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Health Club Management

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People profile: Edwina Brocklesby, founder of Silverfit

Founder of Silverfit

Published in Health Club Management 2017 issue 11
Brocklesby started running aged 50 and did an Ironman triathlon at 72 / PHOTO: SUSANNE HAKUBA
Brocklesby started running aged 50 and did an Ironman triathlon at 72 / PHOTO: SUSANNE HAKUBA
For gyms looking to engage with this demographic, they need to make socialising part of the mix… they at least need to have somewhere where they can offer people a cup of tea after the class

What is Silverfit?
We’re a charity offering a variety of exercise opportunities to the over 45s, including Nordic walking, tai chi, pilates and cheerleading. Our core message is that it’s never too late to start exercise.

We go into areas of economic deprivation, where we know we can make a difference. Currently, we run activities in 13 venues in eight London boroughs. Last year we had 18,000 attendances, of these 17 per cent said they were completely inactive before they joined and 56 per cent were doing no more than 60 minutes of exercise each week. Now 60 per cent of our members exercise for 90 minutes or more each week.

Why did you start Silverfit?
I’m a former social worker who started running at 50. At the age of 72, I became Britain’s oldest woman to complete an Ironman triathlon. I came to sport late, but then realised its many benefits in terms of health and alleviating social isolation.

Silverfit evolved in 2013, out of a fundraising marathon I used to organise. We started running events in Hyde Park and then Burgess Park in Southwark followed. So far it has just grown organically.

How are you funded?
We try and offer the sessions for free. Even our paid sessions never cost more than £3 as we don’t want affordability to ever be a barrier to participation. We’ve received funding from various sources – the most significant coming from United Saint Saviour’s Charity in Southwark for £45,700 over two years.

We’ve recently been chosen by the London Marathon as one of their charities to work with on their new initiative, The Big Half. We’re hoping that it will yield sufficient income to fund a management post to take the charity forward. Currently we’re looking for people to take up charity places on our behalf: they can walk it or enter it as a team.

What is the key to engaging more with an older demographic?
Using older instructors and making the sessions fun and sociable. We always offer the opportunity to socialise before and after the session. We do a lot of data collection about people’s motivation and overwhelmingly the aspect which keeps people coming back is the social element.

Although people don’t tend to admit it when they first join, many older people are socially isolated and making friends is as important as the exercise to them.

For gyms looking to engage with this demographic, they need to make socialising part of the mix. If the venue doesn’t have a café, they at least need to have somewhere where they can offer people a cup of tea after the class.

How could the health and fitness industry engage with what you are doing?
In the future we want to expand with more activities and more people, so it would be great to work in partnership with more facilities to promote fitness for older people. This is something that we’re currently working on in south London, with Better, and will be expanding on going forward.

In the meantime, it would be great if operators could encourage their members to enter The Big Half to help raise money for us!

http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/78564_600907.jpg
Britain’s oldest female Ironman triathlete talks about her charity, Silverfit, and how to best engage the older market
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