Do the older generation require equipment with weights or is body-weight training sufficient?
Heinrich: Weights form an integral part of training but this training can be complemented by an in-house exercise routine.
Urbach: Group gymnastics also qualify as an alternative. Depending on the performance level we offer sports for the elderly or just seated gymnastics.
Heinrich: Social aspects are just as important in courses. Sport generally connects people. Time and again we see that small groups form who then always return to exercise together.
To what extent does digitalisation play a role for you? We are always tempted to assume the older generation do not cope with modern tools so well.
Heinrich: Our retirees are au fait with digitalisation. Most of them have tablets, use them for skyping and so on. And this is why they also get along well with this at the gym. The big value added – in addition to the automatic setting of equipment - is monitoring by instructors who track training progress at the PC and can then adjust the equipment accordingly.
Urbach: Digitalisation also solves many problems in an easy way. We have a 95-year-old resident who suffers from a visual impairment. She uses Alexa and Google – this makes life much easier. For most people moving in here this has become an everyday routine.
Are there any underlying conditions where you would actually advise to avoid exercise?
Heinrich: We would discourage people from exercising in the event of acute inflammation, and in case of progressed osteoporosis and pronounced heart insufficiency. Everything else can be adjusted so individually that exercising is always possible. Exercise needs to be pain-free and fun.
Generally speaking, how do you think more retirees can be won over by the ranges the fitness industry has to offer?
Heinrich: We organised Health Days at the Vitalisarium – at least before the pandemic – where guests were invited to find out about our complete ranges. This way we always recruited new customers each time. Another important channel are physicians and physiotherapists who refer patients to us. So a crucial aspect for winning over patients is the cooperation with doctors, hospitals and rehab clinics.
Urbach: We offer everything in one – not just physiotherapy but also fitness. This allows us to continue providing patients with holistic care also after their therapy has ended. Furthermore, our pool allows us to perform rehabilitation very well. In general, the ranges on offer must simply be age-specific. The elderly must be able to operate the equipment and get added value from it.
What should be considered when addressing the older generation?
Urbach: There is always the risk that 70-year-olds do not see themselves as elderly. “I am not old yet”. Here, fitness providers have to manage a tightrope act in addressing them. “Silver Agers” might be a better wording, for example. And probably by referring to fall prevention as trunk training.
When gym operators wish to upgrade their ranges for an older target group, what should they take into consideration?
Urbach: We are pleased to share our specialisation. What you should never forget is that training courses must be specifically geared to the elderly. You could offer various intensities for group training, for example.
What is the optimum approach for instructors when advising their silver agers?
Heinrich: In our facility all instructors are also skilled physiotherapists who therefore have a different approach to this. On top of this, we cooperate with experts such as a back training teacher, for example. It is important for guests to be perceived as individuals.