Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Joy Higbee

Recent Posts by Joy Higbee:

Benefits of Collaborative Programming with Senior Living Communities

“Come on!”

“No pressure!”

“You can do it!”

Those are just a few of the phrases you’ll hear thrown out in the last round of the Semi-Annual Corn-Toss tournament held between several CCRCs in Indiana every spring and fall. This is one of many multicommunity events that NIFS fitness center managers put on every year. Sometimes events are competitive (such as corn-toss, water volleyball, or pickleball), and sometimes they are more educational (wellness seminars). A lot of coordination is involved (scheduling, transportation, food, and so on), but it’s always worth it!

ThinkstockPhotos-510313194.jpgHere are some of the ways the residents reap the benefits of collaborative programming with senior living communities outside of their own.

1. It’s an opportunity to make new friends.

It seems like making new friends only gets tougher as we get older. With social media, email, and easy modes of transportation, it’s so easy to keep up with the friends and family we already have in our lives, so why would you bother meeting anyone new? Study after study has shown that a healthy social life has amazing, positive effects on lifespan/longevity and quality of life.

Collaborative programming between communities creates a situation that facilitates new friendships because residents already know they have something in common. If everyone in a room is playing in a Euchre tournament, a resident can guess that the person sitting next to them at the table enjoys playing cards. Voila! Easy icebreaker! It’s also fun to see residents who consistently participate really getting to know each other. They start to make friends with residents at new communities, but also with neighbors who perhaps they hadn’t really known.

2. Staff can share ideas while residents experience a new way of learning.

As fitness staff, we spend a lot of our time trying to teach people about how to be healthy. We give advice about fitness and nutrition and staying active, but after a while, it can start to sound a little like a broken record. For residents, hearing about the same health/fitness topics from the same people means sometimes it’s in one ear and out the other. These collaborative events provide a great opportunity for residents to learn from someone else who has a different teaching style. Sometimes, hearing the same good information presented in a new way can be all it takes to make the advice “click” for a person.

3. Competition drives participation.

This doesn’t hold true for everyone, but at many communities, competition drives participation. If residents know they are practicing for a tournament against a “rival” community (however they may define that), they might be more interested. This not only means more participation on the day of the competition, but also leading up to the competition. And who knows, maybe during one of those practice sessions residents will see a bulletin board for your next fitness incentive and decide to sign up for that, too.

***

Multicommunity programs are fun and educational, and build camaraderie among residents. Whether informative or competitive, they are a great opportunity to learn from each other and about each other, and they always lead to a fun time.

Does your community regularly participate in collaborative programming with other communities?

Whitepaper+Wellness Culture

Topics: participation senior living communities CCRC Programs and Services programming competition

Active Aging: Using the Fitness Freeze to keep visit numbers up

fitness_freeze1.jpgEveryone is planning their holiday vacations and parties. As the manager of a fitness center, your job is about to get just a little tougher. This time of year it’s incredibly difficult to keep the attendance up in the fitness center. I think a lot of members think they can just “put it off” until January 1st and that it’s not that big of a deal if they miss a few weeks of workouts. Unfortunately for those people, there can be major losses after just two weeks of skipping workouts. According to this article, it only takes two and a half to three weeks of inactivity to start seeing strength declines; and losses in cardiovascular fitness can happen even more rapidly.

So, in order to combat those declines in our Active Aging sites, we’ve created the Fitness Freeze program. The basic idea of the program is as follows:

Members earn a snowflake for each week where they exercise three or more times. This can include attending a group fitness class, working out in the fitness center, or exercising on their own somewhere else. At some sites, residents can earn a “bonus” snowflake by completing an assigned task such as a scavenger hunt, an express workout, or trying a new machine or exercise. As members earn their snowflakes, the manager will hang them up throughout the fitness center. The effect is thrilling. Each fitness center becomes a “snowy” wonderland as more and more residents earn their snowflakes.

It’s a fun, simple program that has proven extremely effective in our Active Aging sites. Last year was the first running of the Fitness Freeze program and it resulted in:

  • 11% increase in the total visits from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.
  • 8% increase in members gained from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.
  • 26% increase in the number of appointments held from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.

Our team has set even higher goals for the 2015 Fitness Freeze and I can’t wait to see the results! How are you keeping your members motivated during the holidays?

It's not just about creative programming, how do you plan to take your program to the next level?

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Topics: active aging senior living senior living wellness programs

How to create more effective wellness program

Planning ahead is central to what we do.  It’s how we create successful initiatives like our March Into Better Balance Challenge, the 30 Day Squat Challenge, Club PED, National Senior Health and Fitness Day, Active Aging Week, Maintain Not Gain, and several other offerings. One of the ways that planning ahead helps us better serve our clients is with program evaluation.  We’ve written before about the importance of measuring the impact of activities in your wellness program.  In order to effectively evaluate what you’re offering, you have (1) know the programs you’re running, and (2) do the work to set up the program well.

Beyond program evaluation, there are a lot of factors our staff consider to pull off successful programs, and the one element that holds all of that programming together is our planning process.  In fact, our team is already hard at work filling out their 2016 program planning templates. The planning tool allows managers to look at several elements at once:

 1. Balance

Viewing the year-at-a-glance program plan is really helpful for our staff who are looking to provide a balanced programming strategy.  For example, staff can spread out their larger wellness initiatives and sprinkle smaller programs into parts of the year that are typically busier for members. They can also create a balance between types of programming such as fitness incentives, wellness programs, and educational pieces.

 2. Deadlines

Probably the most practical reason to plan ahead is to make sure all the prep work gets done in time. Many of the events and initiatives run by our managers involve other staff and departments. Planning ahead allows you to make sure you can get everything done on time. For example, let’s say you have a field day event planned. You’ll need to work backwards from the date of the event to be sure you have time to order supplies, advertise the event to your members, make arrangements for food and drinks, and plan what you’ll need for set-up. All of those details can take six to eight weeks or more to come together depending on how involved your program is. You can’t get started a week before and expect it to run smoothly.

 3. Community Collaboration

When we plan out the structure of our year ahead of time, it gives us a chance to take that plan to the other departments within the client – be it at a corporate site or in senior living – to allow for optimal collaboration.  And the possibilities for truly engaging programming is great. Our partners offer fantastic creativity to boost initiatives for better participation and for a more well-rounded approach.  Planning in this way also helps us avoid overlap with other key initiatives at the client so that the audience (employees or residents) isn’t confused, frustrated, or otherwise dis-incentivized to participate. 

What’s next?

If it’s true that failing to plan is planning to fail, then how do you go about building this plan?  Below are some tips and tricks to get you started.

Build programs with purpose

We’re not spending time and energy on programs for them to go unattended. And none of us really have time to slap spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks.  Instead, consider developing programs that have a purpose behind them.  It might be that you’re trying to tie into participation goals for the fitness center, or group exercise classes.  Then design the offering geared toward that goal. 

Establish annual campaigns

Members love a good tradition, and you can easily play into that nostalgia with fun programming that occurs annually. Competitions with bragging rights have worked well for us.

Look at untapped areas within your environment

In our corporate settings, sometimes the cafeteria or outdoor settings provide new spaces for creative programming.  In senior living communities, the pool may be a huge opportunity for social, intellectual, and/or physical programming. Grab our quick read on how to grow aquatics participation or click below.

  CTA Aquatics Programming

 

Our creative staff have come up with creative ways for drawing in participation for programs in a variety of settings.  Check their success with the Fitness Freeze, Meditation, and NIFS150 programs. Subscribe to our blog to receive future posts about our successful programs.

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Topics: programming for wellness effective wellness programming senior living wellness programs

Active Aging Week: Planning for a Successful Week of Programs

It’s that time again! Our team has been working hard to get ready for Active Aging Week 2015. We’ve changed things up a little bit this year. For the past few years we’ve done a friendly competition between Active Aging sites for the week. This year, we’ve set a goal as a team and we’re competing against ourselves to get our highest participation yet!

Read on to find out about some of the most exciting senior wellness elements of this year’s Active Aging Week.

Multiple Dimensions of Wellness

For us, the goal of Active Aging Week has always extended beyond just encouraging our residents to be physically active. This year is no different. We’ve planned events focused on physical wellness, but also social, intellectual, vocational, and emotional wellness. It’s so important to understand how each dimension impacts a person’s health and lifestyle. After four years of participating in multi-site programs, the residents appreciate the variety as well.

Philanthropy

Thursday’s event has quickly become a favorite for many participants. Each year, we reserve Thursday as the day we focus on vocational wellness and giving back to the community. Each site gets to choose a philanthropy that they want to work with that day. Some sites donate clothing or food, some sites write letters to troops or veterans, and other sites use the opportunity to raise money for an organization. For each site, this is an important day where residents get to help out a cause that’s close to their hearts. 

Across the Continuum

The first year we put together an organized, multi-site Active Aging Week program, it was really just geared toward residents who resided in the independent-living sections of the communities. Since then, we’ve expanded the program to include assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care, and even employees. Each day’s events include elements that can either be extended across the entire community or easily adapted so each area can have its own version of the event. This has been especially nice for residents who’ve moved from independent living on to another area; now they aren’t missing out just because they transferred to a different level of care.

Personality

One of the great aspects of Active Aging Week year to year is that across the country our residents are participating in the week’s events together. Another awesome feature of the program is how easy it is to adapt to the personality of the residents within a particular community. Each site is handed a week-long program outline that includes some details to make the week run smoothly. From there, the rest is up to the NIFS manager and staff. They get to be creative in their implementation of each day’s events, and it’s a great opportunity to tailor everything to the residents at each individual community. This is one of the reasons Active Aging Week has been such a successful program for our sites. The planning and preparation are important, but the care, creativity, and attention to detail that’s given by each site manager is what really makes it special, and that’s what attracts residents to participate year after year.

Are you planning anything creative for Active Aging Week this year?

 

Topics: senior wellness active aging senior fitness active aging week,

Active Aging: Beginning Exercise Program for Seniors

senior woman on ballEveryone needs a starting point.  Anyone who has ever tried to begin a new exercise program knows that the first few weeks often determine whether you stick with the program or not.  I often have residents ask me where to begin and while different considerations have to be made for each individual’s situation, I’ve found that this is usually a good starting point.

1. Try not to overwhelm them

A few times per week is plenty for an older adult who is new to exercise.  We’re trying to build a habit and that takes a little time.  For someone who was previously sedentary, doing structured exercises 3 times per week is plenty.  I do try to encourage people to take a short walk every day so they are getting up and moving around more than they’re used to.  (And walking down to the dining room doesn’t count!)

2. Include a little cardio, a little strength, and a little flexibility

Barring any special circumstances or directions from their physician, it’s safe for older adults to include a large variety of exercises in their routine.  Aim to be well-rounded.  It’s good for the body and it helps to keep them interested as well.  Cardio exercises could include things like walking, riding a bike, or just working out on the Nu-Step or elliptical.  Start out for 10 minutes at a time and work up from there.  Strength exercises should be functional and safe for the older adult.  Using variable resistance machines is usually a good place to start and it can help to build the confidence of your new exerciser.  Always include flexibility exercises as well.  You’ve all heard “use it or lose it” and this applies to mobility and flexibility just as much as any other area.

3. Always include balance exercises

My most successful residents are the ones who do balance exercises most days of the week.  Practicing those tasks not only makes them more stable, but also really boosts their confidence.  It’s an area where a lot of them feel unsure of themselves and a little fearful so showing them that they can do something to change that feeling can really help.

4. Modify, modify, modify

It’s easy to try a “one size fits all” model for older adults.  Many people just assume that they can’t do the same things as someone who is younger, but this isn’t true!  As our population ages, there are many circumstances where people have been exercising their whole lives and are still very capable of difficult exercises.  Don’t be afraid to challenge people a little bit.  On the flip side, many people are just beginning an exercise program with the goal of maintaining their independence a little longer so don’t be afraid to modify exercises down to their abilities as well.

Do you have tips and tricks that work for beginners in your community?

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Topics: active aging nifs fitness management senior fitness exercise for elderly

Active Aging: Recruiting new residents to join the fitness center

seniors in a stretching classWhen a resident moves into our community, I’ve found that they are often overwhelmed with the amount of information they’ve been given upon arrival.  There are tons of activities and clubs offered by our community, but I really believe that residents benefit the most from joining our fitness center.  (I’ll admit, I’m a little biased!)  Here are a few successful ways I’ve found of encouraging new residents to join in on our fitness programming:

1. Visit them when they first move in to the community.

In order to be sure they have the time to ask questions and really consider becoming a member of the fitness center, I go to visit each new resident within a few weeks of their move-in date.  I want to give them time to get settled, but not so much time that they’ve filled their schedule with other things.  During that visit, I’ll take about 10-15 minutes to explain all of the fitness offerings and programming we have within our community.  I usually end up staying twice that amount of time because, once they hear about our awesome program, many of the residents have questions about how to join or about how they can benefit from the fitness center.  It’s also a great time to start building some rapport with each person as an individual.  Rather than just becoming “that exercise leader” to them, you can have a relationship with each person individually and really make them feel like they will be missed if they don’t participate.

2. Set up appointments.

After working in this field for a while, each person starts to develop their own system for keeping members committed.  One of my most successful practices is simply in making appointments with new members.  People of all ages are much more likely to show up if they have an appointment and feel like they will let someone down if they don’t keep it.  I try to use that to my advantage when keeping new members engaged.  When new members turn in their health history form and waiver, I set up an orientation appointment with them.  At their orientation appointment, I typically recommend a few group fitness classes and set up a senior fitness test.  At the senior fitness test, I make an appointment for an exercise prescription.  By that time, they have met with me and come to classes anywhere from 5-10 times and they have begun to build a habit.  It’s a simple, but effective way of getting them into the fitness center enough times that they begin to see a benefit from exercising.

3. Sell your group fitness classes.

This one won’t work for every potential member, but I can tell you that it works for most people who come into our fitness center.  Group fitness is one of the hottest things we have going here.  Residents will miss out on all sorts of other events if they are scheduled during our Balance Class.  I believe there are several reasons for this.  First of all, it’s a social activity.  We have anywhere from 10 to 30 people come to Balance Class on a regular basis so it’s a great place to meet up with people and to meet new people.  Second, they feel missed if they aren’t there.  I try to make it a point to talk directly to at least one different person in class each day.  Ask them how their day is going or how their grandkids are.  I believe building these relationships is important because then they’ll know we miss them if they aren’t there.  Third, and perhaps most importantly, they feel the benefits!  I can’t tell you how many residents have come up and told me how much they can tell when they miss a few classes.  I aim to give them a good workout every day so that they can keep their independence and this is what really keeps them coming back for more.

What are some successes you've had getting new residents involved in fitness programs?

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Topics: active living senior living community group fitness for seniors