THE KEYS TO SUSTAINABLE CURLING – the 60+ Demographic
What is old? Watch this from the American Association for Retired Persons: http://www.aarp.org/etc/everywhere/statics/disrupt-aging/home.html?cmp=RDRCT-DSO-DISAGING-vanitymain2-011516 Advocacy from the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP): “Age-Friendly Cities allow people of all ages and abilities to meet their daily living and health care needs, remain physically active and engaged in their communities and contribute to civic life.” Your curling club should also be age-friendly. To do so, take special note of three dynamics of the 60+ demographic:
Agility is waning but denial of inabilities…
Married couples, widows, and widowers, often with grandchildren….
Financial accomplishments are varied but finances are often fixed…..
This helps define the senior module for analysis. Curling is a ‘Sport For Life’ and some curl into their nineties. http://canadiansportforlife.ca/recreation-professionals “Recreation and sport can work together more closely to create seamless delivery of quality sport and physical activity programming. Here are some key areas where the CS4L model can be a guide:
- Physical Literacy Program Development
- Municipal Planning and Sport Strategy Development
- Sport Councils
- Facility Planning
- Access and Allocation”
CS4L promotes Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD), however, the website is light on how we address over 60’s. Given their emphasis toward informing the youth of our nation about sport, the sport of curling remains a social environment. Despite provincial, national and international events for seniors, the 60+ curling market should be emphasized as recreational. Some other aspects of this demographic that we need to keep in mind as we provide facilities and programs:
- Change is more difficult. This is perhaps the most defining aspect that has stagnated curling expansion. How many clubs in Canada have volunteer boards of directors comprised of the members who have been there for 25+ years? There are dying clubs because the senior aged boards refuse to change with time. Those that can recognize this characteristic, often rejuvenate their clubs. They have learned from years in the workforce how to schedule, unlike the 20 Somethings who are less rigid.
- Stick curling is a prevalent change for the 60+ demographic and allows for beginners to start at any age. Stick leagues are emerging. Still, rules still need to be addressed in order to nurture this growing interest in competition.
- Prime time is daytime. Older adults who have retired from active employment prefer to participate in the daylight hours. And, you should not change their time or schedule! See first bullet.
- Consider declining athletic and mobility abilities. The provinces have mandated accessibility in legislation for good reason. The aging process is pronounced in this demographic group. Replacement body parts are often a topic of discussion around a table of seniors. Despite new knees and hips, these curling adults are driven to keep going, if for no other notion than to keep in contact socially.
- Vacation periods vary from their employment years. Collingwood Curling Club in Ontario has addressed this with a variety of member options https://collingwoodcurlingclub.ca/customPage.php?club=128&id=1 . Snowbirds vacate Canada for the warmer southern climes after the year-end holiday season. Weekends seemingly flow into weekdays.
- Senior Net Worth flat lines or declines. Many retailers and institutions implement senior rates for a reason – to keep this demographic spending. Whether perceptual or real, seniors fear that they will run out of money. They do not know over how many years they need to spread the wealth acquired in their early years. Hence, there is a reticence to pay more at 80 than they paid at 65. See first bullet.
- Continued need for a sense of worth. Having been active through employment for over 40 years, retirement cold turkey is a challenge. If curling and golf are not enough, many want to somehow give back or volunteer. Their greatest asset is time available to assist. The second asset is their wealth of experience.
How do we address this demographic?:
- Accessibility to the facility. Senior members tend to be closer to the club, some being reticent to drive distances. Consider alternative methods of transportation to the facility. Is there transit? Can there be car-pooling systems? By doing this research, your market draw area might be more expansive.
- Ease of access into and through the building is critical in design of new or renovated facilities. Accessibility elements need to be designed into the facility: handrails; ramps; lifts; and door widths. Ramps to all buildings must be as prominent and visible as the front stairs so as not to denigrate the disabled population. Many of the facilities built in the 1960’s gave no credence to disabilities. To retrofit these buildings, there may be no logical ramp location, so lifts are an appropriate alternative. The 2’-6” door widths of that era do not accommodate wheel chairs nor are they convenient to deliveries of large containers. Double door systems or wider unencumbered openings often are part of curling renovations.
- A heated ice shed is important. A comfortable environment in the ice shed will keep your aging population returning and contributing to your bottom line.
- Make the curling facility a second home. Ancillary recreational activities could include low impact pursuits such as cards, board games, hiking, and organized group tours. The longer your clients stay in the building, the more they will spend their remaining dollars. And a bonus is that your facility will look busy, an important factor in your marketing package.
- Accommodate Snow Birds. Create flexibility of leagues. Indeed, have an intensive Fall program that includes value-added programs. This demographic might embrace a combination of low impact activities and curling in a single day’s outing. You might change to 4 or 6 end games to free up ice time for other programs.
- Establish Mentor programs that link this demographic with younger players. You can well afford to give seniors a break on their membership fees, if they contribute time to coaching, teaching or running off-ice programs. There are many in the 40-60 demographic who crave to improve and could use lessons from a more experienced curler.
- Develop Stick programs. Diehard curlers may resist the stick. Still they need a social outlet. Allow stick users to participate in regular leagues. Better yet, create formal leagues that attract other clubs to collaborate. Mentors, as described above, can teach/coach others to enhance the program. It takes four years on average to gain a comfortable delivery from the hack. It takes half the time to throw with a stick. Stick curling should be an easy sell. Many provinces have formal Stick Championships. It is a growing segment to enhance your fees income.
- Establish a Distinct Food Business – This age group tends to seek alternatives to making meals on their own. This opens an opportunity for expanded catering business in the facility. The social atmosphere is an important component for the retired whose home environment can be isolated. Hire a catering company for the smaller venues or create a strategic business unit (SBU) as a profit centre which focuses on product offering and market segmentation. SBUs typically have a distinct marketing plan, analysis of competition, and marketing campaign, even though they may be part of the curling business entity.
- Grandchildren desire programs to which this demographic is willing to assist. Enlist 60-Somethings as mentors to parents or directly as coaches. Send them to coaching clinics where their skills in teaching can be honed toward the sport.
- Senior pricing. How long has a member contributed to the club. Consider the length of membership at your club when assigning a fee.
- Your membership fees could be graduated to address a reduced use of prime time by seniors. Filling your non-primetime hours will increase overall ice shed utilization.
What is old? It is a state of mind. “Growing old is inevitable, growing up is optional.” Anon