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Wellness programs mature, change shape along with clients' needs

We know baby boomers are turning 65 at an alarming rate, but what about the 50-year-olds?

The millions turning 50 will reshape the "active aging" market to meet their own needs and desires, says Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council of Active Aging, based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"We're looking at a huge market that, in effect, embraces everyone 50 to 100 and beyond," said Milner, who turns 50 this year.

The birthday, the market and the number of boomers led Milner to the following predictions:

More wellness programs. Wellness is exploding, he says. More than three-quarters (77 percent) of those who responded to a recent ICAA survey plan to expand their activities.

More wellness professionals. Expect to see more exercise physiologists, sports medicine professionals and orthopedists, Milner says. Staff increases will be driven by boomer needs.

Convergence of rehabilitation and wellness. "After the common cold, sports injuries are the No. 2 reason boomers visit their doctors," Milner said. "Therefore, as more boomers work to stay fit, many of them will also be working with rehab professionals. Personal training is expected to grow more rapidly in the U.S. than anywhere else."

Rejection of the stereotypes of aging. "We'll see greater diversity in portrayals of aging and greater achievements by older adults," Milner said. "Because of the sheer numbers alone, companies will be focusing more on this demographic. To be successful, they will have to change their perceptions" of aging.

Increase in energy-boosting methods. According to a National Marketing Institute survey, 82 percent of older adults want to maintain a healthy lifestyle to make sure they have energy as they age.

"This opens the door to an array of programs aimed at boosting energy," Milner says. "The industry will focus on overcoming the paradox identified by researchers a few years back: 69 percent of older adults exercise to increase their energy level, yet lack of energy is consistently put forth as a barrier to exercise."

Redefinition of retirement. Workers older than 55 are expected to retire far later than their predecessors.

Many say they want the job more than the money because they want to feel useful and productive. The trend means health management, fitness and wellness programs will need to be provided for this segment of the older population.

Growth of "green exercise" and communities. Hiking, trail walks and meditation gardens are examples of what will flourish as environmental consciousness grows, Milner says.

Research has shown five minutes of exercise in a park, garden or green space benefits mood. Also, "boomers are fueling a new era of social responsibility and environmental stewardship and are active participants in green teams," Milner says.

Jane Glenn Haas writes for the Orange County (Calif.) Register. She can be reached at [email protected]

Wellness programs mature, change shape along with clients' needs 06/21/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 4:30am]
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