Insights: why you need to be training the SENIOR POPULATION
Ladies and gentleman today this post is going to be specifically targeted at people that are interested in training general population clients who are senior. So the reason that I put this together is because many people don't feel equipped or ignore their senior population that is out there, when they should really be paying a little bit more attention to them. And I'll give you the reason why!
Does this sound like you? Are you waking up early in the morning and then you can easily fill your books until the after school crowd has done their after school drop off (9.30am) and then next thing you know you have a gap until lunchtime and then next thing you know you have a gap until the after work crowd. Well, guess who fills the gaps in your day? So if you're looking at absolutely nothing else, not even the enjoyment or the extra challenge that is surrounding training the general senior population, look at it as a logistical absolute savior. The people that can come in pretty much in any of your gaps in the day are your senior population.
On top of that, the senior population is a really good population to be training. There is a lot of people in the senior population. There are not very many trainers that are well equipped to be able to handle the needs of an aging demographic. However, the aging demographic continues to get bigger, so your slice of the pie can continue to get bigger. Sound good, huh?
All right, now that I've spoken to your businessbrain, let's talk some more about your fitness brain. When you're training people from the non senior but general population, these are tending to be people up to the age of retirement and that sort of thing. You're working around different things that can cover up in their day, such as them being seated a lot during the day or traveling overseas, or them having to take their children to certain events and that sort of thing.
When you're working with members of the senior population, what you'll find is you actually can get a lot of the advice that you are giving to your senior population followed and I don't know about you, but it actually feels really quite nice when you take time to give someone advice on how to make their health better. How do you feel better day to day, how to have more energy day to day and to eat better day today? And they listen to it and then they get results. How good does that feel? The worst feeling is when you give people advice, and they actually can't follow it.
So you'll get a really meaningful relationship with someone who's part of the senior population. Now, fair game. Training people from the senior population can be challenging at times. The only reason is (I actually have been training people since I was maybe 16 or 17 years old) is the senior population will tell you exactly what they think. They will immediately give you feedback and there'll be no bars held. For example, I remember teaching some of my first classes, the people from senior population. So these were people that were 70 and above the oldest was 95 years old. And everybody had a smile on their face. They seemed to be really enjoying themselves and someone waved me over at the end of class and I thought they were about to tell me how amazing my class was. And with a big smile on her face, she said that was a great class, but your music is really bad. I'm laughing because I thought it was pretty hilarious. I actually thought at the time when I was 16 or 17 that exposing this generation to remixes of the music that I listened to from time to time would make them love it as much as I did because it was quite catchy.
But I resoundingly got my answer after a few weeks, which was that we need to compromise with this music. It's not what we enjoy listening to. So music complaints aside, what else would you need to take into consideration when you're training the senior population? Well what I find with the senior population is they tend to have more time which is great. So I like to schedule the time that they come in to be an awesome time to coincide with a morning tea after they've finished their workout or a kind of an early lunch for them. Reason being social groups can form quite well and quite easily in the senior population classes, which is very cool and it can be very good for their health. To have these tight knit groups. One of the big predictors of longevity was having a tight social connection. And you can really get this as someone who is not going to your workplace and now is retired from not just family but having peers who week to week will check on you and actually keep you accountable coming into class. So that's a really good reason to have these classes mid morning or at some point that is kind of close to your time that the people in the class can actually go and catch up after the class.
What you'll also find is besides your music selection in terms of the artists and songs themselves, the volume of the music and the volume of your voice will have to be quite different and a lot quieter surprisingly. And this is something that you'll find out right away when you're taking the class but it's worth bearing in mind that taking a note of the exact volume number that you're projecting to the class when the class is happy, will pay off dividends for you. In terms of what you say when you're instructing a senior session or a senior class, you want to be looking at communicating really well as to why someone is doing something, where they should be feeling it, and a number of progressions as well as ways to modify the exercise based on what's in front of you.
You will probably have done a screening at this point if you've read any of my earlier documentation. But keeping in mind the type of things that certain injuries or niggles won't be able to do and providing a workaround will mean that you have more participation in things within the class. For example, I actually do walking burpees with my senior population, I don't take them right up to it right away. But what I do is I get them to place their hands on a high step. They walk back into a plank position. Then they walk their feet wider than their hands and then they stand up straight. This is a great exercise for them because it's actually teaching them the process of being able to get off the floor which they'll be doing a lot with their grandchildren.
So I like to think of exercises that coincide with activities of daily living for them and then relay that information to them. So that I get more buy in for the exercises concerned. On top of that, whilst there's a lot of opinions that you'll get from people in the class it's also worth being mindful that some of the exercises that you want them to do - even if it's within their skill set, and it's an important skill set for them to be able to do - They may not take to them right away because they don't feel successful when they're doing it. Or they feel like it's quite hard.
There's a lot more mindset that goes into taking people that are senior population. So one for me was I like to introduce exercises that use reaction and use fast twitch muscles. So in doing so, I did have some of the senior clients tell me that they were upset and it was dangerous and that I'm going to cause someone to have a bad fall and all of these sorts of things. And when I went back and realized that I hadn't said that besides the fact that your fast twitch muscles diminish as you age over the age of 35 I hadn't gone as far to say this is something that will help you be more agile when you're in the supermarket and help you reduce a fall long term.
You can also remind people in the class that exercises that we find to be difficult are usually the ones that we need to do the most. And on top of that the benefits to them of the exercises long term when they participate in them. And so in handling that feedback, I then had to take that back to the entire class (as it becomes a bit of a democracy) and give them the options for them to participate in the exercise and options for them to instead do another exercise completely, but also reaffirmed to them that it wasn't a dangerous exercise for them to be doing.
It helps if you do have the level of skill that you know what exercises are good and not good to be doing in the population. So that you can have some weight behind this you do not make it up. But there is a lot of mindset that goes into instructing senior classes beyond exercise planning. Furthermore, being aware of things that you may not see day to day in the general population. For example, one of the reaction skills and games that I created involved participants using a balloon to squeeze between the knees and then they were going to do some catching with it and that sort of thing. I had a number of people within the class that were really against balloons in general because they believed that it was killing birds (when it went into the bin after the balloons were used). So there was a lot more thinking that went in to these type of exercises.
And on top of that, the level of customer service that's required and going into seniors exercises is a lot higher. Because some of the seniors that you come across that would like to be fitter and be more active and that sort of thing have got into their head that most exercises are dangerous. And so that presents a problem when you're trying to create a progressive program for them, and they no longer think that they can progress through exercise. That's simply actually an incorrect statement. And in fact, many scientific studies out there have proven that you can continue to get significant results no matter what age you start at. However, the narrow mindedness without your expertise communicated can actually make or break your seniors classes. Now this all seems like doom and gloom, but I should share with you some of the things that doesn't make it so worthwhile when you do these things.
For example, I have had clients that have have told me that as a result of doing my senior sessions not only were they able to walk down to their local coffee shop, which is where they used to get a taxi back, but instead progressively over the weeks as a result of doing the other exercises they were doing with me, they found themselves being able to go on what we discovered was five to 10 Kilometer walks. So they were able to achieve a whole bunch more in their day as a result of being able to do the activities that they did in the sessions with us.
As another bit of a background, some of these people are coming off absolute years of sitting at a computer, not moving that much and driving to work every day and just not simply having the time to be able to stay active. And with that those type of years of not knowing what they're capable of doing this can come with a little bit of fear, but being able to achieve more from these Twilight retirement years so that you're pushing the the Twilight retirement years where it's fun, they're no longer working, they have access to some funds, they are able to achieve more in their day to day life. They're able to enjoy the things that they weren't able to do when they're working. These are some really great and wonderful meaningful things that you can do and create as a result of training the senior population.
Furthermore, it's a great way to get really creative. I took classes that were for Age Concern, one of them being a chair based class. And we got to the point that the people in the class no longer needed the use of the chair but we continued to use it for creating different exercises after people that were more chair bound were able to stand up. So this was just so cool to see. It gives me goosebumps to be able to share that with you because you can see really meaningful results in the people that you're training as a result of these things that you do and progressively changing an exercise can make all the difference.
On top of that, senior clients also have a really good community around them. So I've often found that when I train members of my class and I train them really well and they really enjoy that they will actually get like their whole extended family into doing exercises and that sort of thing. So from having one client in my seniors class I get access to, you know, the people that they meet in community groups, and people that they meet at church fates, all of this sort of stuff. So, I mean, if you are good, you're going to have a whole bunch of people that are out there just telling everyone how awesome you are. And also educating their sisters, cousins, nieces, grandkids about all of the things that they're able to do that they weren't able to do at night or things that they learned, which is absolutely super cool.
Have you trained senior population, what were your findings? Do you enjoy it? Since creating this post, I have had a lot of interest in training people from the senior population. And I am considering putting some resources and ultimately a course together for this. So this is something that would interest you, please reach out or simply watch this space because I have a lot of tips, tricks inside information and of course stories on what not to do as well as what to do that will help keep you informed and best equipped to be able to train people well that are from this population.