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Those Third Stagers: What Makes Them Tick?

By Pat VanGalen, M.S.

As stated by Ken Whittier in his article for MBSC Interns on training aging adults: 1) Get to know them, and 2) Care about them. Developing genuine relationships really works. Personalize, specialize and connect.

The third-stagers typically have 30+ years in the workforce, are often empty-nesters, are retired, semi-retired or launching a new venture, AND have more control over their schedule. They have the time, commitment and finances to invest in ‘training’ for their future.

Those who sought you out, did so because they know that they are capable of more, but need guidance and coaching custom-tailored to their history and immediate needs. We need to train them beyond immediate needs, and launch them into a stimulating third stage journey. I often say to my clients “train ‘til you can’t”. And if your time is up ‘suddenly’ on the golf course at 95 carrying your golf bag, WOW!

It is all about how they see themselves living, working, playing and even competing in their third stage of life, along with their new purpose in this uncharted journey. How do they envision their third stage of life unfolding?

Are movement integrity, physical fitness and work capacity key players in their perception of ‘living life to the fullest’ for as long as possible? Some folks have never thought about this, and it is amazing what they will divulge when nudged.

Get them talking, and LISTEN! These are REAL people sharing their dreams, and providing us with a window into ‘what makes them tick!’ Their future plans for residence, geography/season, work as in vocation and physical labor, leisure-time pursuits and competition are just as important as their medical Hx, training age and physical work Hx, dietary habits, stress management skills, and movement/fitness evaluation. So, inquire …..

1) What type of residence do you want to live in?

- I want to stay in my 3-story home on my 5-acre lot for as long as I can. I am a DIY guy/gal, and enjoy maintenance, repairs and projects.
- We will downsize for sure, so we can spend our money and time travelling, playing golf, etc.
- I might change homes, probably smaller, but I want to live somewhere for all age groups, not just old people.
- We plan on moving to one of those CCRC [Continued Care Retirement Communities], where you go in totally independent, then progress through to hospice if needed.
- My mother will be living with us, so we are building a suite for her on the first floor.
- Probably an apartment, because we love ‘city life’ and being able to walk everywhere.
- We love our home, our deck and our garden. It’s where our family gathers for holidays, and we want to stay there for as long as we can. It has two flights of stairs, and we know stairs help keep us fit.

What about geography, seasons, and population density?

- I am heading south. Can’t stand the cold. I love golf, deep sea fishing and snorkeling.
- We are heading west, love the seasons and all the outdoor opportunities. We are done with crowds.
- Not sure, but we want to be close to family and grand kids, and they are spread around. We definitely want a home, not an apartment or condo.
- We hope to move to a more rural place, but one where there is a lot to do physically, socially and work-wise, and not too far from family.
- We enjoy the beach, and want to take up paddle boarding. I might even get back into surfing.
- We are snowbirds …spend the winters in AZ, and summers in the Adirondacks. We love the outdoors, but not the snow.

2a) Work / Vocation/ Career / Profession? Do you plan to continue working? Same career? Consultant?

- Yes, but in a different direction. I would like to become a gourmet cook.
- Yes, after working in a lab all my life, I would like to teach kids reading, writing and math.
- No, DONE! I am out of the workforce, and plan to make up for lost time with my family.
- No, but would like to get involved in some type of charity non-profit venture.
- Yes, can’t imagine not working, but would like to call my own hours and contracts.
- Yes and No! DONE with teaching! Would now like to pursue wildlife photography.
- NO, because I will be very busy caring for my aging parents.

2b) WORK: Do you enjoy working with your hands and doing physical work/labor?

- Yes, looking forward to doing more. I like getting my hands dirty, and that feeling of accomplishment.
- Yes, I have lots of hobbies and enjoy projects involving manual labor, especially woodworking.
- Yes, I have always wanted to become a Master Gardener.
- Yes, and want to start a landscaping business when I retire from my desk job.
- Yes, going to build a lake house, so my grand kids can be outdoors, and learn to fish, water ski and sail.
- Yes, and I hope to get involved with building homes for disabled vets.
- Not anymore. Did that all my life, and my knees paid for it. Now is the time to take better care of my body, and enjoy my leisure time through physical activities that don’t beat the hell out of me.
- NO, can’t stand it. I’m not handy at all. I prefer spending time doing other things, and I’ll hire out to have that stuff done.
- NO, downsizing to a flat condo with no stairs, little maintenance and no lawn work. Yahoo!

3) PLAY: What do you do for FUN? For recreation? For enjoyment? What is exhilarating? What do you like to do? What do you miss doing? Is there anything new that you would like to try?

- I like to go full throttle every season; anything outdoors on snow, ice, water, mountains!
- My wife and I love to folk and square dance. And what a workout! We want to get back into it.
- Winter, not much! Play golf as much as I can until it is too cold. I take the occasional hike.
- At one time, I really enjoyed tennis, and was pretty good at it. Would like to give it another shot, or maybe try pickle ball or squash.
- Love to travel to exotic places and experience new places ‘on foot’.
- To be honest, my hobbies are shopping (more online these days), a good wine, and gourmet eating. Not very physical, I know. I used to do modern dance, and really enjoyed it.
- All of my entertainment is ‘screen-based’ and spectator sports. I will admit that at one time, I was a pretty good at mountain biking, and wasn’t even afraid of crashing.
- Never was very physical. I grew up in the city and walked a lot. That’s about it. Not much of an outdoor person. I’ve always wanted to take one of those rock-climbing courses.

4) COMPETE: Do you enjoy competition?

- Yes, I missed ‘team’ camaraderie. Was pretty good at team sports in school, but drifted away. Just joined a Masters soccer league. Those skills are still there, but stamina and quickness are not. Need to train so that I don’t ‘blow out’ my Achilles.
- NO! I am not athletic, and I always considered myself a klutz. I don’t mind pushing myself though, in 5Ks or mini-triathlons.
- YES, love to push myself, and measure up against other folks, especially those 20 years younger. Thinking about training for one of those Spartan Races. I need something to train for. Training for fitness doesn’t do it for me.
- NO, that is why I like group fitness classes. I just blend in.
- YES, I still play ‘Freezer Geezer ice hockey’. In the off-season, I train so I don’t pull a groin muscle. That slide board thing has helped a lot.

On to TRAINing:

So why do you train? Why do you want to train?

- The only exercise I ever get is a class, small group or 1 on 1 with my trainer. Thank goodness! No physical labor, desk job, long commute, no physical hobbies, sports, dance or anything. Just work! If I don’t schedule something formal, I won’t do it.
- I just beat cancer, and want to do everything possible to beat it.
- I know that if I don’t move, I won’t be able to move, and I’ll end up being a burden to my family. I don’t want to go down that path. And since the ‘physical world’ is foreign to me, I am willing to hire a professional to get me going.
- I really don’t like gyms, so I do a lot of body weight training, plyos, and sprints. This has kept me in shape so far, but I think that I need some kind of massage, stretching and that foam roller thing. I hear it helps with back ache and shoulder problems.
- I love to lift. Was a thrower in college, and was always pretty good in the weight room. ‘O’ lifts, power lifts …. Love it all. Would like to continue as long as I can without getting hurt!
- Lost 100 pounds, and want to keep it off for all the ‘right’ reasons.
- Love to train! Have been doing it all my life. It keeps me primed for my ski vacations, hunting trips, and white water kayaking. I want to keep doing these things ‘til I can’t, and training year-round allows me to do sol
- I help out with the grand kids, and want to have the energy and stamina to ‘enjoy’ my time with them.
- I train because of how it makes me feel. It gives me energy to ‘go’ all day. I sleep well, and my clothes still look good on me.
- I go to the gym because if I don’t, I will fall apart and end up like my father with diabetes and complications, and the side effects of all the drugs.
- I ramp up and dial down my training based on what else I am doing, like physical work, sport, races, etc. It is just my nature. Can’t sit still.
- I am sick of aches and pains from just doing simple tasks. I had a wake-up call the other day, when I got winded carrying a small box of books up a flight of stairs. I’m only 55 years old! It’s time to clean up my act, and NOW is the time.

The Future of Training

We movement professionals, will be needed more than ever, and the Late Boomers and early GenXers know it. To date, there is no ‘med’ that provides the benefits of living a healthy physically active lifestyle. The need for DAILY movement practices and formal training will grow exponentially. For many, formal training may be the only movement they get, or opt to do in a world of technology and screens.

Our role as trainer/coach has morphed into one of health enhancement, preservation of the aging body and balanced wellness. Gyms are training centers, a place where the folks pursue professionals that fuel total health, offer solid training and education, and facilitate a work ethic to Perform Better in life, labor, leisure-time and competition.

Year-long training, 5 and 10 year plans will be broken down into 6-12 week blocks based on ‘training’ for health, durability and resilience as preparation for care-giving, labor, leisure-time and competitive pursuits.

There will always be people who train because they love to train. Keeping fit IS their passion, their sport, hobby and preferred leisure-time activity. However, a significant majority view training as the ‘springboard’ into the active, engaged, purposeful life they hope for.

So, if the folks train because YOU boosted confidence in their movement, they enjoy your coaching and the atmosphere you have created, respect your expertise and value their gains, then you have hit a home run.

If you have launched them into an active lifestyle, taught and coached them how to train for life, you have hit a grand slam. After all, we build relationships and change lives.

We inspire to aspire!! But we must determine what makes the folks tick! Hey, what makes you tick?