Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Retirement Community Fitness Centers - Is Bigger Always Better?

This post was updated on May 7, 2018.

There is a trend NIFS | Senior Fitness Center Designamong owners and operators of senior living communities toward a focus on resident wellness. The movement is based in research findings which indicate that opportunities for residents to live actively are important both to prospective residents as well as to their family members. Couple those findings with the constant news updates about how good regular exercise is for older adults and its easy to see why communities are so focused on ramping up their resident wellness programming.  

Perhaps the most visible element in a community's overall wellness program is their exercise offerings. When I consult for senior living clients on their fitness program, I am often asked if size matters when it comes to their physical space for exercise. Does it matter that their fitness center is small, with only a few pieces of equipment? Does it matter that they don't have dedicated group exercise class space? They can't afford to put in a pool - is that a problem for growing their exercise program?

 

Size isn't the only consideration.

Size is an important consideration, but it shouldn't be the only consideration. Much positive and fulfilling life can be lived by your residents in even the smallest spaces. We've worked with several clients who are small on space, but significant on providing meaningful and effective programming designed to engage rather than entertain residents. The challenge becomes accommodating as many participants as possible when your footprint is tight. Creative thinking can often help you solve issues like not enough equipment or overcrowding in exercise classes.

Where size does matter is when we're looking at the passion, personality, and skills of the individual(s) leading the exercise programming at your community. Even the biggest, shiniest, most state of the art fitness centers, pools, and other healthful spaces will become like a ghost town if there is no staff presence (or it’s the wrong staff presence) there to connect with your residents. Staff personality and capability reign supreme when it comes to a quality, compelling, and invitational programming at your community. 

[Learn More: Read our case studies on the impact of staff for a successful exercise program]

Get the size of your staffing just right.

There are a few ways you can invest in quality staffing for your exercise program:

  • You can provide your own staffing.
  • You could also consider tapping an existing partner for this service. We see therapy groups sliding into this market.
  • You can partner with a group like NIFS who does fitness center management as a core business.
Be careful about hiring your own exercise specialist; it's not rocket science, but there is likely more to hiring, training, and providing ongoing support for your new fitness manager than you realize. Also understand that if you connect with your therapy partner for exercise programming, your fitness environment and services will remain clinical in nature. Outsourcing is an option and when it comes down to weighing the full value proposition, it may not cost your community more than hiring your own fitness professional. 
 
Is outsourcing fitness center management right for your community?

There’s a lot at stake here.  Not enough staffing, or the wrong staff member(s) could poke a serious hole in what should be an uplifting, feel-good offering at your community. If you don’t have the money to spend on the bricks and mortar, make sure you have the resources to effectively operate what space you do have, or the entire investment could provide less than stellar results.

Topics: senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center senior fitness fitness center staffing