Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

How a Robust Fall Prevention Program Can Improve Residents Lives

Falls are a big concern for senior living communities. Given the well-known statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it's easy to see why. The National Council On Aging provides compelling numbers as well. This is why we work so hard with our clients to establish robust, evidence-based, year-round programming that focuses on improving resident's balance and strength, as well as their self-confidence.  

One of the key elements for successful balance programming is drawing in as many residents as possible; we've found that the best way to accomplish this is through varied programming. It's not enough to simply put a balance class on the calendar. Communities have to take it one step further and offer other ways to interact.

Balance Redfined | NIFS Fall Prevention

NIFS Balance RedefinedTM programming offers everything from fitness testing to classes that teach participants how to safely get up from a fall. We've spent years evolving these services as we responded to resident suggestions and evaluated our program data.  Below are stories from residents whose lives have been positively impacted by the work our staff do.

Ms. Weigle

Despite losing her husband just a few days after they moved into the community, Ms. Weigle made a conscious choice to take that difficult first step out of their apartment to meet new neighbors, and within a few weeks someone invited her to try the Balance Class offered by the NIFS fitness center manager. She has been a faithful participant (and ambassador!) ever since and has expanded her lifestyle to include additional activities such as swimming, walking groups, gardening, and studying Spanish. 

Ms. Weigle takes her regular exercise so seriously that she’s told her family not to call in the morning on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays because she will be in the pool. When asked, she’s proud to share that through repeat balance testing with the NIFS manager, she is seeing her scores improve.  At 87 years old, she thinks becoming steadier on her feet has helped her in other areas of her health. In fact, in a recent doctor’s visit, she was praised by her doctor for exceptional blood pressure, and she was pleased to share that ankle pain which had long bothered her was no longer a problem. 

[Read more:  Ms. Weigle's full story]

Mrs. Chapin

When Mrs. Chapin moved to her community about ten years ago, she wasn’t new to exercise. With a COPD diagnosis almost 20 years ago, she started swimming laps, and even though she hated to exercise, she kept at it because she knew it was crucial to helping her stay well with a chronic disease. But when she and her husband moved into their community, she took a break from regular exercise to engage in so many of the other opportunities provided. 

She watched her husband’s health gradually decline, so she nudged him to join her for a Balance class, and they were regulars up until his passing last year. Through that loss, Mrs. Chapin felt the support of the members in her class, and was able to keep attending regularly. The social support in NIFS balance programming has been a significant and  positive as she draws her social network from that group. Mrs. Chapin’s annual senior fitness evaluation confirms she’s on the right track with maintaining her balance, but more important than the numbers is how Mrs. Chapin feels. She told us that at 88 years old, she feels steadier than ever and she’s thrilled to still be sewing quilts and clothes, as well as painting, and serving on several resident committees all of which wouldn’t be possible if she wasn’t in good shape. 

Mr. Sadler

Mr. Sadler never used to exercise.  But when he moved to his community in 2009, his decision to start taking group fitness classes and using the pool proved valuable to overcome health challenges that were just around the corner. After a knee replacement surgery didn’t go as expected, he had to have the surgery reversed and replaced the joint with surgical concrete.  Not only did that “fix” leave him unable to walk, he lost significant healthy muscle tissue as well. Following his release from physical therapy, Mr. Sadler was only mobile by scooter or wheelchair and he stopped attending an annual family beach vacation.

He knew his only hope to return to more independence, and maybe to enjoying that annual family vacation again was to get back to a regular exercise routine. After working closely with the NIFS team at his community, he was able to regain significant strength and balance through careful water training. Eventually, he got back to land-based exercise as well and at 87 years old, he has resumed driving and walks confidently with a walker. In 2015, he joined his family again at the beach for their annual vacation. 

[Read more: Mr. Sadler's full story]

Mrs. Boelter

Mrs. Boelter was physical active as a regular water aerobics participant before she moved into her community in 2013.  She was also an avid walker and all of that has continued with the help of the NIFS staff at her community. As her Parkinson’s disease progresses, she feels the importance of maintaining her activity level even more and shared that through regular personal training with the NIFS manager, she has more energy throughout the day. But most noticeably, she is more able to get moving in the morning compared to her previous routine.

Mrs. Boelter noted that although she’s had a number of falls over the past 20 years since she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, she’s had no major falls since she started working with the NIFS staff on her balance. She tells everyone at the community about the benefits of the classes and personal training; she’s a living testament to being able to maintain her independence with regular balance training offered at her community.

Mrs. Moore

Mrs. Moore has been active in the fitness center and with the NIFS staff at her community since she moved in 2004. More recently however, she participated in the NIFS Balance Challenge at the suggestion of the NIFS manager. Through a series of evaluations, education, and fun games, residents engaged in the Balance Challenge understand how to improve their balance as well as how to avoid and manage falls. 

New information on managing falls proved to be very timely for Mrs. Moore when she sustained a fall outside of the clubhouse. After she got her bearings, she was able to use skills she had learned from the NIFS manager during the Challenge to get up on her own without injury. She shared she’s been able to use what she learned through the program to stay active with gardening and to keep up with her grandkids too. She has also become an ambassador for all services connected with balance training at her community. 

[Read more: Mrs. Moore's full story]

It's really common for communities to have missed opportunities when it comes to providing comprehensive fall prevention programming. We can help you spot and fill those gaps to provide exactly what your residents need to feel steadier and confident on their feet. Click below for more information about a free consulting session with NIFS to jump start balance training at your community.

Find out more about a free consulting session with NIFS >

Topics: fall prevention balance training senior lliving balance redefined balance training for seniors

Balance Redefined: Fall prevention moves beyond the group fitness calendar

In my last post about our launch of Balance Redefined, I wrote about the importance of building a group fitness calendar that includes stand-alone balance classes. Now I want to address how your community can move beyond the classes on the calendar to build a wrap-around fall prevention program.


In truth, if you want to cultivate a robust balance program, you'll have to get more people than just your fitness center manager to the table. Here's how we make that happen for our clients:



[Related Content: How NIFS fitness managers spend their time]

  • Partnerships: Therapy, home health and nursing staff are invited to observe a balance class to aid in resident referrals for those who could benefit. Many of the therapy teams we partner with will provide patients with a handout of exercises to continue upon discharge from their services with additional instructions to participate in the balance class. Our staff are involved in the discharge plan and participate in a hand off of a resident from their therapy regimen to a preventive program in the fitness center.
  • Assessments: Using the Fullerton Advance Balance Test protocols in conjunction with the Senior Fitness Test, we assess how a resident’s vestibular, somatosensory, and/or visual senses impact their balance. Based on the results, we prescribe specific exercises to improve specific areas of weakness. We believe strongly that working with residents to identify the underlying cause of a balance deficiency opens the door to further educating and empowering the individual on a path to improved well-being both emotionally and physically.
  • Education: Empowering residents through education and resources on fall prevention is key to improving confidence and helping residents identify the services best suited to their needs. NIFS offers an array of educational programs ranging from fall prevention lectures partnered with the therapy department, to seminars on coaching residents how to fall safely or get up from the ground, as well as signs/symptoms to look for with concussions and the long-term impact one can have on a senior’s stability.
  • Balance Fairs: Think Health Fair with a creative twist to showcase everything balance and fall prevention related! This collaborative effort taps into internal and external partners to communicate services and resources for residents. Examples of vendors for the fair include an assistive device tune-up clinic from rehab, a balance assessments from the fitness staff, a "balance your plate" booth from dining services, a local podiatry practice educating on proper footwear, the community pharmacist speaking about medication side effects, internal clinic/health services offering blood pressure screenings, a local chiropractor providing posture checks, and more.

This may be a unique approach for your community, and if you don't have adequate fitness staff in place, it could seem like a heavy lift. If you need to rally your staff around the concept, forward on this blog to start the conversation, or download our quick read on the importance of balance training. With services ranging from fun balance circuits to balance sessions using the Wii Fit or Biodex Balance System to aquatic balance programs, prospects will quickly see how much more your community offers.

Based on the consulting work I've done with communities across the US, this is a comprehensive, prevention-based approach that helps our clients stand out from their competition. If you want to find out more about how to bring NIFS and Balance Redefined to your residents, connect with us.

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Topics: fall prevention group fitness for seniors balance redefined

Balance Redefined: Residents benefit from dedicated balance classes

IMG_2730.jpgFall prevention. It's a big deal in senior living. When a resident falls, the costs can be significant for both the individual and the community. So it makes sense to have comprehensive programming that focuses on physical balance. And yet, whether we're consulting with a community or we've recently started managing their fitness program, it's really common to discover that even the most basic of opportunities to promote balance is missed when group fitness calendars lack dedicated balance classes.

The reality is that a comprehensive strategy to improve resident's balance involves so much more than a group fitness class on the calendar, and that’s why we take an approach that is both broad and deep to help decrease fall risk for residents in both independent and assisted living environments. But we have to begin at the beginning, and that means adding dedicated balance classes.

It's time to put dedicated balance classes on your calendar.

It's not enough to address balance training as a 20 minute segment in your strength class. Your Tai Chi class also isn't comprehensively handling your resident's need for improving their balance. The physiological mechanisms that have to work together to achieve optimal balance are complicated and they warrant their own dedicated class on the calendar. Without fail, when we've started with a new client and brought balance into the program in a more bold fashion, that specific class fills up quickly. A dedicated balance program provide substantial benefit to residents to help increase their confidence, and it allows your community to stand with your brand promise for an vibrant living backed with safety and security that is second to none.

[Related Content: How to Fall and Get Back Up Safely]

Essential elements of a successful balance class

In the last 15 years that we've been managing fitness centers in senior living communities, we've learned a lot about what works for the residents we're serving. Below are a few considerations as you look to enhance what you're offering.

  • If your population supports it, offer different levels of balance class so that all participants can be continually challenged. You likely work with residents who represent a range of physical capabilities; despite those differences, they all benefit from balance training, so build classes that can help even the most daring participants feel like they've worked hard.
  • Include elements of complex movement patterns where the core and lower body muscles are activated; add in brain fitness components that train participants to react both physically and mentally as they would in their everyday environment. Ideally, the classes should be designed with research-based movement patterns including the following:
    • Standing or sitting on an unstable surface
    • Keeping the eyes open or closed
    • Tilting the head in different positions
    • Turning the head or tossing a ball to respond to instructor commands
  • Consider the small equipment you have and how you can use it differently or commit small amount of the budget to buying additional items that will enhance balance classes. Balance pads, BOSU trainers, and weighted balls are all good additions.

[Related Content: Is Your Senior Fitness Program Challenging Enough?]

It’s not your typical march in place, balance on one foot and perform 10 squats type of class! It’s dynamic and just as mentally stimulating as it is physically for participants. If your fitness instructors or group class instructors aren't sure how to pull together a full class focused on balance, connect with us to find if consulting might benefit your exercise program.

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Topics: senior living communities balance training balance redefined

Balance Redefined: Creating experiences to engage residents in living well

ThinkstockPhotos-526312285.jpgWhen we first started talking about Balance Redefined inside our organization, our sole focus was on physical balance and the unique, wrap-around fall prevention programming we provide. But we knew that wasn't the stopping point for us. Because our work outside the fitness center serving as life enrichment directors for a variety of clients has demonstrated that living well extends way beyond an individual’s physical health, particularly for older adults.

We believe that wellness programming in your community should be diverse and built around the interest of your residents. The idea is to inspire residents to get involved and in order to do that, you have to know what makes the residents tick. You have to know what makes them want to get out of bed in the morning and what inspires them to invite their neighbors to join them. Filling the calendar is definitely more art than science; avoiding common pitfalls like order taking is tough. And ensuring there are very few sit-and-listen programs on the calendar requires discipline. But there are plenty of fun, engaging program ideas to go around.

[Related Content: Evaluate the quality of your wellness program]

Below are a few examples of programs created by our lifestyle staff that demonstrate our commitment to creating experiences to engage residents in balanced living.

How does your garden grow

Create a focus on gardening by using National Exercise in the Garden Day to host a balance class in/near the resident garden area. Emphasize the residents gardens by setting up a stand where residents to showcase/sell their produce to their neighbors. Provide a presentation from a master gardener with tips/benefits on organic gardening; it's possible you have residents who are trained as master gardeners who could provide this talk. Offer a series of short group fitness classes that are designed to prepare residents to be active in the community gardens. Host a themed garden party for happy hour.

Water, water everywhere

You might this theme would speak only to pool-based programming. Certainly, if your community has a pool, it should be a spotlight, but that's only one element in this robust program that deals with everything water. Start this programming with an event to teach residents about the importance of proper hydration; build a challenge encouraging them to drink enough water daily. Hold an aquatic ambassadors program to promote pool participation. Serve fresh seafood in your dining venues and showcase the origin and health benefits of the spotlighted menu items. Host a series of coffee talks with your a dietitian discussing the importance of fish in a balanced diet. Wrap the water themed programming up with a polar plunge, a luau, or a pool party.

Train your brain

Help residents engage their brains in less traditional ways by launching language courses from a nearby partner university. Add 15-minute meditation sessions following the weekly balance class; consider spotlighting other brain fitness programming you may have onsite (i.e., Dakim(R)). Build a brain teaser program that runs riddles/cluse on your community's CCTV where residents are invited to various areas of the community to find the answers. Run a museum marathon where the month's outings focus on area museums and special tours are provided by the museum staff. Spotlight brain-boosting foods on your dining menus, and offer coffee talks focused on memory-related disorders as well as what services you provide in-house from your memory care center.

If these programs sound delightful but you're not sure you could get them going in your community, consider connecting with us for wellness consulting. You can put our years of experience in senior living communities across the US to work in your organization to build better programming that speaks to resident passions and that engages staff across your organization for a more collaborative approach.

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

Topics: balance training senior living wellness programs balance redefined