Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Active Aging: Ten Ways for Seniors to be Active in the Country

active_in_countryLiving in the country can have its share of pros and cons when it comes to getting in your recommended daily activity. Although you might not have access to a fitness center at your fingertips, here is a list of 10 ways for seniors to stay active in multiple wellness dimensions while living in a rural area: 

  1. Can you dig it?  Try gardening!  Plant your seeds and reap the benefits with a bouquet of flowers, a variety of vegetables, and some new herbs to spice up your daily activity as well as your meals.
  2. Enjoy some time with nature by going on a nature hike!  With the scenery ever changing, this can be a beautiful change up to your typical cardiovascular exercise routine.  So don’t delay, lace up your shoes and take a hike!   
  3. Go for a swim at a local lake or community pool.  This activity uses the gentle resistance of water to strengthen your muscles.  It is easier on joints and the buoyancy of the water is effective for those with balance issues.  Don’t forget your water floaties!
  4. Walk a pet.  Take your favorite companion around the block for some good company during your exercise.  Maybe you start with a short distance that increases over time as you and your pet improve your stride and endurance together.
  5. Not feeling like going outside?  Then workout to a fitness DVD!  Pick out a yoga, gentle aerobics or senior boot camp DVD to do at your own pace in the comfort of your home.  What other workout DVDs do you recommend? 
  6. Go to the mall!  Do laps around your local mall to get your steps in each day.  You don’t have to go into a store and make a purchase if you don’t want to, but this is a great option whether the weather is rain or shine!
  7. Camping with the family.  Helping set up camp and carrying a pack can be a great way to burn calories while spending time with your loved ones.  Just avoid eating too many roasted marshmallows to gain back all of the hard earned calories that you just burned off!
  8. Check off the “honey-do” list.  Kill two birds with one stone by doing chores around the house while making your spouse overwhelmingly appreciative of you!  Dust, vacuum, do the laundry or put way the dishes and work off calories all the while!
  9. Do work around the yard.  Spend a nice, sunny afternoon outside by mowing, pruning and raking your yard.  Have a home improvement project that you’ve been putting off?  Then now is a great time to conquer it!  Your neighbors will be impressed by how immaculate your yard looks, and you will be reaping the benefits of your activity!
  10. Play with your grandkids at a park or playground.  Tap into your inner child and participate in the games that suit your fancy!  These are memories that your grandchildren will cherish for the rest of their lives. 

What ways have you found to be fit in your area?  Keep in mind these safety recommendations to optimize your overall wellness.  Don’t live in a rural area?  Then check out this blog about Ways to Stay Fit in the City!

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Topics: active aging active living senior fitness

Active Aging: Ten Ways for Seniors to Stay Active in the City

active_in_cityIf you live in a city, then you have your share of challenges when it comes to keeping fit.  Although so many things can be available at your fingertips, how do you successfully stay active?  Here are 10 ways to be fit in multiple wellness dimensions for seniors living in an urban area: 

  1. Stop to smell the flowers by walking around a park or botanical garden.  Research shows that green space and being outside can lower stress.  I’m not saying you have to hug a tree in appreciation…unless you want to.   
  2. Enjoy a cultural experience at a museum while racking up your steps.  Many cities house museums for art, science, history and much more!  This is a great excuse to check out the latest exhibit while stepping your way towards health.    
  3. Walk a pet.  Use a cute pooch as your excuse to get out and about on a regular basis.  Start slowly and increase your pace and/or distance over time!
  4. If you have access to a body of water, then try sailing, canoeing, or kayaking.  This can be a fun option to mix into your routine by getting out on the water.  Don’t forget to take pictures from that different point of view to show all of your friends!
  5. Take the stairs.  Stairs are everywhere throughout the city.  If this is a safe option for you, then challenge yourself with some stair routines.  Walk them, every-other step them, do sidesteps…be creative!  I usually do stairs while listening to Eye of the Tiger…and pretend I’m Rocky Balboa.
  6. Explore your city’s architecture and history.  Whether it’s on foot or on a bike, explore the ins and outs of your city while getting exercise.  More and more cities are offering bike rental services so if you don’t own a bike, then try renting one! 
  7. Participate in an organized race event.  Many cities host races of various lengths, causes and themes for you to participate in throughout the year.  Select a race with a meaningful cause to you and train accordingly.  This can also provide a target end-goal for your exercise regimen. 
  8. Attend festivals or street markets.  This will give you an opportunity to walk around and even pick up a few fresh treats while being social with a few hundred of your closest friends!
  9. Beat traffic by walking instead of driving.  Given the accessibility of many locations, try walking to and from appointments and events such as grocery stores, hair appointments, doctor’s appointments, dentists, and the theaters when appropriate.  This is a healthy option that is also good for the environment. 
  10. Try a Gentle Yoga or Tai Chi class!  Both of these classes are beneficial to seniors since they are gentle on joints, promote range of motion and target on balance improvement.  Some classes will even meet outside on nice days!

What ways have you found to be fit in your city?  Keep in mind these safety recommendations to optimize your overall wellness.  Don’t live in a city?  Watch for my next blog about Ways to Stay Fit in the Country! 

Exercise is important as we age, check out our quick read for more information and share with your loved ones to keep them active, click below!

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Topics: active aging senior living exercise for elderly

Senior Living: Keep Moving and Keep Improving with Senior Health and Fitness Day

moving_seniorsNational Senior Health and Fitness Day is approaching with celebrations focused on senior health and wellness across the country on Wednesday, May 27.  Many YMCA’s, health clubs, park districts and especially Independent and Assisted Living Communities will structure programs and activities to promote staying healthy as we age!  The motto for this year is “Keep Moving and Keep Improving” That got me thinking about not just why it’s important to move but how exercise can actually continue to improve our quality of life. 

When I ask our active agers about the possibility of living to the age of 10, they always comment that they would be happy to live to that age under the condition that their bodies and minds are still capable of decent function, not necessarily great or even good function, but decent function to get around and still have cognitive ability.  Enough to move!

Movement is defined as an act of changing physical location or position or of having this changed (a slight movement of the upper body).”  The definition is not emphasizing how much or how intensely we need to move, it’s simply saying motion of the body, even slight motion of the body.  My goal for National Senior Health and Fitness Day is to promote moving the body! No matter what your limitations, there is an exercise that can be modified to benefit and keep the body moving!  The ultimate goal is that by movement (exercise) we will continue to improve quality of life.

So how do you keep moving with limitations?

  • First recognize your “movement” limitations and ask are they temporary or permanent? For example, if you broke your ankle and are recovering, or had recent surgery, for most those are temporary “movement” limitations. On the other hand, if you have arthritis in your knees, or have been told you have Parkinson’s then these are more than likely permanent “movement” limitations.
  • Second find an exercise routine that focuses on three things:
  1. Safety! It may be best for you to choose a movement with a limited range of motion or perform it sitting instead of standing.
  2. Strength! What will strengthen my “movement” limitations? For example, if you cannot move one arm higher than another because of a rotator cuff problem, continue to move them both separately, continuing to keep the stronger side strong and also allowing the weaker side to gain more strength.
  3. Fun! Whatever you do you need to enjoy it in order to continue doing it! If you enjoy a particular exercise classes, talk to the instructor about modification and your “movement” limitations when necessary.  Or, hire a personal trainer to design a program appropriate for you.  Remember always consult your physician before starting any exercise program.

The goal is to keep moving! If you keep moving you’ll keep improving! Celebrate National Senior Health and Fitness Day with a lifetime goal to keep moving!

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Topics: active aging senior living fitness center health and fitness

Active Aging: Make no bones about it

walking_seniorsHow healthy are your bones? This may not be a question you can answer quickly. Many seniors already have weak bones and don’t know it, but the good news is you’re never too old to take steps towards keeping your bones strong. Strong bones support us and allow us to move well. They protect our heart, lungs, and brain from injury. Our bones are also a storehouse for vital minerals that we need to live.

When you think of bones, you might imagine a hard, brittle skeleton. In reality, your bones are living organs. They are alive with cells and flowing body fluids. Bones are constantly renewed and grow stronger with a good diet and adequate physical activity. The amount of calcium that makes up your bones is the measure of how strong they are. Your muscles and other systems in your body must also have calcium to work. Therefore if it is in short supply from what you get in the foods you eat, your body will simply take the calcium from the storage in your bones.

Falls are a common thing you hear about when discussing senior bone health. It is a major reason for trips to the emergency room and for hospital stays among older adults. You can help prevent fractures by maintaining the strength of your bones. If you fall, having healthy bones can prevent hip or other fractures that may lead to a potential severe disability. If bones are fragile, even a minor fall can be detrimental.  

Some things that weaken bones are out of your control. For example, if your family member has a bone problem, you could also be at risk. Also, some medical conditions can make you prone to bone disease. But there are also several things you can do to maintain your bone health as you age. 

Each day, calcium is deposited and withdrawn from your bones. If you don’t get enough calcium, you could be withdrawing more than you’re depositing. Be sure to get an adequate amount, this can be done by eating calcium-rich foods and taking supplements. It can be found in dairy products such as low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese. You can also get it from orange juice, nuts such as almonds, soybeans, fortified cereals, and dark green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli and collard greens.

Vitamin D is necessary to help your body absorb the calcium. As you get older, your bodies need for vitamin D also increases. It is made by your skin when you are in the sun but many older people don’t get enough vitamin D this way. Eating foods with vitamin D, such as salmon, mushrooms, and fortified cereals and milk will greatly benefit your body. You can have a blood test done to check for a vitamin D deficiency or abnormal calcium levels. Taking supplements can help as well, talk to your doctor about how much vitamin D you need.

Physical activity is another way to keep your bones strong. Try to get a total of at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, even if it’s broken up into 10 minutes three times a day. Participate in activities like walking, dancing, stair climbing, gardening, or strength training. When you jump, run, or lift a weight, it puts stress on your bones which sends a signal to your body that your bones need to be made stronger. New cells are then added which strengthens your bones.

Talk to your doctor about your bone health questions and concerns; together you can evaluate your risks. The doctor might recommend a bone density test. This is a safe and painless test that will assess your overall bone health and determine your risk for fractures. It is recommended that women over 65 and men over 70 should all have a bone density test.

By 2020 half of all Americans over 50 will have weak bones unless we make changes to our diet and lifestyle. As discussed, a diet that includes enough calcium and vitamin D and physical activity can help prevent bone loss and fractures. Take initiative today to keep your bones healthy and strong!

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Topics: active aging bone density senior living community healthy living

75 year old resident with Parkinson's steps up to the challenge

This is the story of a man, who by all accounts, has received a challenging diagnosis, and who, by any standards, could have slowed down years ago.  But he hasn't, and instead, he's overcoming his health challenges to help patients at Lurie's Children's hospital through the Aon Step Up For Kids fundraiser.

Larry Pirovano, a resident at The Clare, in downtown Chicago has been working with his NIFS personal trainer, Zach DeCoster to accomplish the stair climb challenge that required more than 1,600 steps.  We've got his amazing stats below as well as a video from a local NBC affilate who profiled his inspiring story.

  • On January 25, 2015, Larry and Zach climbed 80 flights of stairs in the Aon Center in 50 minutes and 15 seconds.  
  • Larry placed 2nd in his age bracket.
  • He raise the most money of all individual participants and was 16th in total fundraising including all teams and individuals.


Topics: active aging senior living communities personal trainers

Active Aging: Beating the cold weather blues

The cold weather is here in full force. Not only does it bring snowmen and hot chocolate, but also more aches, pains, and for many, the cold weather blues. It is known that the change of season can cause depressive feelings. Don’t let that happen to you, here are a few tips to get through the cold weather this year feeling your best.

  1. Stay physically active. Regular exercise can help boost both your mood and immune system. There are so many ways to stay active during the winter. Do what it is you enjoy doing most. Whether it is participating in group exercise classes in your community, going to the fitness center on a regular basis, getting in the pool for a swim, or maybe it is walking through the halls. Try to pick an activity that increases your heart rate but allows you to still hold a conversation. This is a great way to monitor your intensity level when working out.
  2. Eat healthy. Winter typically can trigger a “hibernation diet,” one full of sweets and high fat food. Try to avoid that. Eating the proper foods can be beneficial to both the immune system as well as emotional well-being. Omega-3 fatty acids, “the good fats,” have been shown in studies to reduce depression and the associated symptoms. You can consume Omega-3 fatty acids in foods such as walnuts, salmon, and flaxseeds. Vitamin D is also helps boost energy levels. Lastly, remember to drink enough fluids to stay hydrated. During the winter it is easy to drink less, but your body still needs water to functional optimally.
  3. Stay involved in your community. Avoid staying alone in your apartment all day. It doesn’t matterseniors_sledding what you choose to do, stay connected because you will benefit both emotionally and psychologically. Consider socializing with a new resident, having dinner with friends, volunteering, taking up a new activity, or joining a club. Keeping yourself busy will fill your days with activities and socialization.
  4. Let the sun in. Keep the blinds open in your apartment and take advantage of the natural heat that the sun produces. Not only does the warmth feel great, but sunlight is a free mood enhancer. Sunlight encourages our body to produce Vitamin D, which can control feelings of satisfaction. The sunlight also regulates our melatonin and serotonin hormones. These are chemicals that the brain releases to control mood.
  5. Embrace the season. Winter might not be your favorite season, but do your best to accept and enjoy the beauty of what it brings. Try to avoid talking and thinking negatively about it as much as possible, and encourage others to do the same. Researchers say that positive thinkers are often healthier and less stressed.

Making just a few small changes can end up helping you immensely; start incorporating them into your current lifestyle today to see for yourself. Spring flowers and summer nights will be here before you know it, but for now, enjoy the winter!

Check out this blog post about wellness and how it's not just exercise, it's multi dimensional.

Topics: active aging cold weather exercise

3 Ways  Fitness Participation Data Improves Senior Living Communites


If you can't answer these questions about your community fitness program, it's time to consider doing something more with the data you're gathering to create a more effective offering for your residents:

  1. Do you know how many classes you offered last month and which residents attended compared to the preceding month?
  2. Do you know how many appointments were conducted in the fitness center last year compared to this year?
  3. Does your tracking for fitness center or class attendance allow you to see individual participation trends by resident?

In many communities with which we work, there is often some type of sign in practice in place, but typically little to nothing is done with that information once the resident signs his name on the way into the fitness center. Consistent participation tracking is even less common in the group fitness classes; it's more common to simply estimate headcounts.

Tracking resident participation in all of your offerings is central to highlighting the value of your fitness program and continuing to evolve what you are doing.  Read on to discover three key ways participation data can help you provide more effective programming in your senior living community fitness center.

1. Create Visit Goals for the Residents

By keeping record of how many total visits you have to your fitness center, pool, and group fitness offerings, you can determine the ebbs and flows in participation through the year. As the busy holiday season approaches and exercise routines get pushed to the back burner, set a community goal for your residents to accumulate more visits in December of this year as opposed to last year. We’ve seen firsthand how residents LOVE to rally together as a team for goals like this. Providing them with weekly updates on their standings has helped us reach visit goals and prevented lulls in participation. You won’t know what a reasonable goal is, however, if you don’t have historical data to evaluate.

[Related Content: Increasing Participation in Senior Living Fitness Programs]

2. Reach Out to Individuals

Your tracking system should allow you to see how many times any given resident participates in part(s) of the program. If someone comes to a particular exercise class six times a month and the fitness center nine times a month, you should have that information at your fingertips through proper tracking procedures. Then you can recognize their efforts through recognition programs such as a monthly “Fit 15” listing. Similarly, if you have a resident who joined the program but stopped coming, you’ll have that important information at your fingertips. Personally contacting a resident and letting them know that their participation is missed and inviting them back to an old favorite or a fresh new opportunity can be a great tool for improving exercise adherence.

Let's be clear: We’re talking about tracking attendance by resident; that’s the only way this will work. Taking simple headcounts for total visits in your program will not allow you to consistently evaluate the specific members who make up your participation and create those avenues for personal connection and recognition.

3. Demonstrate Value

Having participation data that shows you monthly totals for your different offerings will allow you to evaluate what is effective, what is gaining or losing momentum, and what might be ready for a change. By sticking with a group fitness class on the calendar that has only two or three consistent participants, you might be limiting resources that could go toward a fresh new offering that would cater to the needs and interests of more individuals. Residents will be much more able to embrace change when you can show them the data and well-thought-out intentions behind it.

Similarly, if you feel your program cannot expand further without additional resources, let the data demonstrate the value in your current offerings. If an exercise class is busting at the seams, have a few months worth of data to show the growth and articulate the need for another class on the schedule. If your fitness center participation is increasing, use the monthly visit and appointment data to demonstrate the need for additional staffing support or more equipment.

[Related Content: Benefits of Tracking Participation Data]


Don’t shy away from data. It can support important decisions about the future of your fitness program. Start small with a simple list of all the residents in the community and invite them to start checking in. From there, you can build basic spreadsheets to create a tracking tool that will help you determine what parts of your community’s fitness program need the most attention. Or, reach out to us for NIFS consulting services - we'll provide you with the tools to get off the ground quickly with improvements to your fitness program that boost your senior living community.  

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Topics: active aging fitness programs for seniors participation senior living fitness center

How One Senior Living Community Got Focused on Brain Fitness

senior_puzzleMost senior living communities have a variety of group fitness classes on their calendars focused on balance, muscular strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health, and the clients we work with are no different. But we’ve landed on a program tied in with our group fitness classes for seniors that has become wildly popular with the residents. It turns out, it’s been a great way to draw more participants into the exercise program, too.

The Popularity of Brain Activities

At one of our client’s communities we have many of the typical activities to stimulate the mind: card games, lectures, forums, resident committees, etc. And at one point we offered a “Memory” workshop series. This was so popular that we added a word of the day and the TriBond® game to our daily information board in the fitness center, along with including puzzles in our newsletter.

Over time, we noticed that more and more people started coming to the fitness center to learn the word of the day, to get the TriBond® puzzle, and to ask questions about the puzzle in the newsletter. It was obvious that our residents were craving ways to challenge their minds, and we were eager to respond in ways that would help them keep their minds strong or increase their abilities.

So we added a brain fitness class to our group fitness schedule, and that class is thriving each week! In the weekly offering, our residents have a wonderful time challenging their minds. They learn new games like Sudoku, and play old games like Memory™. They also engage in history trivia questions and challenges. One of our residents recently named all 44 presidents, in order, off the top of her head!

How to Start Brain Fitness Classes at Your CCRC

We’ve started offering this type of class at our other senior living client sites with similar popularity. Here’s some advice on how you can get it started in your community:

  • Hold an event such as a brain fitness fair for your residents to see how fun and important it is to continue to work on the mind.
  • During the event, pay attention to what the residents like and don’t like. This will help you build a class structure that works for them.
  • Do not always make the class what they like. In order to strengthen the mind we need to challenge it. Typically the things that we do not like are the things that we find challenging.
  • Begin putting puzzles in your weekly or monthly newsletters.

Brain Class Structure

For the structure of the class, consider the following ideas:

  • Begin with a task that can be done while waiting for everyone to come in and sign in. (Example: Write your name with your non-dominant hand or with both hands at the same time.)
  • Have classical music playing in the background. Some studies show this increases the brainwaves that stimulate thought process.
  • Come prepared with four to five activities. Make it a variety of word games, long-term memory/short term memory, and deductive reasoning. Here are some sites that might provide some ideas:,,, and
  • Leave time for discussion in small groups and then time with you for answers.
  • Have the answers for all activities to share with the participants. (The residents will be angry if you don’t!)
  • If you do not finish all activities, consider giving “homework.”

Learn more about physical exercises that help improve cognition here.

Let us know how your brain fitness program works in your setting! We’d love to keep sharing these kinds of ideas to improve the health of the residents we work with. 

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Topics: CCRC active aging senior living communities brain health cognitive function resident wellness programs memory

Senior Living Activities: Bring the Putting Green Indoors

If you follow our blog, you know we like to post about the cool stuff our fitness management staff are doing for the members at our client locations.  For example, in this blog, we talked about some popular National Senior Health and Fitness Day activities that were a huge hit in one senior living community.  In fact, we've dedicated an entire series to some of our active aging staff best practice programs and services.  

This blog post fits right in with our practice of sharing the programming love.  

Our manager saw a need to bring the golf course to residents who were no longer comfortable going to the local course for a round of golf.  On a tight budget, she creatively used mostly pool noodles to build a course in the multipurpose room.

Check out the pictures below to see how she brought the putting green indoors.  

The Course

NIFS manager, Lindsay Knox, laid out a collection of pool noodes to create an indoor mini-golf course at the community.  She marked each hole, gave the residents score cards, and set them out to putt away.

senior living indoor putting course\

The Residents In Action

In the picture below, you can see some of the obstacles set up in various holes.  The residents who participated were thrilled with Lindsay's creativity (and so were we!).  

residents on indoor putting course


For more great ideas from NIFS that you can bring to the lifestyle programming at your community, subscribe to our best practice campaign.

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Topics: active aging best practices nifs best practices

Active Aging: What if your activities director stopped being an order taker

timeoutIt’s busy at your community; sometimes it’s so busy that residents complain they have a hard time choosing what program to attend.  Inevitably, the calendar is so full they have to miss events they love in order to attend something else. And your activities director is at the heart of that bustling calendar. 

She’s responding to her monthly resident committee, and she’s fielding one-off requests from residents who stop by her office or who catch her in the hall.  She’s also responding to phone calls from community groups or individuals who are interested in performing for or working with the residents. 

Oh, and don’t forget the opportunities offered by other areas of the community.  The therapy group has a monthly educational presentation they want to do.  The fitness manager runs a host of exercise classes each week and wants to draw residents into his quarterly competitions.  The dietician and chef want to host a bi-monthly cooking demonstration, and the social worker wants to bring in experts from the community as resources for the residents. 

Your activities director performs a delicate balancing act every month taking “orders” (requests) from residents and the community; all while, she’s balancing existing and long-standing calendar events.  (Do not mess with the card player’s schedule!)  The programming is delicately placed on the calendar and carefully scheduled with typically limited space inside the community and tightly booked transportation to areas outside of the community. 

If this sounds like your community, then you can agree that it is indeed busy. 

And yet, busy doesn’t build purpose. 

Residents in your community aren’t looking solely to be entertained.  They’re looking for purposeful living in a setting where some of the barriers that used to get in the way, like home maintenance, have been removed.  They’re looking for opportunities to contribute, and to grow, and to connect in new and challenging ways. 

What if your activities director stopped being an order taker?  What if she stopped using the meeting minutes from her monthly committee minute as a to do list and started thinking strategically about how to engage a variety of stakeholders in the planning process for resident events and activities?

You see, right now, the activities director is functioning much like the wait staff in your dining venues.  She’s greeting a table (resident committee), introducing herself (new residents), and asking residents what they want to do.  She’s taking their orders, and fulfilling the requests (as best she can).  And in fact, there’s nothing wrong with that model.  It’s what happens in most communities on a regular basis.  In most cases, residents are quite happy with their program/event options.

So, if the residents are happy, why on earth would I be talking about a different way of building lifestyle at the community? 

Because there’s more richness out there for your residents; there is more that can be done to build purposeful living.  And there are residents who don’t participate because you haven’t tapped their interest or desires yet.  (Oh, there is also marketing goodness on the table with a changed approach.)

If your activities director moved away from taking orders, could she build more intentional opportunities for residents to engage in the community lifestyle programming?  Would more of your residents be involved in the offerings because of the thoughtful approach to a variety of interests represented by your diverse audience?

To be clear, I’m not advocating you turn programming on its head. (We do not need your residents in an uproar over substantial changes to beloved activities.)  I am instead suggesting that your activities director take a fresh approach to how the calendar is organized, who is supporting events, how events are developed, and how success is measured. 

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start when you’re trying to change an approach or a process.  Our Build Vitality webinar series (which covers branding, staff, program, and fitness center design) is a good resource.  I linked a few of our blogs above for more information as well.  If you’re still not sure where to go to get started, or you’d like a more hands on approach, consider bringing us onsite for consulting to help you chart a course to build a multidimensional activities calendar that cultivates purpose for your residents.

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

Topics: active aging senior living communities