Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Bethany Garrity

Recent Posts by Bethany Garrity:

A Warning About Wellness Data in Senior Living & How We Can Do Better

NIFS | senior living wellness Special thanks to Sara Kyle as a co-author for this piece.  You can read more about her experience in senior living here.

Over the last several months, the senior living industry has seen more published data on wellness offerings. A few examples include this report from Senior Housing News (SHN), and the 2017 ICAA/Promatura Wellness Benchmarks report. I'm thrilled that organizations are taking a stronger and more consistent approach to measuring the impact of wellness for older adults in senior living. We can all benefit by being more informed; but I want to suggest a few cautionary notes about the data. 

As you read the reports, articles, and posts, it's easy to get swept up in the headlines and colorful images. Instant validation seems logical when the numbers back up our own experiences. But just beneath those captivating soundbites are sample size issues, a lack of consistent definition of terms and problematic comparisons between a study population and real world groups. We've seen these research challenges for years in corporate wellness (check out this blog for a consistent digest of how the corporate wellness industry has routinely gotten it wrong). I'd hate to see senior living go down that same path.  

Here are a few examples from the above noted reports that spark additional questions when you dig a little more deeply into the numbers:

Who makes up the sample and how many of them are there?

In the SHN report, authors note that 308 adults age 65 and older were polled using a Google survey. We lack key information about these 308 respondents. For example, we don't know if those surveyed are employed, if they're community-dwelling, if they have health issues, if they're living with government assistance, what their faith background is, etc. And while 308 respondents seems like a significant contribution, it may/may not be enough to declare data from that sample to be statistically significant. These missing elements don't mean the survey findings are unimportant, but it does mean we need to take a measured approach to digesting what's offered.

We also need to ensure that study limitations (like sample size) are included in the write up because those limitations impact how we process the information for validity, reliability, and transferability into other populations. Limitations don't necessarily render the research incorrect or useless, but they do provide important context for the findings as well as how we might move forward to study a similar topic.

What do we mean by engagement?

It's common to see terms like engagement and participation when reviewing data related to wellness in senior living, but those terms often aren't clearly defined. In one case, I found (after some digging and discussion with the publishing organization) that participation was defined as residents choosing at least one activity per month. When NIFS staff report to communities about participation rates in the fitness program, we're providing data on resident who visit 1x, 5x, and 8x per month. It's easy to see how a lack of standard definition for participation could skew a comparison between the two different data sets. 

You might think participation is fairly cut and dry. And I suppose if our single focus is measuring the number of behinds in the seats, then participation is clear. But, we also know that headcounts don't always mean the individuals are involved in the activity. I would argue that sleeping through a stretching class requires a very generous view of participation to assume that the resident received the intended benefit from the class. And that's where engagement comes in; it's definitely a moving target. It's highly subjective and very individual. But the individual who is engaged in the stretching class is moving his body, making eye contact with the instructor, and is responsive to feedback or changes in the activity. While some people use engagement and participation synonymously, they are not the same thing. 

Is selection-bias an issue?

It might be. Here are a few ways I saw it play out in the two reports I've mentioned:

  • The ICAA notes that 89% of older adults living in Life Plan communities who are tracked through their bench marking tool, self-rate their health as good or excellent while only 68% of age-matched older adults who are non-community dwelling, rate themselves the same. That's a huge boon for housing operators, but this data suffers from a self-selection bias where a variety of factors well beyond the community's control may contribute to the higher scores for residents and the lower scores for non-residents.
  • The SHN report profiles a fall prevention program where the program operators note the baseline data showed that 38% of residents in the community had suffered one or more falls.  One year following the implementation of their initiative targeted at reducing falls, they noted that the incidence rate had gone down 10%. What wasn't noted in the report was a listing of potential reasons for the decreased rate of falls that are completely unrelated to the initiative such as variations in the pre and post-sample, and the increased likelihood for residents to not report falls (particularly when they know they're being watched for falls). The program providers indicate that they've saved the community $500,000 with this fall prevention initiative, but that savings would indicate that we can assign value to that which we prevented. I'm not aware of a concrete way to value prevention; it's one of the great shortcomings of preventive health strategies.

How can we do better?

While there are some holes in the data that has been coming out on wellness in senior living, I think the research should continue, and below are a few areas where we could all improve the quality of what we're releasing for the greater benefit of the residents we're serving.

  1. Let's ’s get industry clarity about how we define wellness because right now we see it as the “wellness gym”, the “wellness nurse”, the “wellness staff” who are really fitness center staff, the “resident wellness committee” who plans activities that may or may not be tied to purposeful living. Gaining a more clear and shared definition of what we mean when we say resident wellness gets us all started on the same page. 
  2. Let’s get clarity about how we define engagement and participation. To me, defining participation as 1x per month to seems kind of low, but if we’re going to agree to that baseline, then at least it's a starting point.
  3. Let's find value beyond hard numbers. The ICAA does a great job of profiling and recognizing fantastic programming provided by 3rd party providers as well as directly by housing operators. There are similarly interesting initiatives throughout the SHN report.  Continuing to share meaningful lifestyle offerings is a win for everyone.
  4. Let’s use data where it’s significant and less subjective. For example, one of the programs outlined in the SHN report showed where one operator demonstrated a 50% improvement on average for residents who did baseline fitness testing and repeat testing. In-between their testing periods, participants engaged in exercise prescribed for them by a trained fitness professional. This isn't a complicated initiative, our staff offer something similar in our client communities, and the data is hard to dispute.

When you're paying to download a report that promises reliable numbers, and meaningful information, it's okay to ask questions about what's being offered and whether it will translate to your environment. It's also okay to question the study design to better understand definitions inherent to the outcomes. 

We have a long way to go as an industry to tighten up research so that our evidence-based practices are better. Do you have other areas in senior living research or in wellness specifically where you think we can all do a little better? Comment below to keep the discussion going. 

Topics: senior fitness senior living community senior living wellness programs wellness for seniors older adult wellness

Why Outsourcing Senior Fitness Management May Be a Good Investment

 Of course, it’s horribly self-serving for us to say that staffing your senior living community fitness center isn’t a DIY (do-it-yourself) project. I'm not necessarily above shameless self-promotion, but the truth is, the consequences of choosing to provide your own staff for the senior fitness center can be costly. 

Let me start with an analogy. Think about your car and the routine oil change that's needed every 5,000 miles. It's not a terribly complex job to change the oil, and yet, do you do that work yourself? Most of us don't, despite the plethora of YouTube videos available to coach us through the relatively simple process. Instead of adding that job to our list, we drive to a shop and have a technician do the work.

In a similar way, fitness center management isn't super complex. But it does require some expertise for both the staff doing the work and the leadership charged with evaluating the overall success of the fitness program. If you're lacking in either area, there is likely room for improvement in your exercise offerings.

What follows are three key reasons I think working with a partner to provide the very best exercise program possible for your residents is a great investment for your community.

Reason #1: Your Actual Dollar Cost Is Only Part of the Cost/Benefit Picture

If you’re reading this thinking, “Outsourcing is expensive—way more expensive than hiring my own personnel,” you’re right. Of course, costs come in two types: direct and indirect. So don’t stunt your thinking about this by looking only at the invoice from the partner against your compensation profile for your own employee.

(KGR - call out park springs case study for improved service with NIFS vs with their own professional)

Reason #2: Outsourcing Fitness Center Management Provides Expertise You Can't Build on Your Own

Managing a fitness center isn't rocket science, but it does come with its own challenges (like most careers), not the least of which is making sure we're doing everything we can to support the customer, who in this case may be an 87-year-old woman who has never exercised. To that end, there is a benefit to having a pool of likeminded peers who are doing the same type of work, sharing in successes, problem-solving through challenges, and brainstorming new ideas together. When you hire an outsourcing organization like NIFS to provide your staffing, they have that built-in peer support.  When you hire your own wellness professional, they’re essentially on their own to build a peer network of support.

GettyImages-682517288.jpgReason #3: Outsourced Partners Are Experts in Fitness So That You Don't Have to Be

Risk management related to both the physical spaces and the programming connected to those spaces is an important consideration, and when you work with a professional organization to have your fitness center and related services managed, you don't have to lose sleep over the liability exposure. If your partner is worth their salt, they'll have the longevity and expertise to know the industry standards for waiver language, pre-activity screening, industry-appropriate certifications, subcontractor liability management, etc. 

Not sure where to start?  Get your checklist for managing fitness liability by clicking below to download.

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If you’re the “I’ll fix my own brakes” or “I’ll build my own home addition” type, then you’re more adventurous than I, and perhaps you should hire your own fitness professional. If you’re looking for an outsourcing solution that is more trustworthy and reliable than your mechanic, less expensive than your home addition, and offers a better return on investment, consider checking NIFS fitness management out. 

Is outsourcing fitness center management right for your community?

 

 

Topics: nifs fitness management senior living community outsourcing fitness managment return on investment

When It's Time to Expect More from Your Corporate Fitness Program

GettyImages-873616226 (1).jpgCorporate fitness centers are pretty low on the totem pole for most organizations. And that's how they end up just "existing" with the rest of the benefit items; they're on the list of nice things to have, but there's nothing about the corporate fitness program itself that tells leadership it's really thriving or performing well for the employees. If that resonates with you and what you're seeing in your worksite fitness program, it might be time to change things up.

Here are three signs that indicate it's time to take a fresh look at what's possible in your corporate fitness program.


#1: If You Haven't Seen Your Fitness Center Staff Out and About...

...its time to check in on how the staff are serving all of the employees (not just the corporate fitness center members). While it's likely that your fitness center staff are well degreed and credentialed for exercise, they also probably have some skills for promoting other areas of health. If they're not leaving the fitness center to provide additional worksite wellness programming, it's possible they were told that their domain is the fitness center and they should not be doing other health-related programming in the building. That's an easy one to correct; have the conversation with them and see what they can start offering across your campus to support employee health.

One of the beyond-the-fitness-center initiatives our staff members provide allows the employees to put up a signal at their desks that they'd like a quick consultation with the fitness staff. In one case, it was fun stress balls that were the signal; in another case, it was little green army men. Employees picked them up at a promotional table along with a flyer describing the at-your-desk exercise service. Then at designated times, NIFS staff walked the work areas looking for employees who had left out their signals. They provided brief consultations and exercise/stretch recommendations for employees at their desks, and they dropped off a membership application for the fitness center. In just one offering of this program, our staff interacted with an average of 40 new employees each week and picked up 15 new fitness center members directly from their consultation conversations with employees at their desks.

#2: If You're Not Getting Monthly Updates on How the Fitness Center and Related Programs Are Performing...

...it's time to at least ask for the data to see what the fitness management provider can produce. If the vendor isn't in the practice of tracking at least monthly visit and participation data, you may want to rethink the partnership because it will be a steep hurdle to get them thinking about data collection if that isn't already part of their business model. In truth, you should be able to count on at least two types of data from your corporate fitness center:

  • Monthly fitness center numbers: Total visits, unique users, frequent users (we track 5 or more and 8 or more visits per month), along with appointment volume and group fitness participation.
  • Program outcome data: Executive summary–style reporting that shows key outcomes from the initiative along with a program overview and plans for improvement in the next offering.

#3: If No One Has Really Raved in a While About the Staff or the Fitness Center Programs...

...it might be a good time to confirm how strong of a relationship the staff members have with your employees. We believe the foundation of our successful corporate fitness center partnerships is relationships. While it can take a while to build strong connections, once established, you should expect to hear periodically from your employees about how the fitness center staff are doing great work, helping to motivate them to do more than they would on their own, etc. If you're not getting those kinds of comments, your corporate fitness program might be in a rut and it's time to breathe some new life into what's possible for your employees' health through an exercise program.

***

Ready to dig a little deeper into what's possible for your corporate fitness center?  You're in luck - we have a whole guide on the topic designed to walk you through three key opportunities to build a more successful program.

Get Our Guide to Successful Fitness Programs

Topics: employee health corporate fitness data staffing worksite fitness

Should We Still Use BMI and Body Composition in Corporate Fitness?

GettyImages-844045822.jpgFor years, fitness professionals have been trained to use Body Mass Index (BMI) as a prescreening tool when individuals join a fitness program. It was part of the recommendations by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) for evaluating health risks; tobacco use, cholesterol profile, and family history for cardiovascular disease were also part of that process. In 2015, the ACSM updated their guidelines, and guess what? No BMI screening was included.

(Find out more about the changes to exercise prescreening in this FAQ.)

Why Is BMI No Longer a Screening Tool?

The changes to the ACSM guidelines were positioned largely around decreasing barriers for individuals to start an exercise program. After years of research, what they found was that BMI was not a driver of cardiovascular events during exercise. Anecdotally, I can say from experience that I had a lot of (sometimes angry) individuals wanting to join the corporate fitness center who needed a medical release because their BMI was "too high" and they had one other risk factor, such as not knowing their cholesterol or current tobacco use. So for our staff and their members in corporate fitness environments across the country, I thought this was a positive change.

But it leaves me wondering if we should be looking at BMI at all. There's a lot of back and forth in the wellness community about the "value" of BMI. The screening tool was always meant to be a field test to determine appropriateness of weight for a given height. And truly, it's an easy measure to determine; there are BMI calculators all over the internet. But that may be the end of its utility as a screening tool. There are a lot of questions about how meaningful the information really is to either the individual being assessed or the practitioner with whom they're working.

If We Don't Use BMI, What Should We Use?

This is something of a loaded question and points to our cultural obsession with "healthy" body weight. Do we need to screen for fatness? What's the value in those figures? Certainly measuring percent body fat or circumference might provide more meaningful ways to track an individual's desire to lose weight. But there are caveats on providing that information, too. Our staff members are providing those measures as field tests in our clients' corporate fitness centers, and the accuracy can be questionable, particularly for body fat assessed by skinfold testing.

We have a responsibility in our clients' fitness center environments to help the members live well in the ways that are meaningful to each individual. That might mean helping someone work on gradual, healthy weight loss. It might also mean working with someone to help them learn to appreciate the difference between feeling good when they move their body and feeling bad when they step on the scale.

The goal for our staff is to help the members they serve improve their health in all the ways that are articulated. When tools like BMI are so limiting (and potentially harmful to the psyche), we have to take a hard look at whether those tools are helping us achieve that goal. With so many other fantastic programs in our books to help people move more, try new areas of healthy living, and even remember what it felt like to play at recess, I think we have just what we need to create positive, successful, healthy environments for our corporate and senior living clients.

Check out our creative and effective programming to help keep your members active.

Improve your programs >

Topics: weight loss BMI body composition senior fitness healthy living prescreening tools corporate fitness center risk factors

Running in retirement

It's more common than you think - folks well into their 70's and 80's still running for exercise. (I hope it's my story when I'm 80 years old!) Below are accounts from two resident who live in a community where NIFS provides fitness center management services. We were so impressed with these two residents, we asked to spotlight their stories:

Judy Carlson

She was born in New Jersey, but lived in Honolulu, Hawaii with her husband RJudy Carlson Marathon Quilt.jpguss, for almost 50 years before becoming a Timber Ridge resident. 

Throughout her running career (she started at age 35), she's competed in 42 marathons, all across Hawaii. Although she says she's run her last full marathon, she continues to run races and has a group of friends with whom she runs the Hawaii Pacific Health’s Women’s 10k every year. She has also picked up races local to Seattle and she plans to complete the Seattle Half Marathon this Thanksgiving weekend.

Judy loves running because it brings people together and creates a sense of community.

I used to meet with a running a group and it was nice because there was no age discrimination; you just show up and run, nobody cared how old you were.

She told us that despite all of her long distance running, she's never seriously trained; she's in it for the enjoyment.  You can see Judy pictured next to a quilt she made from some of the t-shirts she received during marathons she's completed.

Dan Anderson

Dan Anderson Marathon.jpgShortly after Dan graduated from MIT, he married the love of his life, Portia, and they moved to Southern California where he began taking classes at USC and started work at the Hughes Research Laboratory.  He's had quite a career - not only did he play a large role in the development of the modern day laser, he later went on to serve as the Chief Patent Counselor at Boeing. Now, at the age of 89, Dan resides with his wife Timber Ridge.

When Dan wasn't in school, developing lasers, or working through patent law, he was running.  He finished his first marathon, the Palos Verdes Marathon, at the age of 24, and he went on to run marathons in Boston, Tri Cities, Culver City, Northern California’s “Avenue of the Giants” (his favorite), Vancouver, Memphis, Austin, Los Angeles, Athens, among others.  

In his earlier years, Dan enjoyed training others using his 6x6 training method that helped his trainees go from walking to running a 10k at the end of six months. He trained his colleagues from Boeing, including the President of Boeing at the time.

All told, he completed 116 marathons.  He ran his last marathon at 80 years old, but he's not done running; he's led and participates in the running group at Timber Ridge.

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Topics: fitness programs for seniors senior fitness older adult running

What happened when I stepped (way) out of my comfort zone for #GivingTuesday

GivingTuesday sign-213254-edited.jpeg

Today is #GivingTuesday, and for our NIFS family, we're celebrating NIFS 30th birthday by giving back in our communities. Several weeks ago, I challenged our team, which is spread throughout the country, to consider giving back in ways that were meaningful to them. I offered a few suggestions and then left it to them to come up with what what hit home personally. But I knew I couldn't leave it there; I knew I had to show them that I was in for this giving thing too.

So I thought about the ways I typically give, but none of those usual suspects really struck me.  I guess that's because they're my norm and part of my routine commitment to my community. 

That's when it hit me...FREE HUGS.

You don't know me, so let me say here for the record that I am not anti-hug.  I am however, a little hesitant on hugging strangers.  But before I could back out of my own idea to set up a free hug event, I told a colleague, and then I emailed the team to share that I would be giving free hugs for #GivingTuesday.

I just got back to my desk from that adventure. Despite trying to talk myself out of it twice this morning (I'm not kidding), I grabbed my "free hugs" sign (thank you, Kara Gootee-Robinson), and my coworker, Ashley Smith (and her camera!), and headed out to the IUPUI campus.

My stomach was in knots because I was so afraid that I would be rejected...that no one would want a hug.  Most of us fear rejection, right?  What if I was standing on that corner calling out for free hugs for #GivingTuesday and everyone just looked down at their phones, earbuds in, and tried to ignore the crazy lady on the corner?

Giving Tuesday NIFS Free Hugs

Not only were my fears quickly erased as several good natured souls stepped up for their hug, when my time was up, I walked away feeling great about spreading a little love and goodwill.

For the full hug effect, watch this video.

While hugs are not how I typically give back in my community, it was a great reminder that it doesn't take a lot of time or money to put a smile on someone's face. We also don't have to wait around for the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving to see and respond to needs in the community.  We're all busy...too busy, and if we wait for the right time to start contributing, it will NEVER happen.  There is richness gained in giving to others, and all it takes is a willingness to put yourself out there. 

Topics: NIFS Giving Tuesday Free Hugs

How to Give Resident Wellness Programs a Fresh Look

517993851.jpgResident wellness programs have been on the rise in senior living as consumers demand more robust and holistic options for living well. Despite the market's increasing infatuation with branding and labeling wellness in the community setting, I think the industry has a lot of room to continue to grow so that we're building programs, services, staffing, and amenities in a way to facilitate residents' desires to live well. Following are some common pitfalls that result in dated or stunted wellness programs, along with ideas for how to evolve past those sticking points.

Your exercise program is not the same thing as your wellness program.

In the consulting work I do, it is so common for communities to point to their exercise classes as the primary example of how they are offering their residents a wellness program. And while I would agree completely that the exercise program is a key to a successful wellness strategy, it's not the only element; and for some communities, it may not even be primary.

You absolutely want the exercise program to serve many of your residents, but it's important to acknowledge that not all of your seniors will participate. The class offerings, individual services, exercise equipment, and related amenities need to be diverse and well communicated. There should also be effective resident outreach to consistently draw in new participants.

Even when communities are executing well with their program, there is often room for improvement within the exercise offerings. Class formats and descriptions can be reviewed, and fitness center services like exercise prescriptions and fitness testing should be evaluated. Even taking a closer look at replacing small, worn-down equipment can offer subtle but positive upgrades to your program.

[Related Content: Four Tips for Improving your Resident Exercise Program]

A full activities calendar is the wrong goal for your wellness program.

I think sometimes folks in the activity director role find themselves in the position of order taking—you’re catering to the vocal minority. And who can fault you for wanting to make your constituents happy? But there are traps and pitfalls for your resident wellness program if your activities and events are built from an order-taking model.

Sometimes one of the challenges with the philosophy on how events and programs are placed on the schedule is actually cultural in the organization. We set the wrong benchmarks for evaluating effectiveness in activities. We focus on how full the calendar is, or leadership communicates that the goal of the activities staff is to make sure the residents are busy, that they have something to do, that we’re making their days pleasant and full.

But if you stepped back and looked objectively at the unique elements on your last six months of activities calendars, is there anything on there that would interest you? Is there anything on those calendars that, if you were new in the environment and were looking to try to make friends, you might venture out of your apartment to attend?

When you do program planning from residents' limitations, you limit your program.

It's easy to get into a rut in senior living where you start to see more limitations from your residents than potential, and when we get trained on what seniors can't do, we unintentionally build programs around those perceived barriers.

We tell ourselves a story about the residents; we say they’re frail, they’re limited, they don’t like to leave the community, they don’t like change. We say we tried that program and the residents won’t do it.

While you may have some residents who are frail, limited, unlikely to try new things, fearful, or begrudging of change, you also have residents who can be described with a whole host of other adjectives like adventurous, bright, eager, optimistic, friendly, kind, enthusiastic, loyal, and patient.

Evolving your activities and exercise programs may require a full-scale change in how you view your residents' desires, passions, and abilities. Stripping old assumptions is never easy, but it could be the first step toward building a better wellness program for the community.

Find out how to evaluate your program

 

Topics: senior living resident wellness programs program planning activities exercise program

How to make the most out of your community fitness center

I talked with a lot of folks at the 2017 LeadingAge Expo last week about how they can make the most out of their senior living community fitness center. In case you and I didn't connect at that event, here are 3 tips on how to make the most out of your community fitness center programs.

water aerobics for seniors

Start with the staff

Upgrading what you're offering in your fitness program is a great way to stand out from the competition (if you do it well), but offering a trainer a few hours per week likely isn't enough to truly draw residents into the fitness program. 

If you have no staff - start there. Let's talk about how you can start providing expert staff in a cost effective manner with the greatest impact for your community.

If you have staff - evaluate how effective they are for your residents. There's a nuance here that's worth mentioning: how well-liked the staff are is not the same thing as how effective they are. Your residents deserve both an affable fitness team and effective, fun, engaging programs and services. So when you're thinking about how well your fitness staff are performing, start by addressing how well-received they are, but don't stop there. Ask how they spend their time in service to the residents and how are they measuring the success of the community fitness program. For example, are they providing services, like exercise prescriptions, equipment orientations, and assessments that help residents understand how to exercise safely while working positively toward their goals? Do you have data on how those services are used? 

[Read More: How NIFS managers spend their time in senior living fitness centers]
 

Consider the programming

Fitness programming in the community goes well beyond fee-based personal training and group fitness classes.  Many communities do robust programming exceptionally well.  If your struggling with ideas, here are a few blogs that spotlight NIFS work with our clients in this area:

As a leader in the community, you should be getting data about how effective the programming is, how many residents are participating, and what the fitness staff will do differently next time to achieve their goals.  If you aren't getting that kind of information from your program, it might be time to look at ways you can improve your program. 

Seek opportunities to improve

I talked with a number of community leaders who noted that they have fantastic staff in their fitness center and were thus certain that we wouldn't have services that would benefit their community. The truth is, there are always ways to do better; what we're really talking about here is whether there's an appetite to pursue improvement. 

If you don't want to turnover staff, but you recognize your fitness team is only as good as the silo they're in, consider bringing in a consultant to evaluate the programming. There are most likely areas where your program could improve. Bringing in a consultant with an extensive background in the field and blissful ignorance about your services is a great way to uncover those opportunities that aren't apparent to those who are working in that environment.  

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

Topics: fitness programs for seniors senior fitness resident wellness programs LeadingAge LeadingAge 2017 resident engagement senior living status quo

3 things I learned at the 2017 LeadingAge Annual Meeting and Expo

LeadingAge 2017.jpgThis week more than 7,000 professionals working in senior housing and related businesses converged in New Orleans, LA, to share their passions, learn from each other, and return back to their communities inspired to continue doing great work for the older adults they serve. I was honored to be at the LeadingAge annual meeting both as an attendee and as an exhibitor.

Typically when I go to a conference, I learn in two categories:

  • There's the "duh-why didn't I think of that...it's brilliant" way where I'm usually listening intently in a session, scribbling copious notes and the speaker says something that resonates deeply for me.
  • And there's the "thinking about it later" way that usually comes up when I'm reflecting on the day, on the people I met, and the conversations I had.

Below are a few of my takeaways that, not surprisingly, fall into both of those categories.

#1: Status quo does not equal thriving

My first session of the conference was "Nature Meets Nurture: Designing a WELL Building". The content of the presentation was interesting; I had read some about the WELL Building Standard, and the session helped me get a better understanding of how the standard applies at a more practical level. What struck me during this session was when one of the speakers categorized the Standard as moving forward, moving beyond the status quo.

I realized that's true of so much work being done in senior living. Status quo is not the same thing as thriving. Moving forward, doing better, trying new things is not equal to doing what we've always done. Of course, this isn't just true for how we build communities; it's true in the areas where NIFS works as well, including building and executing on a life enrichment or fitness program strategy, and I have already started looking with fresh eyes at how we can help communities move past their status quo to build thriving living environments for their residents.

[Read More: 5 ways wellness consulting helps meet the mission of your community]

#2: There is no single solution

There is no one-size-fits-all solution that works in every community and the volume of providers stationed through the exhibit hall is proof. Even in our work with a family of communities all united under the same brand, our delivery of services is unique per location because the resident and client desires drive the strategy. The LeadingAge expo was a great reminder that communities deserve creative and flexible partners who are willing to adjust their models to meet unique needs.

The flip side of the creative partner coin is the open-minded senior living community.  If you strolled the expo thinking (or saying) you don't need X product/service because you already have it covered, see #1 above.  Maybe rethink that "we already do that notion" and give a second look to the information you gathered form the expo before you put it in the recycling bin.  There just might be a nugget in there to help your community make a move toward thriving.

 #3: Resident engagement is everyone's job

LeadingAge 2017 (2).jpgAs I sat in the Redefining Resident Engagement session with Michelle Holleran and Tim Johnson, I was intrigued by the Holleran model for the four domains of engagement. (Grab the whitepaper here.) My early thoughts were all around how much the domains are the resonsibilty of a communitiy's life enrichment director.  [Full disclosure - that role is kind of a sweet spot for NIFS as we consult with and provide staffing solutions for communities in that role.]  However, the further we got into the session, the more I realized how deep the idea of engagement really runs. 

There are lots of ways to improve traditional activities in communities, and many of those opportunities rest squarely with your Life Enrichment staff doing their jobs differently.  Yet, beyond the prominent role your Life Enrichment department plays in facilitating opportunities for resident engagement, it is the entire community supporting those opportunities, connecting with residents, and communicating with each that is the foundation for engagement.  Residents also have to be present at a fundamental level.  We should not be simply filling an activities calendar and calling it done.  For strong engagement, we have to invite residents into their own life story and then step back to allow them to live it.  


If you attended the 2017 LeadingAge Annual Meeting and Expo, I'd love to hear your key take aways in the comments below.

Topics: senior living senior living communities senior living wellness programs LeadingAge LeadingAge 2017 resident engagement senior living status quo

Improve your senior living fitness program by outsourcing the staff

If you believe it's time to offer more to current residents and prospects through your exercise program, but you're not quite sure what that "more" entails or how to get there, outsourcing might make a lot of sense for your community.

Outsourcing isn't just for therapy

The primary benefit to looking at a partner for management of any area of your community is the value of the depth and breadth of the firm's experience. Communities don't think twice about outsourcing therapy but when it comes to taking a closer look at the reasons to outsource management of the fitness center and related programming, I sometimes get blank stares from leadership. And I can't explain it. Certainly, how we provide service, the nature of our contracts with our clients, and the credentials of the staff we provide for community fitness is different from therapy groups, but the overall concept is the same. If you want an expert-run fitness program, you have to work with the experts. 

I’ve had the opportunity to work with NIFS for many years with multiple communities and I can say without exception that they have taken the wellness program in our communities to a new level. They are the best in the industry at what they do, and I would not hesitate bringing them in to any senior housing community that I am affiliated with. Our communities are stronger with NIFS on their team.  ~Mick Feauto, COO, LifeSpire of Virginia

NIFS math | LeadingAge | Senior Living

NIFS Math

NIFS staff in your community are backed by an our organization that is uniquely focused on the specific work of elevating your fitness program. We're regularly supporting continuing education for our team and we have a proven model for effectively sharing resources so our clients get far more than the one NIFS manager on the ground. We like to call it "NIFS math" where 1 + 1 = 3.

 

What to expect from your fitness program

4399_KF_3163.jpgYou need your fitness center to be a hallmark, a standout for the community. For your current residents, it should be one of the most praised offerings both because the staff are well-loved and because they are effective at keeping residents engaged with new, consistent, well-done offerings. The fitness program should also be on the list of reasons prospective residents choose your community. But if the group fitness calendar and the personal training services look the same as all the competition, and if you don't have the necessary data to tell key stories about how resident's lives have been improved by participating, then you're missing out on an opportunity.

NIFS clients see a lot of value in their partnerships because they gain much more than "just a trainer" for their gym. Check out some of the services we provide that aren't common to most community fitness programs:

  • Balance Redefined includes rich programming and services focused specifically on balance training and fall prevention; our Balance Redefined offerings were built from, and regularly evolve because of our experience with dozens of communities over the last 15 years.
  • Key data points for the fitness program are regularly reported and smartly used to continuously improve what we're offering in each client setting. From tracking participation per resident to evaluating outcomes and goals on our programs, we are constantly checking in on and reporting our progress.
  • Reaching residents in assisted living and memory care environments with quality fitness services can be a real challenge. Our staff provide that outreach through strong relationships with community lifestyle coordinators. Modified balance assessments, group classes, personal training, and hybrid health-related programming are all tailored for the unique needs of residents in those settings.

[Related Content: 4 Keys to Getting Data You Can Actually Use]

Find out how you can put NIFS math to work in your community. Contact us or stop by and see us at the LeadingAge Expo.  We'll be hanging out with our calculators doing NIFS math in booth #1261.

Topics: senior fitness management CCRC fitness center senior living communities senior fitness group fitness for seniors fitness center for seniors leading age LeadingAge