Survey of Seniors Shows Demand on Rise for Fitness Facilities

The days of relying solely on the golf course for exercise in post-retirement years are quickly disappearing, according to a survey conducted by Orlando-based Crossman & Co., Central Florida’s largest third-party leasing and management company. Crossman & Co. manages retail leasing for The Villages–a 26,000-acre active retirement enclave 50 miles north of Orlando in Sumter County, Fla., that carries the title of the largest single-site mixed-use development in the U.S.–and polled 11,000 residents on the subject of exercise. The findings were notable. Over 60 percent of the responding baby boomers and active adults affirmed that exercise and playing sports are part of their schedule more than once a week. The numbers bode well for the retail sector, fitness facilities in particular. “The number keeps increasing more and more,” John Crossman (pictured), president of Crossman & Co., told CPN. “We’re dealing with a generation of people retiring young, retiring smarter, and retiring with more money. They’ve redefined what it means to retire. They’re looking at 30 years of active living and they’re more aware and understand the need for exercise.” Indeed, exercise and outdoor activity is a central theme at The Villages. The development features nine 27-hole golf courses and 24 nine-hole golf courses, 55 tennis courts, 48 swimming pools, nine softball fields and 49 recreation centers. “These people, they’re smart,” Crossman said. “The Villages is the largest residential development in the U.S. and the foreclosure rate is 0.05 percent; you could argue it’s none-existent. These are people who have been making buying decisions all their lives and when looking at gyms, they’re very savvy.” The Villages has four resident-only indoor wellness/fitness facilities totaling 35,000 square feet, and “they’re all very busy.” That the baby boomer set is becoming increasingly desirous of state-of-the-art fitness facility options is hardly exclusive to The Villages, and the real estate industry is taking note. Newton, Mass.-based Senior Housing Properties Trust recently acquired four health and wellness centers in a $100 million sale-leaseback transaction with Life Time Fitness. The properties, each developed less than three years ago, account for an aggregate 458,000 square feet of space in Georgia, Illinois, Nebraska and Texas. There is the potential for the same fitness frenzy to take hold beyond the U.S., given similarities in population characteristics. “The baby boomer generation is a global phenomenon,” Crossman noted. “In Russia, they call it the Sputnik generation.” The growing fitness trend among retirees will have an impact beyond the fitness center market. “This is going to change the dynamics of how we look at retail in a lot of aspects,” said Crossman. “You have residents working out; they’re buying shoes, etcetera. And when one of them comes in looking for rollerblades, sales associates had better be able to answer all their questions. It’s going to impact retailers in the sense that they’ve got to understand the customer.”