Tap Additional Revenue Streams
By Terri Webster Matal
Since water aerobics at the city of Sacramento’s swimming pools began in 2001, adults in the community have gleefully anticipated the opening of the pools each summer. In summer 2012, attendance for water aerobics at three swimming pools totaled more than 2,500 visitors!
More than 70-million Baby Boomers, as well as older seniors, are looking for cool places to exercise. Since summers in southern California can be very warm with average temperatures reaching 90 degrees in the afternoons, water exercise has become quite popular.
Aside from the social benefits of water aerobics, the physical benefits are numerous. According to the American Council on Exercise, water buoyancy reduces the “weight” of a person to 90 percent. This reduces the burden on stress-bearing joints and muscles while reducing the likelihood of injury and muscle soreness.
Instead of weights, the water provides a natural resistance of 12 pounds, ideal for building muscles.
Advertising And Social Networking
Let’s face it—Boomers are the ones with the cash and credit cards, so selling the social and health benefits of water exercise to this age group is an important part of marketing.
Social networking using Facebook, YouTube, Yelp, Pinterest, and other outlets is a great way to advertise. Although a number of older adults may not use computers or smart phones to explore and access their leisure options, social networking among this population is gaining momentum.
According to Katharine Ross, Director of Publishing for Seniors Guide (2012), social networking is attractive for those who want to stay in touch with friends in an easy, convenient way. Ross notes that Facebook is the most popular social-networking site, and the use of Pinterest is on the rise among adult women.
Hundreds of leisure organizations use Facebook as a way to promote their programs and services. Creating an organization’s “like” page is a great start, and is easily managed. Plenty of photos should be posted, and users should be encouraged to comment on them, especially items that draw readers back to the website.
These same ideas can be used to create a Pinterest account. Pinning images to boards is designed to inspire people to try new and interesting things, like “pinning” images to their own boards. These images can be re-pinned by other users, and images are connected to a website.
Photos and videos can highlight programs. The use of Pinterest by organizations is still relatively new, but this application can be as useful as Facebook.
Last summer, one of our young male instructors was so popular that there was not enough room in the shallow end of the pool! This phenomenon was compounded by a well-meaning participant shooting a video and then uploading it to YouTube!
Partnering And Programming
Another way Sacramento’s aquatic department attracts the older crowd is through a continuing grant that offers free water aerobics to people 50 and older.
A local senior center was named for a woman who bequeathed $1.5 million to the center for the betterment of senior adults. Part of this gift included an adult-wellness program, and more than 200 people participated in the program last summer. Between the program’s newsletter (through mail and email), and word-of-mouth from satisfied participants, the activity was well-advertised.
Partnering with hospitals and other non-profit organizations that target wellness for adults is another good option. Local hospitals in the Sacramento area often refer their patients to the city’s water-aerobics programs for those in need of physical therapy or more low-impact exercise.
Water exercise helps a variety of people—from those with disabilities to pregnant women, and adults with certain chronic medical conditions. Wounded Warriors—those men and women who have returned from war with injuries—also can benefit from the opportunity to swim and exercise.
Good, old-fashioned marketing is still alive and well for many leisure organizations, especially for the 50-plus crowd. Weaving in social media and networking is an additional way to market adult programs.
Terri Webster Matal is the Aquatics and Adult Sports Supervisor for the city of Sacramento, Calif. Reach her at TMatal@cityofsacramento.org.
------------------------- Sidebar ---------------------------------
Swim Lessons For Adults
Most aquatic professionals agree that offering swim lessons to youth is the backbone of most swim programs. However, it is surprising how many established programs are missing the opportunity to offer swim lessons to adults.
Many adults are fearful of the water, which often prevents them from registering their own children for swim lessons.
When we launched our adult-swim program in 2006 at one swimming pool, interest grew exponentially to the point that we now extend offerings to three swimming pools with four 2-week sessions.
We offer two levels: a beginning level for adults who have little swimming experience or are fearful of the water, and who just want to learn the basics; and a more advanced level for adults who want to work on their strokes and techniques.
Swimming and water exercise are lifelong sports and leisure pastimes, and adults who learn in their own classes can remain healthy and active for many years.