Every Shade of Grey - It's Time to Rethink Age

Friday, 12th May 2017

Whether using the phrases ‘blue rinse brigade’ or ‘over the hill’, the synonyms for older adults in our society are less than flattering. How often have you heard someone say “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” or “They’re a bit old for that” in relation to someone older than themselves. The problem is these phrases are so widely used that it’s become the norm to pigeon-hole anyone over 60 into one category; old.

The goal posts for age are changing all the time. In 1980, the average life expectancy in the UK was 73. In 2014, this had risen to 81. An ageing population, some believe, puts a strain on community services, the NHS, and resources. But let’s pause for a second and look around; older people aren’t just sitting around in chairs waiting for the inevitable.

Age is just a number and this is clearly evident in the world of sport and fitness. In the last month alone, social media and news outlets have been full of spectacular feats by older adults, many of whom put younger folk to shame. There has been the 90 year old who does daily pull upsthe 80 year old bodybuilder who took on Harry Connick Junior, and the 70 year old semi-professional American football player. Even the recent relaunch of the This Girl Can campaign features 67 year old Catherine who enjoys regular bootcamp sessions with the mantra “I am acting my age”.  But our favourite story has to be that of Indian athlete Man Kaur who, at the ripe age of 101, ran the 100m at the World Masters Games in New Zealand.

This lust for life extends to our founder partners; Fitness League, Keep Fit Association and Medau. You may think of group exercise instructors being a young bunch but both Medau and KFA have active teachers in their 90s. These aren’t isolated cases; in 2016, our Working in Fitness Survey revealed that over 16% of the leisure workforce are aged 55 and over. Participants, too, are not shying away from exercise as time goes by; according to our 2016 Participant Survey, over 30% of participants are aged 55 and over. These are all encouraging statistics; for anyone dreading getting older, the future is bright.

The world of ageing is changing and our preconceptions of what is old should be changing too. Maybe we should take a more “you’re never too old to learn approach” rather than shying away from things that don’t fit the stereotype. Take parkour (or free running) as another example. A sport associated with younger people doing urban acrobats has been turned on its head by the Parkour Dance Company and their Forever Young sessions. OK, so the somersaults may have been toned down but the concept works because the elements used focus on functional fitness and fun.

Knowing that older folk are ‘acting younger’, both physically and mentally, our founders have taken a risqué approach to promoting their classes. The recent release of Fifty Shades Darker got audiences around the world a little hot under the collar and our plucky founders decided to follow suit. Each with their own unique discipline, our founders have certainly bought the fun to fitness and shown that life is more fun in your 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond.

‘First published on EMD UK, written by Sarah Leeves’.