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Topic: What are the greatest challenges in getting your older adult clients to participate in programs? What are the best motivators?
Claudine (5 Posts) from United Kingdom on Jun 15, 2009:

What are the greatest challenges in getting your older adult clients to participate in programs? What are the best motivators?

Kristi (41 Posts) from United States on Jun 16, 2009:

I find lack of motivation to sometimes be a problem.

Claudine (5 Posts) from United Kingdom on Jun 17, 2009:

Welcome to this forum! Thanks for your early input Kristi.... We are really interested to hear about your experiences in motivating older adults to participate in active aging programs... This is a challenge facing many of us on a daily basis - hopefully we can use this forum to share learnings/ experiences/ solutions/ ideas etc etc with each other. Whether you work in a hospital, community or health club setting, in groups or one-on-one, we would like to hear about the challenges you have faced in motivating people to join and stay engaged in programs. You may have done questionnaires or surveys of participants regarding their motivations - if so please share the results with us. If not, just as valuable are the comments from your service users/ clients, which can tell us volumes about their motivations. Thanks and really looking forward to hearing your thoughts and comments on this topic.... Claudine


A (4 Posts) from United States on Jun 18, 2009:

I have worked in various settings, and when it comes to older adults it's always the same issues... they think they don't have time or just don't have the desire to exercise. I think they think of "exercise" in the formal sense of the meaning and it is overwhelming to them... instead of just focusing on being more physically active throughout the day. Just walking a few minutes more a day instead of sitting on the couch watching a few more minutes of their shows, would make such a difference to their health.

Claudine (5 Posts) from United Kingdom on Jun 19, 2009:

Thank you for your comment, AMD. I guess without the desire to exercise, people will never find the time, so we need to tackle that first.... I like your wording actually, because we are talking a lot about 'motivation' here, but creating 'desire' is another thing altogether! Eg. I may be motivated to exercise because my doctor has told me that it will help manage my arthritis and diabetes, but I will only really, desperately want to exercise if I have found a wonderful activity which I love doing, perhaps with an inspirational leader/ instructor, with elements that interest me and make me happy (whether the interaction with nature on a health walk, or the mental challenge of learning new steps in a dance cl****....), with people who I enjoy spending time with and look forward to seeing (unless my preferred activity is solitary, if I crave time alone) and which leaves me feeling good - emotionally and physically. Dictionary definition of 'desire' –verb (used with object) 1. to wish or long for; crave; want. Perhaps we should change the title of the forum - how do we make older adults crave exercise..... Am interested to hear people's thoughts on this - please do let us know if you have been successful in getting your older adult participants to 'long for' exercise or physical activity? Why is this so difficult?!

Lori (1 Posts) from United States on Jun 22, 2009:

One of my favorite mentors told me that you have to find ways to "trick" adults into learning.  Along those lines, offering suggestions to promote physical activity in older people that don't "seem" like exercise could be a really great tactic.  For example, volunteering as a coach at a local little league or as a PE teacher in a school is a great start. 

Claudine (5 Posts) from United Kingdom on Jun 22, 2009:

Thanks, Lori, for the your input and suggestions. The great thing about the kind of activities you have suggested is that they will provide many benefits beyond just increased fitness and physical wellbeing. They will benefit from a sense of purpose, contributing to society with their knowledge and skills, intergenerational activities, ongoing learning and social interaction, amongst others! So, the more active an older adult is in their lives overall, the chances are they will be more physically active as well. There are, however, additional benefits to structured physical activity options - targeted strength and balance training, carefully monitored cardiovascular exercise and stretching and mobility exercises which can be tailored to individual needs. Also, whether or not older adults do participate in structured exercises (gym or group cl****es), it is likely that they will need to plan further to fit enough physical activity in their lives in order to obtain health benefits. Whether this is walking, swimming or dancing, we need to find ways to get them started and maintaining these behaviours.....

Cody (3 Posts) from United States on Jun 22, 2009:

Great comments but it is not really fair to lay the blame completely on the shoulders of older adults - due to a lack of motivation, desire, etc. because many times we don't do that great a job of providing a program or facility that really connects with them. We cannot do the same things over and over again, even if it is re-packaged a little, and expect different results. It is up to us as programmers/managers/trainers/owners to specifically define what segment of the older adult "market" that we are trying to reach and then find out what connects with them. This group is very diverse and we need to think in diverse ways. No stereotyping, pigeon-holeing (how do you spell that?) or ****umptions allowed. For example, you might offer a chair exercise cl****. That will definitely attract a particular segment of the older adult population. Other types of older adults may attend but they will likely become bored with it if they are too fit. Others will never attend because, even if it is physically appropriate for them, the idea of attending a chair exercise cl**** just makes them feel old (a definite turn-off). So let's get creative and even take age out of it. After all who doesn't know a 70 or 80 year old that could kick their tail in a marathon or biking or dancing? I certainly do. Cody

Claudine (5 Posts) from United Kingdom on Jun 24, 2009:

I totally agree about taking age out of it - that has never worked for any of my programs at all. Years ago, when we ran an 'over 50s' program, we had very few people under the age of 65 attending. Funnily enough it's not particularly aspirational to be in the 'over 50s' group... And yes - we do need to be creative and actually set up/ run/ offer things that speak to people's needs and interests - we need to have the right packaging as well as a product that delivers. Following on from Cody's dancing comment: if you have a few minutes - I would thoroughly recommend this, it was on the BBC a few days ago (it is 50 minutes long but even if you only watch 5 mins at the beginning or dip in and out you will get the picture so do look quickly...): It's about a group of 'elders' doing contemporary dance at a very prestigious theatre in London, with a fantastic choreographer, taking their show on tour etc etc. One guy is in his 80s - I think he dances 5x per week - he is a great dancer, doing what he loves, staying fit through activities which are also mentally challenging and provide a strong social network... I think this is such a great example of a successful active aging program. Claudine

Anne (2 Posts) from United Kingdom on Jul 31, 2009:

Hello, Just joined the AACC Community Centre today and I am delighted there's a forum. Returning to Claudine's first question....I have been delivering group exercise sessions (mainly ETM/step) for almost 20 years. I have taught 'older adults' in the past (linedancing) and have recently started teaching ETM to the over 60's. In my experience it is getting adults to adhere to a programme of group exercise that is the most challenging. I find making exercise fun to be the key - experiencing health benefits along the way helps too! My older adult participants like to be challenged but at the same time they do like to master activities so I try to keep exercise simple as well as fun. I often invite participants come up with ideas/moves themselves - they seem to like this approach perhaps because it makes them feel valued. I really enjoy working with older adults and have learnt a lot so far - lots more to learn though! Later this year I am thinking of introducing circuits into my older adult activity sessions. Does anyone know where I can purchase circuit training cards that are appropriate for use with this population?

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