How your club can benefit from more senior members

Need more members? How about more volunteers? Your mum may be more interested in her azaleas than your club's Saturday fixtures, but there are people of her generation who want to play sport and may even want to coach that cheeky bunch of nine-year-olds.

Australia's population is ageing, and according to the ABS the group aged 65-84 years is about to hit a growth spurt*. Rather than think of this expanding demographic in a negative light, sports clubs should embrace these potential new members as a pool of volunteers, rich in skills and experience.

How do older people benefit from physical activity?

The positive benefits for older people who engage in sport and outdoor recreation are well documented. Regular exercise (even very gentle exercise) can:

• increase energy levels and reduce stress and anxiety

• improve concentration and reduce the risk of dementia

• increase bone strength

• help control weight

• reduce the incidence of falls and the severity of injury

• reduce the risk of cardiovascular and other serious diseases

• prevent disability

• extend and improve quality of life.

How will your club benefit from the inclusion of more senior members?

• Increased members mean revenue growth; tapping into a largely under-serviced and growing market makes a lot of sense.

• Older people can make great role models and mentors for younger members.

• Seniors often bring a complete skill set with them earned during a long career. They can advise and contribute in many operational areas.

• Upon retirement, many people often look for volunteer positions to keep them socially, intellectually and physically active and may therefore be willing to take on a more formal role in your club.

• Retirees are often very reliable and dedicated.

What should you take into account when developing and marketing a sport program for older people?

• Think about how your sport can be modified for older participants and those with mobility issues.

• Consider providing social activities in addition to participation and competition opportunities.

• Find out which days and times are best for older people. They may be happy to participate in a program run on a weekday; a time when many sports clubs are under-utilised.

• Make participation fees affordable.

• Promote realistic role models in recruitment drives.

• Educate coaches and club leaders about the varying needs of older people, or train older people themselves.

• Organise activities at venues accessible by public transport.

• Investigate the competitive options for your older members (e.g. Masters Games).

• Make sure you consider the safety and security of program participants, particularly as they relate to an older age group.

• Ensure your club policies are up-to-date and cater for older participants and members. Play by the Rules has developed a Club Toolkit, which includes important templates like a Member Protection Policy and Disability Inclusion Policy which you can use as a starting point.

Who can you approach for funding?

Sporting clubs should think beyond the obvious when it comes to funding programs for more senior members of our community. A high percentage of people in older age groups are now veterans, so the relevant departments may have funds available. Also talk to:

• service clubs like Rotary or Lions

• your local council

• other local sports clubs, particularly if they have gaming facilities as they are often required to give a portion of gaming profits to community groups

• your national sporting organisation

• your state or territory government, in particular departments relating to health, ageing, veterans affairs and sport.

Useful links

Department of Veterans' Affairs Veteran and Community Grants

Department of Health and Ageing Tenders and Grants

Older Smarter Fitter, a guide for providers of sport and physical activity programs for older Australians.

*Australian Social Trends 4102.0 2009, Future Population Growth and Ageing, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Pace of Ageing.