As I grow older and begin to think a bit about my retirement years, I sometimes ask myself whether I might do something — or stop doing it — once I retire. Usually this inner dialog focuses on the amount of money I am paying, leading me on to wonder whether I will even have the money for the activity once I retire.
A place that I visit regularly, sometimes as often as five or six times a week, is my health club, and this inner conversation occurs almost every time I sign in to exercise. Right now my employer shares the monthly cost of my time at the gym, and after more than twelve years I continue to take advantage of this benefit, exercising regularly.
When I do retire, I wonder, if I will be able to make up my employer’s contribution and continue working out at this club? Lately I’ve looked around the gym and noticed just how few older individuals are exercising — my club is a huge and well run metropolitan chain with many locations in my area. Now that I’ve read State of the Art Fitness: For Whom? — a recent post over at the Changing Aging blog — I am ruminating on the topic more and more.
So for fun, I asked one of the health club managers whether my club offered special rates for senior citizens. After looking at me like I was nuts, he said “No.” My question is, though I did not ask him is, “Why not?”
Boomer club members — confirmed and committed exercisers — must be retiring all of the time, but eventually most will have a bit less money than they had before, so a small senior discount would mean a lot and be especially meaningful to people who have used the facility for years and years. Moreover, whenever I exercise in the middle of the morning or the middle of the afternoon, the place, which can probably hold more than100 exercisers at any one time often has 10 or maybe 15 active individuals — on a good day. That’s five or six hours on some days when hardly anyone uses the equipment.
So here’s my question. Does this mean that my wonderful health club really wants to avoid catering to people who are aging even though these members are committed to the club, to exercising, and to good health? Is the club rationing its exercise services, allowing just those people who can afford the top dollar to continue — which is not most people — and not so subtly practicing ageism and letting the rest of us, even people who have use the club for years and years, know that we need to make other arrangements?
This is an interesting question. It makes a lot of sense for health clubs to offer senior discounts. I,too want to exercise for my health and have since I turned forty quite a few years ago. It was a commitment I made to myself when I saw how physically debilitated my parents were as they aged from no exercise. I would swim at least 3 times a week, but had to give up my health club membership last January because I couldn’t afford the membership. Living in NYC costs double for anything. Although, I try to walk everyday for an hour at no cost to me, I miss the swimming for my upper body strength. Come January, my husband and I will live in and care for my 91 year-old mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s. There is a recreation center with affordable memberships nearby and I plan to start swimming again. Great post.