From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Hot Tubs Offer Therapy – and More – for Aging Americans

Hot tubs do nothing for wrinkles but plenty for the joints, one of several reasons for the surge in sales to aging Americans recently reported by the spa industry. The hot tub experience is another reason. It’s ergonomic, and recalls an iconic era.

The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) reported in an article published in Ohio’s Toledo Blade in June that sales rose by 11 per cent in 2004. APSP attributed much of the increase to Baby Boomers – the 77 million Americans born between 1946 and 1965 who represent a huge bulge in the population.

The Boomers are about to retire, and it’s not hard to imagine why hot tubs support the notion of a well-fitted-out retirement for them. The joints and muscles of these over-50s need more cosseting these days, and where better to satisfy that need than a hot tub? The Arthritis Foundation (AF) is one of many health organizations that endorse the use of hydro massage for easing aches and increasing mobility.

Then there is Woodstock. The 1969 music and art fair in New York state shaped a generation of Americans who made the hot tub an icon of often-naked frolicking. No one is counting, but these aging hedonists must make up a significant proportion of the Boomers. They, too, are likely to be thinking about aching joints – as well as future parties – when they visit spa showrooms.

There is no survey to indicate whether the over-50s will be therapy-minded or Woodstock-minded when they make their choice. Thanks to ergonomics – manifested here as the ability to match the user and the experience – they can go in either or both directions.

It’s up to them. Spa manufacturers have adopted the ergonomists’ mantra – “one size does not fit all” – and they offer an almost infinite variety and number of options to customize the hot tub experience. Gone are the crude tubs of the Woodstock years: modern spas are made of fiberglass or acrylic. Models are offered for two people or up to 10, and of all sizes. The advertising literature from a score of manufacturers lists options such adjustable water jets – up to 50 of them – whirlpool and acupressure jets, waterfalls, ergonomically-correct seating, overhead rainfall showers, steam generators, foot massagers, fog-free mirrors, integrated shelves, height-adjustable hand-held showers – and more. The controls are housed in digital panels that can incorporate FM radios, hands-free telephones with programmable numbers, LCD televisions and home stereo hook ups.

Add a few drops of fragrant oil to the steam source and the therapy – or party – can be enhanced by mood-altering aromatherapy. Then add chromotherapy – underwater lights in colors known to lift the mood or increase relaxation or reduce stress.

Nowhere was the word “ergonomics” found in the product literature for hot tubs of the Woodstock era. Now, almost every manufacturer promotes one or more features as ergonomic.

“Furniture designers who specialize in ergonomics … help us scientifically contour our spas,” says Emerald Spas. Emerald invites prospective buyers to sit in the tub in the showroom to experience “the most body-hugging, totally supportive seats on the market today … We even position controls and dials for maximum ease and comfort of use. Our control panel, for instance, faces inside so you can read it while you’re using the spa.”

Pacific Hot Tubs offers a spa “with one of the deepest foot wells available. Now each occupant can enjoy their own leg room.”

From these promotional excerpts it’s clear that both hot tubs and ergonomics have advanced since 1969.

Toledo Blade; Emerald Spas;;; Pacific Hot Tubs