.taemag.com/issues/articleID.19214/article_detail.asp. Downloaded Jul. 21, 2006.
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