Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

What if: Occupancy and budget were not obstacles & you could focus on improving resident lifestyles?

Throughout 2015, we’ll be blogging about our dreams for corporate wellness, fitness, and aging well.  Some of the content will represent a gentle “poking fun” at the industry, but it’s all written to stimulate thought about what really could be if we put our heads together and started mapping out what’s really possible in the realm of individual wellbeing.  We hope you’ll join the conversation by commenting on the blogs, giving us additional ideas about which to write, and/or by finding us out on Twitter at #wellnesswhatif.

seniorlivingwomentalkingWe do a lot of wellness consulting in senior living, and by “wellness”, I mean non-clinical, lifestyle-focused consulting.  For many of our clients, that consulting relationship involves a thorough review of their “activities” department; in other cases, it’s focused more on what’s happening with their exercise program.  Regardless of the original area of focus, we always arrive at the same point – building a strategy that allows the community to shift from filling a calendar toward supporting resident purpose and passion.

Often, when I talk with a client who thinks he’s interested in having us come onsite to consult, there’s a heavy discussion about cost.  And while I certainly understand a business’s sensitivity toward expenses, I often wonder:  If budget (and occupancy – the two are inextricably linked) was no obstacle, what would you be expecting from your activities department?

Leadership in senior living communities have a lot to focus on, and it makes sense that activities might not rank near the top.  In fact, it’s common for that department to be well-liked by residents and to be well rated on satisfaction surveys.  So no pain point exists because there doesn’t appear to be an issue.  The challenge with continuing to look the other way is two-fold:

  1. Your current residents may not realize what’s possible, so putting your faith in them to be your barometer for when something needs to change is ill-placed.  That is particularly true with activities because that area of your community traditionally bears out the 80/20 rule where 20% of your residents engage in 80% of the activities.  You are likely supporting the interests of a vocal minority in your community.  And the question becomes: What is your activities department developing to meet the needs and interests of the less-engaged majority? 
  2. The adult child knows better.  They are not content with bingo, cards, and trips to the theatre, and they won’t be fooled by a full calendar that lacks opportunities for them to live out passions, dreams, and purpose. 

If you think your programming is top notch and you perhaps just have an engagement challenge, take a look at our slideshare on how to get your residents to engage.

Get our Slideshare: Improve Resident Engagment

Maybe you know wellness is an important differentiator for your community, but you really feel compelled to nail down a more favorable and consistent occupancy rate before you begin fine tuning programming and other lighter elements at your community.  I can see why you’d adopt that philosophy, but before you stake your claim there, consider reading this blog on how and why wellness is an important differentiator for any community.

Think also about the long term investment of putting in some money up front on wellness consulting that breathes new life into your campus and creates a new outlook on how activities are developed and delivered.  It’s a chicken and egg debate but if a $5,000 investment could be an important step toward solidifying occupancy and thus improving your budget outlook, would that $5,000 be worth it?

Here’s our picture of what it means to do wellness better in senior living:

  • When you do wellness better, you have data your marketing and sales staff can work with to back up their stories with prospects about how fantastic it is to live well at your community. 
  • When you do wellness better, you have more diverse, robust, and life-enriching programming on your calendar that appeals to a wide audience. 
  • When you do wellness better in your community, you create natural bridges across departments for collaborative programming so that one over-worked activities director doesn’t have to do it all. 
  • When you do wellness better you understand individual resident passions and interests and incorporate those at the personal and program level to ensure opportunities where you residents can live with vitality in the ways that are true for them. 
  • When you do wellness better, you do so much more than fill a calendar.  You map out a program and service strategy, informed by data, resident interests, and past successes.

If you think your community may be falling short in one or more of those areas, check out what we have to offer in the way consulting to help you do wellness better.

Are you ready to do wellness better? Learn more about wellness consulting.

Topics: senior wellness senior living senior living community wellness consulting what if resident wellbeing

NIFS Nutrition News: Malnourished and Loving It, Or Are We?

What is your food doing for you?  Is it fighting for you or is it fighting against you?  We often make fun of the party-goer who sticks by the vegetable tray and intentionally avoids the wings.  We try to persuade the guy who piles his plate at the potluck with the grilled chicken and veggies to have a little fun and eat dessert.  Most of us see food as either making us fat or helping us lose weight.  We see ‘bad’ foods as those that are high in fat and calories.  Good foods are those that taste like rabbit food or cardboard, but will help us lose weight.  Healthy seems to be synonymous with weight loss.  And to a degree it is.  But what most people do not realize is – healthy eating goes way beyond dieting and watching the scale.  Those ‘health foods’ aka fruits and vegetables also contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants that could actually help you lose the weight you want, give you energy that you feel you should have, and/or clear your foggy brain.  Many Americans are overweight, yet malnourished.  We can’t escape our addiction to the unhealthy food that feeds our emotions and pacifies our taste buds.  We fill our pantries with chips and cookies and our fridge with soda – all empty calories that end up hurting us on the inside way more than they do on the outside.  This junk food does not provide the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to function and over time, our bodies react from the inflammation that processed, unhealthy food creates in our bodies.   

healthyfoodAnswer these questions:

  • Do you suffer from headaches?
  • Do you have joint pain or arthritis?
  • Do you have skin problems like eczema?
  • Are you tired more often than you think you should be?
  • Do you have digestion issues? 

What if you went to the doctor and instead of prescribing a drug, he wrote, ‘Eat 1oz of walnuts every day’.  Would you be mad?  Would you move to another doctor that would shell out pills?  What if we spent the money we use towards drugs on better food choices instead?  I’m going to guess it would be cheaper in the long run and a lot less physically impairing. 

Consider your diet as a contributor to your symptoms or maybe even the root cause of your condition.  If you were to discover the cure for your illness, wouldn’t you jump on board?  What if the answer was as easy as the food you eat?

Understand that supplements do not contain all of the phytonutrients and antioxidants that real food contains.  Are they a bad thing? No.  They may contain vitamins and minerals, but not the huge network of these phytonutrients and antioxidants that are the major ‘supporting actors’ making the movie a blockbuster, not just a great movie.  Take a look at the examples of super foods below and how they fight for your health. 

  • Broccoli:  Besides Vitamin C, fiber, and B Vitamins, broccoli contains lutein, sulforaphane, carotenoids, kaempferol, glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiin, and glucobrassicin.  Big words here equals big rewards for your body. These strange words are phytonutrients and antioxidants that help your body fight off cell damage that could lead to cancer.  They get rid of toxins that threaten inflammation and damage to tissues, protect your eyes from degenerating, and protect against inflammation to joints associated with osteoarthritis.
  • Walnuts : contain the amino acid L-arginine and the omega – 3 fat, alpha-linolenic acid, both of which help in the prevention of heart disease.  ALA works to prevent blood clots and helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.  Walnuts also contain quinone juglone, the tannin tellimagrandin, and the flavonol morin. Pronunciation please!  What I can tell you – these antioxidants prevent cell damage and liver damage.  Walnuts also contain Vitamin E, folate, and melatonin to support optimal brain health.  Shall we say better memory?

These are just two examples.  Blueberries, kale, wild caught salmon, dark chocolate (72% or higher cocoa content), and beans are other examples of super foods that help your body fight inflammation and work at its finest.  Now, compare these to the ingredients of the foods you eat.  Do you see ingredients like monosodium glutamate, partially hydrogenated oil, sodium benzoate, red 40 or other dye colors, or acesulfame potassium in the foods that fill your plate?  All of these have been speculated as harmful to our bodies , not helpful. 

Questions to ask yourself at the end of the day:

  • Did you fill your body with disease and inflammation fighting foods or did you fill it with more foods that create inflammation and disease? 
  • Are there foods that could help you in your fight against arthritis, high cholesterol, diabetes, chronic fatigue, etc?  What are they and how do I fit them into my diet?

It’s time to see food differently.  Food can be your functional friend.   Healthy food equals a better functioning body, mind, and spirit.  It’s worth the investment.   

For tips from our registered dietitians, follow #NIFSNutrition on Twitter!

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Topics: Food for Thought nifs nutrition news

How to Evaluate the Quality of Your Resident Wellness Program

In this blog, I want to run through a handful of questions that often come up when I have an initial call with a possible client who is interested in doing wellness better at their senior living community. But before I get too far into that information, I thought I should start by offering my definition of wellness so that we’re all on the same page for that terminology. 

When I say wellness, I’m talking about multidimensional, active programming that can span the continuum and that fosters maximal participation throughout the community. It is not just fitness, or activities, or dining, or chaplain-based services, and it certainly isn’t clinic-based or born from a healthcare model. Wellness incorporates a very broad range of program and event types, and it’s built to provide purpose for the participant.

The other element to defining wellness that might be confusing is the distinction I make between wellness and activities. It is my opinion that building a true resident wellness program requires more than simply renaming your traditional activities program. You’ll need to consider existing personnel in your community and whether/how they can collaborate for improved offerings under a different strategy. You will also need to formulate a plan around changing how programs are developed, executed, and evaluated. 

So with that context established, let’s get on to the questions and answers that you can use to benchmark where you are now with resident wellness and how to do wellness better. 

Do you have dedicated staff who plan and execute a variety of activities for residents in the community?

In many communities, it’s common to hear that there is a resident wellness program, when in reality there’s an activities program, a fitness program, chaplain services, etc., all functioning in their own silos with limited collaboration. 

For your wellness program to truly be robust, you need to have a leader at the helm of program/event development. There are a lot of ways to do this; sometimes it’s the activity director who assumes this role; and in other cases, this position is given to the fitness coordinator or social worker. You want to make sure you’re tapping the right person who can effectively lead a team, who has strong capacity for strategic thinking and collaboration, and who has a better-than-high-school understanding of human health. 

Do you have dedicated fitness personnel who manage your exercise programming?

Even in 2015, the fitness “room” (if you will) still comes in all shapes and sizes. It is consistent to see some space dedicated to exercise equipment within most communities, and typically group exercise classes are held in other areas of the building. Pools are still very hit-or-miss in established senior living communities. 

Best-in-class services for your residents demand a dedicated fitness professional (or team, depending on the size of your community and the desired scope of services) who can manage the exercise program for your community. That individual should have at least a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field with strong expertise in prescribing exercise for seniors. He or she should also be quite skilled at teaching a variety of basic group exercise classes. And that fitness manager absolutely needs an outgoing, approachable personality to go along with the technical expertise.

In most cases, we see a hodgepodge of group fitness instructors and personal trainers floating in and out of the community to support exercise activities for residents. While this approach will allow you to have some staff support in your exercise room as well as maintain your class schedule, you are failing to build a strong service that includes 1:1 attention for the residents as well as community-wide programming and data that can inform how the exercise program should evolve. 

activeaagingWhat percentage of your community events/program are active (up, moving, interacting with others, learning, growing, doing) as compared to passive (sit-and-listen)?

Just because the residents are retired from their careers does not mean that they are retired from life. Providing opportunities for participants to learn new things, meet new people, discuss new concepts, and see new places builds a purpose-oriented lifestyle in your community. If more than 50% of your activities calendar includes routine programs like cards and sit-and-listen offerings, it’s time to take a fresh look at how you can build more person-centered offerings on a regular basis.

What percentage of your residents participate in the activities offered at your community?

In most cases, activities for senior living fall into the Pareto principle, where 20% of the residents are engaging in 80% of the activities. Often, we see this phenomenon in place because your activities and events planners have slipped into an order-taker role. Their ears are tuned to the vocal minority and they fill the calendar with ideas offered by the residents who are already participating. To get out of this order-taking mode and to start moving toward programming that attracts more than the same 20% who have been participating for years, you’ll have to try something different with your team and your expectations. This is where a strategic, multidisciplinary plan steps in.

How is programming developed and executed at your community?

When I talked about personnel in one of the earlier questions, I mentioned the individuals working in silos so that events happen independent of each other throughout the community. A more strategic approach to programming is warranted if communities are committed to engaging more residents in lifestyle on their campuses and appearing more attractive to hesitant consumers. This type of practice requires planning activities well in advance with input from a team of experts. It requires thinking that moves away from the one-and-done offerings and toward layered, multidimensional, inviting programs that have the members talking, connecting, participating, and learning. 

It also requires a thoughtful approach to gathering data for the programs. Each offering should be created with an intended purpose that is measurable. Program plans should be built with that goal in mind, and tactics designed to help achieve that goal should be identified. When the program is complete, the team should evaluate whether and how they achieved their goal, as well as identify what they learned in the process that can be used for more effective programming in the future.  

So, now that you’ve finished all the questions and answers, where does your community stand? If you’re ready to do wellness better, we have some tools that might be helpful. See the list below for those additional resources:

NIFS Best Practice Programs for Senior Living

NIFS Build Vitality Webinar Series

NIFS Slideshare: 3 Keys to Improving Resident Engagement in Wellness

Not sure how to start evaluating your resident wellness program?  Contact us below.

Contact Us >

 

Topics: senior wellness programs corporate wellness staffing program planning nifs fitness center management

How NIFS Staff Spend Their Time In Senior Living Fitness Centers

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We are often asked by prospective senior living clients how NIFS staff spend their time in senior living fitness centers mangaging the fitness program. Using our monthly report data and through some Q&A with our staff, we pulled together the data below. The information is based on several client settings where we provide one full-time employee to manage the client’s fitness program.

IL Occupancy

# of Group Fitness Classes/Week

Hrs of Group Fitness Class Instruction/Week

Exercise Prescriptions/Month

Senior Fitness Test/Month

Other Appts/Month 

328

13

7.5

64

2

87

158

8

4

8

3

62

307

10

5

5

50

39

268

17

10.5

17

4

39

493

8

5.5

11

5

71

265

5

4

58

0

41

260

8

6

9

23

87

238

5

2.5

54

2

14

Average

9.25

5.5hrs

28

11

55

The following points of clarification provide more information about this data:

This data set does not include the one to two additional classes per week that many of our staff are teaching in AL/health center environments. That could easily represent an additional one to two hours each week excluded from the time outline above.

We don’t typically recommend classes that are longer than 45 minutes for this audience, both from an endurance standpoint (for some) and from the perspective that the lifestyle calendar is typically really full and we don’t need to take up more time than necessary when members have many other things to be doing. We want exercise to be as attractive and as easy to fit in as possible, and it’s quite appropriate to expect a solid, effective workout from a 30-minute class.  

At most of these locations, there is at least one outside instructor teaching a specialty format class like Zumba Gold, tai chi, etc. These above figures represent what our staff teach as part of their 40-hour work week.  

Here’s how the math breaks down on hours per week for all of the services above for NIFS fitness management (as averages):

  • 5.5 hours per week teaching.
  • 28 exercise prescriptions per month = 7 per week at 90 minutes per appointment = 10.5 hours per week.
  • 11 fitness tests per month = 2.75 per week at 60 minutes per appointment = 2.75 hours per week.
  • 55 other appointments per month (orientations, blood pressure checks, etc.) = 14 per week at 15 minutes per appointment = 3.5 hours per week.
  • Roughly 20 to 25 hours per week spent directly providing these kinds of services, allowing another 15 to 20 hours per week for program development, recreational activities like Wii Bowling, coordination/collaboration with other departments, meetings, and reporting or other administrative tasks.

How does this compare to what your fitness staff is doing? Maybe your senior fitness program could use a boost in productivity to draw in more residents. 

If you’re in that place where you’re trying to decide whether it’s beneficial to staff your fitness program with a full-time employee, consider watching our staffing webinar by clicking below. 

10 Benefits to Adding Quality Staff Webinar

 

Topics: senior living communities productivity senior living fitness center nifs fitness managment CCRC Programs and Services

Corporate Fitness: Free Workout Friday - Strengthen Your Core

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It's important to work your core to help improve your balance and stability which can help you to complete every day activities with ease.  The core consists of your abdominal muscles, lower back, hips, and pelvis.  You don't need a lot of equipment to work your core properly, you don't actually need anything other than your own body weight to work on stabilizing and strengthening your muscles.  Want some cool, core exercises that you can use dumbbells with? Look no further! Below is a complete core workout that can be done with or without dumbbells. If you choose, grab some light to medium dumbbells and do the exercises below 8-10 reps before moving on to the next exercise. Repeat the whole circuit 3 times for some core-blasting fun!

Workout

  1. Alternating Straight Leg V-ups*
  2. V-up Figure 8s*
  3. Plank w/ front and lateral rotation*
  4. V-sit Around the World*
  5. Russian Twists*
  6. Plank w/ Reach Unders*

*=R and L side count as 1 rep

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Topics: Free Workout Friday core strength at home workout

Increasing Participation in Senior Living Fitness Programs (Part 2)

FitnessFreezeLogoIn part 1 of this blog, I wrote about a program we offered that helped us address an area of opportunity for resident participation in our senior living fitness programs. One of the core messages from that blog was how important tracking participation data is, over time, for sustaining a truly successful program. There is so much more to a robust fitness program in senior living than hosting classes, offering assessments, and teaching residents how to use the equipment.

Part 2: Kickstart or Fine-Tune Your Fitness Program

Tracking participation data in your fitness services is crucial for any new or long-established program. In new programs, you need to simply start by keeping an eye on growth in membership and making sure participation steadily increases as you launch the offerings. In this blog, I’ll touch on some key numbers and trends you should be watching. 

An established fitness program you might consider “good” can become GREAT by tracking and strategically using participation data for continuous improvement. There is not an end date at which you cut off these practices no matter how old your program is. In addition to talking about data practices for new fitness programs, I’ll offer tips below from NIFS data trends over the past couple of years to show how you can use these practices to fine-tune an established fitness program.

FFparticipantKickstart Your New Community Fitness Program

New members: Part 1 of this series covered NIFS Fitness Freeze and how the membership drive component recruited new participants to join the fitness center. NIFS has a new client in Lakewood, New Jersey, that began staffing with us in August 2014. Since our launch, we witnessed an initial surge in residents enrolling, and then the normal steady trickle of participants in the months thereafter. And then we ran the Fitness Freeze and it generated a record-setting surge in new members in a month to finish off the year. If you are tracking your new members from month to month, you can keep an eye on when membership or participation starts to trickle off or plateau and run a targeted campaign to rebuild your momentum. 

Participation frequency: We have another client in Mystic, Connecticut, that launched with us in May 2014. In addition to tracking their steadily increasing membership rates, we’re also following the percentage of residents who visit the fitness center 8+ times in a month. For this relatively new client, that percentage is steadily climbing as the membership percentage increases. This tells us that more residents are joining, and more importantly, they are adopting a consistent routine once they become members. 

Fine-Tune Your Established Fitness Program

Group fitness participation: We have a client in Stone Mountain, Georgia, that has had a fitness program and staffing since they opened their doors in 2004. NIFS started managing their fitness program in October 2011. Over the past couple of years, we’ve had a lot of success with participation growth in group fitness classes, and because our data offered proof of that growth, we were able to garner budgetary support for more instructors. In 2014, we added 11 new classes per month to the schedule, and the average number of participants per class each month stayed the same. In short, we brought the residents more classes, and they took full advantage!

Personal training participation: Another client in Phoenix, Arizona, is showing steady growth in their personal training program. In 2013, there were 302 personal training sessions conducted, and in 2014 there were 707 personal training sessions conducted. We’ve added personal training as a program option in their health center, and we are currently hiring another personal trainer to help keep up with the demand for that growing service.

Membership rates: Lastly, three different communities that have been up and running with us for over five years all showed an increase of at least 4% or more in membership in 2014 compared to 2013, with little change in occupancy at those communities. Steady programming efforts targeted to spark different resident interests over time can help your membership continue to grow. Diversity in program offerings is what really drives that continual increase in membership, especially at our well-established communities. 

There are countless ways that you can track and evaluate participation data in your fitness program, and half the battle is just getting started. Determine what you want to track, how you need to track it, and then how you can effectively report that data over time so that it is usable and easy to evaluate. We aren’t statisticians with intricate spreadsheets spending hours crunching data each month. We do, however, have sound reporting methods so that our staff can gather this valuable data to continually build and evolve best-in-class fitness programs at the senior living communities we serve.

 If you’d like to talk about how NIFS can support the development of tracking tools and a program evaluation framework for your community’s programming, find out more about NIFS' wellness consulting service

If you want to learn more about some of NIFS’ most successful and creative programs for senior living communities, click the Best Practices button below.

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Topics: senior fitness management participation data collection nifs best practices senior living fitness center program planning

Free Workout Friday: Dumbbell workout for at home, on the road, or at work

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This month we are exploring dumbbells and the great workouts they bring. They are fantastic to work with because once you master the technique and movement of the exercise; you can add more versatility in your workout. We will start basic and work our way up to more advanced workouts throughout the month. You can complete 2 to 3 rounds of the exercises listed. Perform 10-12 reps of each exercise paying close attention to correct form. Make sure to choose a weight that is appropriate for you, but also challenging during the last few reps of each exercise. If you find the reps were too easy, bump up the weight.

Workout

  1. Walking lunges*
  2. Shoulder press  
  3. Squats
  4. Bicep curl
  5. Side lunges*
  6. Tricep extension (standing)
  7. Reverse lunges*
  8. Chest flys
  9. Calf raises
  10. Lateral raises

*=R and L leg count as 1 rep

Looking for other options?  Check out this past Free Workout Friday cardio blog.

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Topics: Free Workout Friday

NIFS Nutrition News: Six Foods to Increase Vitamin D in Your Diet

Are you struggling with the winter time blues? Is it cold and dark and dreary in your part of the country? When was the last time you felt and saw the sun? You could be lacking Vitamin D and this can lead to depression and a lower immunity to fight colds.  So, if you aren’t able to get your much needed 15 minutes of sunlight each day to acquire your body’s Vitamin D needs then here are some other ways to get it in until we have some sunshine in the spring!

    1. Fatty Fish – salmon, mackerel, canned tuna, and sardines.  3 oz of salmon provides 450 IU of ojandeggsVitamin D…almost all of the 600 IU that are recommended daily. The canned tuna and sardines are an inexpensive way to get in seafood, heart healthy omega 3’s and 150 IU of Vitamin D per serving. Another bonus is the long shelf life if you haven’t been to the grocery store to get fresh protein choices.
    2. Milk – Almost all cows’ milk in the US is fortified with Vitamin D.  A lot of other dairy products are too, but not ice cream or cheese.  Typically an 8 oz glass of milk has 100 IU’s of Vitamin D and most yogurt has around 80 IU for a 6 oz container.  If you are choosing soymilk or almond milk, most are fortified but check the labels to be sure.
    3. Fortified Orange Juice – If you aren’t a fan of milk or have lactose intolerance, 100% orange juice is an option.  Typically an 8 oz glass has the same amount of Vitamin D as a glass of milk (100 IU).  Just make sure you are buying the fortified kind!
    4. Egg Yolks – Eggs are a great way to get in Vitamin D.  However, you have to eat the whole egg and not just the whites to get the benefit.  One egg yolk has 40 IU’s. 
    5. Fortified Cereal – Another way to double up on Vitamin D is to choose a fortified cereal to have with your milk or glass of OJ at breakfast.  1 cup of Multi Grain Cheerios provides 90 IU’s of Vitamin D.  Add that with the milk and you are close to 200 IU’s!  Just be sure to choose cereals that are labeled fortified with Vitamin D.
    6. Supplements – If you still have trouble getting all of your Vitamin D needs met through food and the sun, an alternative is to take a supplement.  The upper limit dose for individuals over age 9 is 4000 IU per day.  Consuming more than this can lead to higher blood calcium levels and increased risk of kidney stones.  Always talk to your physician before starting a supplement.

Recent studies have found that nearly 3 out of 4 individuals have either a Vitamin D deficiency or borderline deficiency.  Most of this is due to the increase of being indoors compared to our parents and grandparents.  Longer work hours, longer commutes in a vehicle, and more screen time indoors definitely plays a part.  Get outside, incorporate more of the foods above, and chat with your doctor about supplementing.  All of this can mean a healthier immune system, stronger bones, and lower risk of some cancers. 

Follow us all month long via social media for tips from our registered dietitians using #NIFSNutrition!

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Topics: healthy food choices healthy diet nifs nutrition news

Increasing Participation in Senior Living Fitness Programs (Part 1)

I’ve written in the past about how consistent tracking of participation data in your community fitness center can help improve and evolve your senior living fitness program over time. Here is a two-part follow up series on what you are missing if you aren’t tracking data from your program. These observations are built entirely on NIFS’ experience doing this work for our senior living client communities.

FitnessFreezeLogoPart 1: Prevent the Dip During the Holidays

Did your community fitness program experience a dip in participation during the busy holiday season? You’re in good company—we used to see that as well. But in 2014, we were able to reverse the trend thanks to a custom program designed to motivate residents to move more when exercise often takes the backseat to holiday parties and family gatherings. 

It all starts with collecting the right data. For example, we knew from our 2013 reporting that there was a marked decline in participation from November to December in exercise program participation. We saw this as an opportunity to do better, so we built a program called Fitness Freeze to prevent that specific dip in participation we see over those two months. Following the program, we evaluated the effectiveness of the program design against our desired outcomes. Here’s what we found:

Total visits: An 11% increase in total visits to the fitness center and group exercise classes from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.

New members: An 8% increase in new members signing up to participate in the fitness center from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.

Appointment volume: A 26% increase in the number of appointments conducted from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.

We know that residents are already busy and preoccupied in December, so we wanted to make the program as simple as possible for them to be successful. Here are just a few of the design elements that contributed to Fitness Freeze’s success:

No elaborate tracking logs or point system: Residents don’t need one more thing on their “to-do” list, so keep it simple! Residents had to sign-in as they normally do to the fitness center and we took care of the rest. Our goal was to help residents be consistent in visits, even if their workout time was shorter than normal. If a resident exercised for at least 10 minutes, three times a week, they earned a snowflake that hung in the fitness center with their name on it.

FFdecorMake it visual: The individual snowflakes were a great way to decorate the fitness center with some seasonal cheer and residents LOVED being able to show off to visiting family and friends how many snowflakes they earned. It was eye catching, provided an easy avenue for discussion, and offered a constant reminder to the participants to stay on track. 

Recruit, recruit, recruit: As resident talk about the snowflakes on display in the fitness center spread throughout the community, residents who weren’t fitness center members yet learned that they could earn a snowflake just by joining in December. It created a fun and easy way for residents who might be on the fence about joining to take the final step and feel included among the ranks of our regulars. 

The Fitness Freeze was born out of our constant efforts to do better, which include a strong focus on data as well as routine evaluation of program effectiveness. Once we identified holiday-time as an opportunity for improvement, we built a tool to address that challenge. It’s a tangible and practical example of a targeted campaign to boost the participation in a given month. 

Watch for part 2 of this blog to learn about the value of evaluating data trends in brand-new fitness programs as well as in well-established programs from year to year.

Checkout more great programming from NIFS Fitness Management with our Best Practice Series.

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Topics: senior fitness management participation data collection senior living fitness center program planning