Q&A: An active future for the over-50s

This week we chat to Jonathan Freeman, founder of Club Active, an over-50s’ health and fitness community that seeks to improve people’s physical, mental and social wellbeing and change the way they age.

ISB: What was the inspiration behind you setting up your fitness business with a specific focus on the over-50S?

JF: Unfortunately, the majority of mainstream gyms don’t cater for the ever expanding over-50s market. The inspiration came from the lack of opportunity for this demographic to exercise in a safe, fun and non-intimidating environment.

Providing expert guidance by allied health practitioners such as exercise physiologists, physiotherapists and dietitians is a major difference for us. The majority of gyms don’t have a service like this, while we ensure our members have the utmost professional service by university-trained practitioners. As well as offering a full-service facility, Club Active is creating a health and fitness community to the local area.

ISB: And how have you gone about creating an environment to encourages that age group to get into the gym?

JF: With our average age being 62, gyms can be intimidating for this market. They often have a very different reason as to why they want to exercise – essentially, it’s for function and a healthy retirement, as opposed to vanity or performance. We focus on creating inclusion where anyone, no matter their health and fitness level, can feel comfortable.

Our specialised medical-grade equipment caters for the common aches and pains the over-50s might experience. A personalised program designed by our allied health professionals, such as exercise physiologist and physiotherapist, provide services that can be rebated through Medicare and private health insurance.

We also have our very own fifty/50 group fitness classes which is 50 minutes in duration. There are three types and anyone can come and try out a class.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting the enterprise off the ground?

JF: I think the biggest challenge was brand awareness, it takes time. Yes, funding the business is a challenge but ultimately that doesn’t take as much time as building a brand, it’s definitely a marathon and every step of the way every decision is imperative to what your brand does and will be perceived as.

ISB: What impact did COVID have on the business, and how is it tracking in these still uncertain times?

JF: COVID was definitely challenging for most gyms. Fortunately, as we operate an allied health clinic inside all of our facilities, we were able to continue to help members under essential services. We also have an online membership option through our branded app which enabled most of members to continue their program in the comfort of their home. We continue to provide online services which has been forced upon most fitness facilities through COVID, but I feel ultimately Club Active will come out of this very strong, as more and more over 50s understand the importance of exercise to boost immunity and stay healthy into retirement years.

ISB: What is your vision for the development of the business in the next couple of years?

JF: We believe every Australian over the age of 50 should have the opportunity to change the way they age by exercising in a safe, fun and non-intimidating environment with expert guidance. We currently have five franchise locations and have another 4 opening this year with the audacious goal of opening a total of 100 in Australia over the next 5 years and moving into international expansion.

ISB: And, finally, what is the number one lesson you’ve learnt on your business journey you’d share with others looking to start their own enterprise?

JF: Self-reflection and taking it upon yourself for professional development are grossly under-estimated. Reading and learning from those who have done it before is invaluable when it comes to decision making, especially if you’re trying to scale a business.