Kelsey Blog

Relationships are the cornerstone for building rapport with our clients, and building rapport keeps clients happy and coming back for more! As exercise professionals, it can be easy to connect with clients when we have things in common with one another. But if you work with clients who are older than you are, you might sometimes feel that the age gap makes it hard to connect. Here are three ways you can develop rapport with older clients: 

1. More Than Music 

Music is a powerful motivator. Plus, playing music from someone’s past can also evoke fun childhood memories, which can create positive associations with your fitness classes. It is easy to find fitness music that active agers likely enjoyed growing up. But consider complimenting your musical choices with dance. It can be great fun incorporating “The Twist” into your cardio portion of your group fitness class. Teach the “Hand Jive” in your seated classes. On throwback Thursday, dance through the decades! 

2. Age Simulations 

“Younger instructors just don’t understand. It’s not their fault. They just don’t know what it’s like to be older.” – Active Ager 

It’s hard to know what it’s like to be older if you haven’t experienced it yet. The best approximation that’s been developed are age simulations. These range from body suits to wearing specialized clothing (e.g., gloves to mimic arthritis, glasses to simulate cataracts) and/or equipment (e.g., cotton balls in ears to simulate hearing loss, chickpeas in shoes to mimic loss of the fat pads on one’s feet with age) to simulate what it’s like to be older.  

3. Listen to Their Stories 

If you can’t participate in an age simulation, you can also learn what it’s like to be older by listening to your clients. For example, if you’re working with exercise clients who have one or more chronic conditions, it’s one thing to read about and understand these conditions, it’s another to experience them. When researching various conditions, also read blogs about people’s firsthand experiences. If you have clients who are willing to share their experiences with you, listen to their stories about what it feels like to exercise with a chronic condition.  

Use what you learn to make informed choices when designing exercise programs for your older clients. The more you can understand your clients, the better rapport you’ll have with them. 


Kelsey Harvey is canfitpro FIS certified and has worked in the fitness industry since 2013. She recently completed her PhD in Social Gerontology (Aging Studies) where she researched group exercise instruction in group fitness classes for older adults.