Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Age Discrimination Rears its Ugly Head...

This time the target is a lot of older men and women – mostly women – who frequent a local gym. The gym is a wonderful, large facility with modern equipment, always clean, and not overcrowded. It has a great system for exercise classes. Individuals pay one membership price and can attend as many as they like. I currently attend one yoga and a couple of Zumba classes each week. Classes begin most mornings around 8:00 a.m. and run until noon, and are scheduled again from about 4:00 p.m. to eight p.m. in the afternoon and evening.
There are, I believe, two regular Zumba instructors. The instructor for the classes I attend recently celebrated her 60th birthday. She is tiny – I doubt she is five feet. She is in excellent shape, full of energy, jumps around and dances the entire hour. I am sure she can keep up with any Zumba enthusiast or instructor anywhere.
The gym is attempting to attract more mothers with young children.  The thinking is mothers drop the kids off at nursery school and have a few morning hours free. The gym wants them to spend some of that time at their facility. The director wants to bring in a younger Zumba instructor and change class hours to accommodate the younger generation.
What are they thinking? The country is on the cusp of a massive movement of baby boomers into retirement and leisure time activities. Why alienate them now? Most of the women in my morning Zumba classes range in age from the fifties to eighty. I know one woman recently turned 80; a couple of others are about the same vintage.
We will find out in a couple of weeks – at the end of the month – what is going to happen. We are lobbying to keep our instructor and classes. The Moms are welcome in our class, or additional classes could be added to attract the younger women. There are so many exercise alternatives nowadays.
My appeal to the director: Be creative and add different kinds of class that might attract younger women. And invite the women into our Zumba class. We may be older, but we can Zumba with any instructor and keep up with Zumba devotees of all ages. Do not alienate and shut out the people who are committed to these classes AND to your gym. Listen to everyone.
We will remember the indignity of being tossed aside and the feeling of being considered second class citizens. I realize younger families are the future. What about the young seniors as well as the older ones who have supported you all these years? Those of us in their fifties and sixties (hopefully) have a couple of decades (at least) of gym use ahead of us. That adds up to a lot of membership fees.
Baby boomers, seniors of today, the elderly in age but young in spirit – fight for your physical activity rights! We will be happy to have the young women join us. We would be happy to see additional classes on the schedule to accommodate diverse requests and desires. But we refuse to be shoved aside and forced to settle on classes, instructors, and times we do not like.