Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

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

Senior Living: Questions to Ask Before Buying Fitness Equipment


ThinkstockPhotos-97770391-1.jpgThere are a lot of news releases lately outlining new construction or expansion projects in senior living. Many of those projects include outfitting a brand new or dramatically overhauled community fitness center.

Because the construction projects are typically significant and encompass more space than just a fitness center, it’s easy to get lost in the details about treadmill features when you need to answer questions about flooring, HVAC demands, city permits, and more. And even within the four walls of the senior fitness center, there are several other things to be concerned about beyond simply selecting the equipment. For more on that, check out our blog on 5 things to avoid when building a fitness center for senior living communities.

In order to help you head off potential dilemmas specifically around what exercise equipment might be best for your resident fitness center, this blog outlines some of the key questions to ask before buying fitness equipment. These aren’t meant to be comprehensive, but they should provide a solid starting point to get to the bottom of determining what’s best for your residents. As you’re working with the reps, make sure you’re clear about the age and ability level of your intended user. The same is true if you want to send out residents to test equipment at a local gym (sales reps may offer this). Make sure you send residents who are a good representation of those you expect will use your updated fitness amenities.

And one last note before you dive into the questions. We do not sell any exercise equipment, nor do we receive any benefit from equipment manufacturers. These questions are based purely on our years of experience helping clients design and equip their fitness centers for a range of audiences.

Strength Equipment

It comes in a lot of shapes and sizes.

  • Pneumatic: An air compressor regulates the amount of pressure against which the user works.
  • Selectorized: Plate adjusted, with the user pulling out and reinserting a pin for the desired weight.
  • Band technology: Weights are replaced with bands used as pulleys to generate resistance.
  • Body resistance: The user works against his or her own body weight (and gravity) to generate a workload.

When it comes to thinking through questions for your sales reps, consider these:

  • How is the resistance adjusted by the user?
  • What is the starting weight for each piece and can that be lowered in our order if our population needs that?
  • Are the seat heights, leg positions, seat backs, etc. adjustable per user? If so, how are they adjusted?
  • Is there any other equipment I need to purchase to make your equipment fully functional for us? (Some equipment requires a computer, other equipment requires a compressor, etc.).
  • What is the warranty on the equipment?
  • (When the equipment comes with a software component…) Do you provide training to our onsite staff to learn how to make the best use of your software? Do you offer technical support?

Cardiovascular Equipment

In general, your fitness facility should have a range of cardiovascular equipment, including treadmills, ellipticals, recumbent cross-trainers (think NuStep or a similar product), and bikes. In some cases, we’ve seen rowing machines included, too. (They provide a great workout; we’re just not sure it’s an ideal piece for most residents.)

Some basic questions are true for each type of cardiovascular equipment:

  • What’s the warranty?
  • Who is the warranty-certified repair company in our area?
  • What are the power needs for this piece?
  • Can I see the detailed screen of the computer console? (You’ll want to see how user-friendly it is for your audience.)
  • Does it connect with any wearable technology, or can we opt for an interactive console?
  • If we don’t elect an interactive console now, can we change them out later?

Treadmills

  • What’s the step height on your treadmills?
  • What’s the starting speed?
  • Does the unit decline or only incline?

Ellipticals

  • Is the piece rear- or side-entry?
  • What is the clearance threshold or step height to access the piece?
  • Does it come with stationary arms?
  • Does the elliptical require external power? If not, (1) ask what the starting wattage requirement is, and (2) ask if there is an optional AC adapter. If no adapter is available, note that we’ve found anything requiring a starting wattage higher than about 15W is too difficult for many residents to power.

Bikes

You’ll want to consider traditional upright bikes and recumbent bikes. Matrix offers a hybrid bike that presents an interesting option as well.

  • Do you have an upright bike with a pass-through design?
  • Does the bike require external power? If not, (1) ask what the starting wattage requirement is, and (2) ask if there is an optional AC adapter. If no adapter is available, note that we’ve found anything requiring a starting wattage higher than about 15W is too difficult for many residents to power.

General Questions

These are general questions to ask any vendor regardless of the type of equipment you’re considering buying.

  • What’s the primary market your company serves? (Ask for clarity in sales volume.)
  • Can I talk to a practitioner who has used your equipment with an 85+-year-old population?

This last round of questions has nothing to do with the function of the equipment for the residents. It’s really focused on details for your overall fitness program and the role the equipment plays in your fitness center, which should be a hallmark space in the community.

  • Can I customize colors on frame and upholstery (for strength equipment) to match our brand?
  • Are you able/willing to customize your equipment with our logo?

You’re making a significant investment by building a new fitness center or overhauling your current community fitness space. Make sure you get the right equipment to increase the chances for a vibrant and successful fitness program that will support this generation of residents and the next. These questions will help guide and inform your decisions, but if you want additional support from a partner who does this for a living, click on the button below to learn more about how we can consult for you.

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

 

Topics: nifs fitness management CCRC fitness center resident wellness programs fitness center for seniors

Are You Talking Senior Wellness TO Residents, or WITH Them? (Part 1)

4399_KF_3334-1.jpgIn the fitness and health field, we are asked for advice continually. It is our job to build fitness routines that are safe, comfortable, and something our clients will actually build into an overall resident wellness lifestyle. The difficult part always seems to be creating a program that they like that also fits around all contraindications of diseases and ailments, and having them not give up after a week.

The Importance of Communication in Senior Fitness Education

After observing many fitness professionals with their clients and many years in practice myself, I noticed that one of the greatest obstacles is neither of those two problems, but our ability to communicate with the client and find that connection for them. I’m not talking about the connection of personalities and ability to get along, but that connection where the client understands your thought process and why you are putting them through the “torture.” Education is the key to our success with the clients, and it is how that education is delivered that matters most.

So stop and think about how you deliver your educational pieces. Most likely you lay out your fitness plan. Then you demonstrate the plan. Then at the end of the talk you ask if they have any questions. Of course they reply “no” or “when do we get started?” They have not asked the one most important question that we learn to ask when we are two, but become afraid to ask as we get older: “WHY?”

  • “Why are we doing this exercise?”
  • “How does it help?”
  • “You mentioned the muscles that we will be working—what do they do?”

Anticipating and Answering Residents’ Senior Wellness Questions

We as practitioners already know why we are doing this, so we forget to pass that knowledge on. We move on to demonstrating the exercises and correcting their movements and posture as they do the exercise, until they look like a pro to anyone coming in, but they still are not quite sure why they are doing that exact movement.

I may be one of the biggest “older” kids out there, but I still love the question “Why?” I truly feel that if we understand why we are doing what we are doing, we will stick to it better. Also, if we understand a subject it is more interesting to us. If it is more interesting, we tend to want to try to learn more and become proficient. The trick becomes how to properly educate and make a lifelong plan with our clients rather than just doing it to our clients. We have to know that those why and how questions are running through their heads and take the initiative to help them answer the questions they don’t even know to ask or how to form.

Making Wellness Communications Easy to Understand

The next challenge is the client understanding what you are saying. The Quick Guide to Healthy Literacy, a fact sheet produced by the United States Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, states that “only 12 percent of adults have proficient health literacy.” Impact Information Plain Language Services’ newsletter reports that all health and safety information should be delivered at a fifth-grade comprehension level.

Health information is difficult for most people to understand. There is no difference in the world of wellness. We are asking our clients to trust what we are saying and what we are telling them to do, but many do not understand why they are doing the exercise we are teaching or how those exercises will help make them feel better, possibly decrease potential for chronic diseases, and even lessen the severity of other chronic diseases.

Think about this information and think about what you do. Do you work with your clients, or do you talk to them? You will probably find there is a little of each happening. Watch for part 2 to learn some tips on how to work with your clients and help them enjoy the wellness they are working with you to achieve. 

Senior living communities commonly miss out on the opportunity to have a qualified person on staff to help guide residents in the fitness center.  

Click below to check out our quick read, The Impact of Staff on Senior Fitness.

Download Now

 


Topics: senior wellness CCRC fitness center senior fitness education communication

Senior Living: Fitness Center Design for Current and Future Residents

father_daughterSeveral months ago, my parents were prospects in the market to relocate to a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) from their 4.5-acre home of almost 20 years. There were a variety of reasons for them making this move consideration, but age and ill health weren’t on that list. 

My parents (at the time of writing) are both 72 years old and in quite good health. My mom walks up to an hour with friends most days of the week; she’s done that for as long as I can remember. My dad is an avid exerciser and he’s the reason I’m a runner today. He gets significant cardiovascular exercise for more than an hour four to five days per week, along with rigorous strength training at least three days per week in his home gym. They are both very active in their community and in the extensive gardens and rich woods on their property.

They aren’t frail, and they don’t fit into the more typical average age of 80+ in most CCRCs. 

Checking Out a Community with My Parents

So when they started shopping and had narrowed down their list to a primary community that held their interest, they asked my family to join them for a tour. We walked through the community center building and got a great look into the typical areas including the bistro, the formal dining room, the library, the craft areas, and the fitness areas. 

After we left the community, and 100% without my prompting, my dad asked me why their fitness center had “all of that strength equipment for old people” in it. Those were his words, not mine. This comes from a man who has never belonged to a gym, who has exercised in his basement with modest equipment for decades, and who doesn’t bear an ounce of pretension. Yet he very quickly identified the “old people” equipment in his community’s fitness center.

Senior living community operators are in a tight spot when they try to cater to current residents but build space, programming, and services that they hope will appeal to future residents. The fitness center tour and post-tour discussion with my dad is no exception, and it’s exactly the reason that any operator engaging in a fitness center build—whether as part of brand new construction or as a positioning project—needs to thoughtfully and carefully establish their fitness center layout.

Design of the space and the equipment you select matters. Both elements can profoundly impact the residents’ experience in the space. And when your community is continually battling someday syndrome as a barrier to getting prospects to make the move, how you outfit the fitness center can also be a factor.

CCRC Fitness Center Equipment and Design Considerations

Here are a few things to think about with respect to senior living fitness center design and equipment that engages current residents and attracts future prospects: 

  • Create your group fitness studio and your fitness center as distinctly separate spaces. We see a lot of first-draft designs come with an accordion or partition wall between the two rooms. There is no actual utility for that design; and in fact, it may limit how both rooms can be used. 
  • Build size for the future. If your community is poised for a phase two or three that adds residential units and creates more potential fitness center members, build the initial fitness spaces for growth. 
  • Lay out the equipment with accessibility in mind. Put the equipment most likely to be used by your most frail residents nearest to your main entrance so that it is easy to access. 
  • Create clear sight lines for the fitness management staff. Design the spaces so that staff will have the greatest visibility possible for all areas. Part of the reason for having staff managing your fitness program is for participant safety. It’s tough to keep people safe when you can’t see them exercising.
  • Choose equipment that is built with an older adult in mind, but that doesn’t scream “old.” While there is currently a gap in the marketplace for a complete line of strength and cardio equipment well suited for this audience, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy beautiful and functional equipment that will work well both now and in the future. Contact me to get an operator’s perspective on the equipment that’s available

No doubt you have a lot to consider with a fitness center design project. If you’re a visual learner like me, you might get some inspiration from looking at a few of the projects we’ve been privileged to support.

Click on the button below to download a sample of our work!

Fitness Center Design

Topics: CCRC senior fitness management CCRC fitness center senior living communities fitness center for seniors nifs fitness center management

Is Your Senior Fitness Program Challenging Enough?

At this point most retirement communities have recognized that senior fitness programs are as important as having a great social program or food and beverage program. The impact these programs have on marketing is tremendous, and so it is no wonder that everyone is looking to have the most popular programs with the newest class titles. Now that exercise is a key focal point and the residents are in the community, take a look at your programs and see if they are doing the residents justice. 

senior_womenDoes Your Program Help Residents Reach Their Full Potential?

In the most recent ICAA Research Review, there is an article shining light on sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle strength and mass due mainly to age. Simply put, as we get older we naturally become weaker. While reading this article I began to question how many programs in retirement communities truly push their residents to accomplish their full potential. 

Does your program challenge your residents to get down on the floor and back up again a few times during a class? No? Why not? Many of my residents are insulted when others expect that they can no longer get on the floor. I also have many who say they cannot get on the floor because then they won’t be able to get up. Over time our community’s fitness instructors and I have been able to prove to the residents that they can still get up from down on the floor and that it does get easier with practice. More importantly, being able to get up off the floor is vital to practice. 

According to the CDC, one out of three seniors will fall, and less than half of them will go to the doctor in regard to their falls. Now stop and think about all of those people that can’t get on the floor because they “won’t be able to get back up.” Statistics show there is a very high likelihood that they will land on the ground, and that is a terrible time to learn they truly can’t get up. 

Don’t Get Complacent

We, as individuals, have always had someone to help guide us, challenge us, and push us to achieve more, work harder, and be true to ourselves. When do we decide we no longer push someone? At what age do we decide that an individual should turn on the cruise control and just be? As a person of wellness, I don’t believe there is ever a time to show someone it is okay to become complacent. These individuals need to see that they are still capable of doing a great deal more. We need to be willing to work with our seniors both in classes and individually to help safely get them stronger—or at least maintain the strength they have—in order to help them not only live a longer life, but live a longer and more independent life. 

How do you challenge your senior living residents? When is the last time you asked them if they were being challenged enough? I bet you would be surprised at how many are asking for something a little more. I know I was. 

For more on why fitness is so important for seniors, see this post.

Get our Slideshare: Improve Resident Engagment

Topics: senior wellness programs CCRC fitness center senior living fitness center senior group fitness classes

Senior Living: Using Wellness Programs to Combat “Someday Syndrome”

social seniorsThere’s a lot of talk about what some in senior living call “someday syndrome.” It’s the phenomenon by which adults who have a lot to gain by moving to a retirement community for one reason or another put off the move, indicating they’ll make that change someday.

There are industry articles, LinkedIn discussion groups, and product/service provider blogs about this phenomenon. I’ve heard it in my own parents’ discussion about moving out of their house and into a community. They’re ready…sort of. Well, not really quite yet, but they’re taking steps to be ready. I think they’re like so many of their generation. They have very good reasons to put off leaving their house. What they’re missing are compelling reasons to make that difficult change and move into a senior living community.

In 2008 and for a few years afterward, there was a delay by older consumers largely because of the housing crisis connected with the great recession. But more recently, as the housing market has slowly made a turn for the better, someday syndrome remains. My parents and many of their contemporaries are waiting because they simply don’t see themselves, their lives, anywhere but in their current home.

The Power of Storytelling

In one of Steve Moran’s blogs, “Is Good good enough?,” he talks about recent trips to two better-than-average communities. And although he records being politely and promptly greeted as well as appropriately “sold” during his visit, he felt no connection to either location. He was given good marketing collateral and told quite a bit about both communities, but there was nothing in that messaging to provide unique, compelling, relatable, or personal connections. In short, if he were a prospect, he had no heartstring tug, no strong pull to move to either community.

In the end, Steve comes around to the idea of telling stories as a way to distinguish your community from those around you, and I think he’s right. The stories about residents, their family members, their lives at your community, and how the staff facilitate the very best for them are the essence of who you are.

The good news here is that you already have stories; if you’ve been in business a while, you quite possibly have tons of them. But the hard work lies ahead in figuring out how to use them to communicate your culture, your way of life, as a tool for inviting prospects to join your community family. One of the places you should be looking for stories is within your wellness program.

What a CCRC Can Offer Prospective Residents

If we look at broad brushstrokes of what a CCRC can offer to prospects, there are two big categories: safety/security and lifestyle. Both categories are clear distinguishers in terms of providing more/better than what a prospect is able to achieve in her own home. The continuum of care with qualified and passionate clinicians, along with related services (therapy, podiatry, etc) all within the four walls of your community is simply not achievable for an individual who remains at home. And if your organization is on the cutting edge of opportunities for education, service, growth, and camaraderie in your wellness programming, you no doubt have robust programming that no one individual could so easily experience living in her home.

If you are a healthy individual in your 70s or 80s and you’re considering moving out of your home into a retirement community, which of those two messages is likely to pull you through someday syndrome and toward relocating in a community setting: how you’ll be cared for when you’re sick or dying, or how you can experience new opportunities and enrich your wellbeing as you live at the community?

Let me offer a word of caution here. The idea of using lifestyle to combat “someday syndrome” only works when your lifestyle programming is truly compelling, diverse, individually oriented, and life affirming. If you calendar is full of various card games, bingo, the occasional trip, the occasional lecture, the same old group fitness classes, and the monthly podiatrist visit, there’s no lifestyle to sell and you won’t be different from the competition. Make no mistake: just because the calendar is full does not mean the events are expanding the horizons of your residents.

How to Sell Lifestyle

After years of working with our CCRC clients, here’s what we’ve learned about selling lifestyle:

  • Selling lifestyle is easy when you have the right programming and people in place that can elevate resident stories of successful living.
  • Selling lifestyle is easy when your programming has data to back up participation and engagement rates.
  • Selling lifestyle is easy when your marketing and sales staff understand the language they need to use and have specific stories to make a connection with a prospect.

If you’ve been nodding your head and you believe it’s time to elevate your community lifestyle both to serve your residents better and to create a true market differentiation for what you’re selling, check out this blog.

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

Topics: senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center senior living engagement active living senior living community marketing

Why Nobody’s Using Your New Resident Fitness Center (Part 3 of 3)

seniors meetingYour marketing and sales team may be missing the mark when selling fitness to residents.

I started this blog series talking about the importance of following all the way through on your capital investment for your resident fitness program. In part two of the series, I covered some basics on the importance of quality leadership as central to your community’s exercise strategy.

In this third part of the series, we’ll look at how your marketing and sales team can better tap into your fitness program as a sales tool. After all, once you nail the strategy and the staffing for your program, it only makes sense to make sure your marketing team can communicate your updated and comprehensive services to prospective residents.

Promoting Senior Lifestyle Benefits in Marketing Collateral

How does your community talk about wellness to prospects? How do you promote resident lifestyle in your collateral? If you haven’t given much thought to this, it’s definitely time to start. You’d have to be under a pretty big rock to have missed the continued rise to prominence that wellness is making in senior living.

And it’s because of that elevated importance that breezing through or ignoring your resident wellness amenities and services is no longer an option. Skipping over wellness in your collateral and marketing events is a huge mistake.

Promoting the Senior Wellness Program Effectively During Facility Tours

When I consult with communities, it’s really (frighteningly) common to talk with the marketing and sales staff and learn that they’re offering something like this during a tour:

“Now we’re walking past our pool and coming up next will be our exercise room. We have personal trainers and a lot of different types of group fitness classes available for you to try all week long.”

It’s like running through a checklist of “stuff” you’re throwing at a prospect. Dining, check. Exercise, check. Crafts, check. No stories, nothing a prospect can sink her teeth into and really consider how her life would be if she had access to those opportunities.

Typically, when the tour sounds like that, there is also a lack of marketing collateral about wellness, and there generally aren’t events for prospects that communicate how your community helps residents live well.

Sometimes the glossing over is because of a lack of confidence about the community’s amenities or services. Here’s the thing: you do not have to offer jaw-droppingly beautiful amenities in order to execute well on a message of well-living at your community. But you do need to have solid services with the right staff people behind that programming in order to market the lifestyle at your community effectively.

The right people plus the right program gets you the right stories you need to help prospects relate to what it will be like to live in your community. And that’s what you ultimately want, right? Happy residents are the ones who feel connected, who engage in more living, and who contribute to their own lives and the lives of those around them through the opportunities you offer.

If you’re looking for a place to start on more effective communication and marketing opportunities around resident wellness, look no further than some simple numbers.

Data Matters, and Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Differently

There are a number of areas in your wellness program where you can gather data, and I’m a big advocate for data because it’s crucial to determining success as well as to telling the story about what wellness is at a community. You can make a big impact in marketing messaging simply by spotlighting how many residents participate in your fitness programming. But you can’t capitalize on that number or message if you don’t actually have the data.

Consider a resident story that might look something like this:

“At ABC Community, our residents believe that moving your body is one of many ways to live well. In fact, they’re such big believers that 83% of them participate in our fitness programs on a regular basis. When Mrs. Jones moved here in 2007, she wasn’t much for exercise. In fact, she’d never been to a class, or walked on a treadmill. But after she met with our fitness manager and had her personalized program created, she started moving and hasn’t stopped.” 

My hunch is that the pretend story I outlined would resonate with a lot of prospects who have never exercised, are a little afraid of it, and are entirely unsure how to get started. Unless you have a story to which the prospect can relate, the sales staff mentions “fitness center” and “trainer,” and the prospect automatically writes that off as a nice perk but one she’ll never use. And just like that, you’ve missed a chance to help the prospect see how living at your senior living community is not only different (she already knows that and it’s part of what’s keeping her from moving), but actually better than where she’s living now. Mrs. Jones—the resident in the testimonial—sounds like that prospect, probably looks like her, and she’s been able to live exceptionally well since she moved into your community. It’s compelling and reassuring, and it’s all backed by a wellness strategy that captures the data and the stories for use at the right times.

Now, getting that data and those stories is not rocket science, but it does require that you have the right personnel behind the wellness programming to facilitate a more strategic approach to resident lifestyle. You need health-oriented professionals (do not read that as “clinicians”) who have a head for numbers and a heart for people. If you need a refresher on the quality leadership part of this puzzle, return to part 2 in this series.

 

Whitepaper: Creating a Wellness Culture

 

Topics: senior center solutions senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center senior living community marketing senior living fitness center data wellness consulting

Why Nobody's Using Your New Resident Fitness Center (Part 2 of 3)

training seniors resized 600Your residents need quality leadership in order to engage in the fitness services.

There is a lot of movement in recent years for senior living communities to include expansive, thoughtfully designed fitness spaces in their new community development or refurbishment plans. Surveys have indicated that wellness is a priority for prospects, and we don’t really see that going away as the boomers look toward their next life and how they want to live that next chapter. (I know you’ve heard this a gajillion times, but they are coming, and no amount of burying your head in the sand will change that. Get ready or get out of the business of anticipating their needs and knocking their socks off.)

So if you read part 1 in this blog series, you read about how your investment in wellness cannot stop with capital dollars. In this section we’re focused on why your residents need quality leadership in order to engage in the fitness services.

What Quality Fitness Leadership Is Not

Let me start perhaps with a list of exclusion—a list of what quality leadership is not. It is not limited to a traditional 1990s model of group fitness classes and a very part-time, questionably qualified attendant. It is not a personal trainer service (fee-based or free). It is not a silo-style environment where fitness is an island operating independently of what’s happening with activities, or resident services, or dining or other continuums of the community.

If any of that sounds familiar, I have a bad news/good news message for you.

  • Bad news: You’re stuck in a decades-old model. It may be working for you, but it’s worth asking whether it’s truly delivering on your brand promise. I would submit to you, at the very least, that if you’re working within a dated model, you’re lacking the capacity to truly be forward thinking. If your fitness services were built to be really strategic and forward thinking, you wouldn’t still be partying like it’s 1999.
  • Good news: You have fantastic opportunities to do more for your residents through your fitness program.

Quality Fitness Leadership Includes Core Skills and Soft Skills

Quality fitness leadership for your residents isn’t rocket science, but it does require some core skills that are learned through an accredited university curriculum, as well as soft skills that articulate a true passion for serving the residents in your community.

No doubt, you have more than enough practice at ferreting out the soft skills piece; after all, finding people who want to make a career out of serving our elders is your business. But understanding the technical competencies required in a qualified fitness center manager for your senior living community may be a little trickier. And then once you’ve found that qualified individual, you need to be prepared to take a strategic approach to on-boarding them in your community, which includes preparing both existing staff and residents for the new personnel.

The Keys to Hiring the Right Fitness Center Manager

There are a few keys about hiring that I think are helpful to communities venturing out in this process on their own. I’ve listed them quite briefly here:

  • Make sure you get familiar with the candidate’s credentials. Carefully evaluate certifications they list; not all fitness certifications are created (or earned) equally.
  • Require the candidate to demonstrate the skills required for the job. If you need them to teach group exercise classes for your residents, have the candidate provide a demo. If you need someone who can administer a senior fitness test, talk through that testing with the candidate or host a mock test as part of the interview.
  • Ensure the candidate can program for your audience. Evaluate their capacity to create print materials that fit with your brand, as well as the skills to execute a program from start to finish.

I’m here to tell you that those capable and passionate professionals do exist. We’ve written extensively about how to hire and how to successfully onboard fitness and wellness professionals. If reading isn’t your thing, consider watching our webinar on building better wellness staff in our Build Vitality webinar series. To discuss in greater detail, drop me an email and we can take a closer look at what you need as well as options on how to get there. Subscribe to our blog now to make sure you can catch part 3 of this blog series: What marketing needs in order to really sell your new amenity to prospective residents.

Topics: senior center solutions senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center engagement senior living community senior living fitness center hiring tips

Why Nobody's Using Your New Resident Fitness Center (Part 1 of 3)

empty fitness centerFrom the wellness consulting and fitness management work we’ve done with our clients over the last several years, we’ve seen our share of essentially empty fitness centers and pools in senior living communities.

It’s sad.

So often, community leadership invests substantial capital dollars for dedicated fitness spaces including rooms that hold the exercise equipment, rooms devoted to group exercise classes, and additional (and typically significant) spaces for aquatics amenities. The result after construction is that the spaces are beautiful—even stunning.

But these same swanky spaces, unfortunately, often aren’t functional. Sometimes they contain the wrong equipment or a dysfunctional design. Most commonly, the biggest roadblock to a thriving fitness program is that these spaces weren’t considered under any type of strategic plan, so programming of the space is largely ineffective for the residents and typically disjointed from the rest of the community.

The result is a beautiful new space that sits unused.

If you’re wondering why you poured so much money into this non-revenue generating space that appears to provide no additional benefit to the residents, or how to avoid this phenomenon, stick with me on this blog series, where I’ll write about the following:

  • Your capital investment isn’t the end of your commitment.
  • Your residents need quality leadership in order to engage in the fitness services.
  • Your marketing and sales team may be missing the mark when selling fitness to residents.

Part 1: Your Capital Investment Isn’t the End of Your Commitment

It’s a big deal: You spent a lot of time with your developers on crafting a new space (or overhauling an existing one) that will match your community’s appearance, and that you hope will be a welcome addition (or change) for your residents. It’s not cheap, either, but you’ve done your due diligence, secured the funds, and designed the heck out of the space(s).

The capital investment may be so substantial that it feels like enough.

Alas, your time and your money are, in fact, not enough. There are important details to consider regarding the design of the space—details that can make or break the overall function of the amenities. Read our blog on key things to avoid when you’re building a fitness center in senior living to find out more about common pitfalls when designing a new fitness space for senior living.

But you can’t stop with the physical space. This isn’t an “if you build it, they will come” type of project. You will need to cultivate a strategic plan for effective use of the space after it’s open for use.

Maybe that strategy is the job of the activities director.

Or maybe…the community needs a whole new approach to resident wellness that puts a wellness director at the top of the activities food chain. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Wellness is a way of life, not an activity, and it should be cultivated accordingly. Do the activities drive the wellness program in your community, or does the wellness culture dictate the activities? Answering that question according to the organization you are striving to be will help you figure out the hierarchy question.

Regardless of who is in charge of it, the strategy for effective use of the fitness center is really central to ensuring that this new space contributes positively to residents’ vitality. Questions for cultivating the strategy should include the following:

  • What is the goal, mission statement, or focus of wellness in the community, and in what ways do you expect that your fitness program will contribute to that end?
  • What investment needs to be made in staffing for the fitness center? (The answer to this question varies by community, but I can just about guarantee you that fee-based personal trainers and group fitness instructors are not enough.)
  • How will you know you’re achieving success in your programs? Will you mark it with simple participation goals, or will you be reviewing health outcomes, satisfaction, or other outcomes in your programming?
  • If you’re changing your activities/wellness hierarchy, how will you communicate those changes to the community and how will you reinforce your emphasis on this culture shift? Will that information need to be communicated to the residents? If so, how will you do that?
  • What operating decisions need to be scrutinized in light of your new emphasis on resident wellness? Does it make sense for your organization to make this strategic shift by including wellness for your employees at the same time?

To be sure, these questions, when thoughtfully addressed, will likely lead to more questions. Be patient; cultivating a strategy takes time and often requires continuous tweaking. It is a journey well worth taking, both for the benefit of your business and for fulfilling you commitment to facilitate a vibrant lifestyle for your residents.

In part 2 of this blog series, I’ll write about the importance of the right leadership in your fitness program. Make sure you have subscribed to our blog so you don’t miss a beat on this series and other hot topics we’re covering.

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Topics: senior center solutions senior fitness management CCRC fitness center engagement senior living community marketing fitness center for seniors nifs fitness center management

Do Your Residents Understand That Wellness Is More Than Fitness?

chair exerciseMake no mistake about it, physical activity is important. Study after study links regular exercise with myriad health benefits. And more recently, there have been a host of research proclamations professing the value of exercise to stave off cognitive decline. We were made to move our bodies. We were built to spend the bulk of each day in motion.

You will never hear me say that exercise isn’t really that big of a deal. But it’s not the only deal when it comes to resident wellness. And more often than not we work with residents who think they’re doing “that wellness thing” because they take water aerobics three times per week. Commonly, residents don’t see the bigger vision for their wellbeing.

It’s your job to continue opening their eyes to additional opportunities for living, experiencing, tasting, touching, learning, and giving throughout life at your community. That means attention to all dimensions of wellness.  But here’s what we’ve learned: When you manage, program, and execute well on all dimensions of wellness, there’s a strong chance that your fitness program will further excel.

So, where do you start? If your residents have tunnel vision about what living well really means, how can you nudge them beyond their limited perspective to experience and to truly understand more about the possibilities for living well?

That’s really kind of the question, right? Okay, before dive I off the deep philosophical end in pursuit of a perfect plan for resident wellness, consider these more practical questions:

  • Are you building multidisciplinary events for your community? If so, how are you inviting residents to participate?
  • Is the programming passive (residents sit and observe) or is it active (residents move, engage, and interact)? Do you have the right balance of those activities?
  • And maybe the most important question for consideration: how do you know your programming is actually working?

It’s tough. It can be hard to know if you’re hitting the mark with your audience.

And let’s be honest. Sometimes the personnel tasked with cultivating a resident wellness program don’t really understand the whole multidisciplinary thing, either.

So how do you start over…to begin at the beginning? Start with a simple, multidisciplinary initiative that anyone in your community can administer and that all of your independent residents can embrace.

And today is your lucky day because one of NIFS Best Practices for senior living is a profile of our Wellness Challenge. This simple program folds in competition for both residents and employees on teams over the span of eight weeks. The initiative drives participants toward diverse opportunities in their community. Some of the spotlighted wellness events are one-time events coordinated intentionally with the challenge in mind. Other key activities for the challenge are ongoing programs or services that are routinely available but which might otherwise be overlooked as residents and employees move through their daily routines.

We gathered a lot of data from the program, and each time we run it, we learn a little bit more about what resonates with the residents and employees who engage in the challenge. In the most recent offering, some of the self-reported outcomes included the following:

  • The average participant spent more than 90 minutes each week engaged in volunteer-related efforts.
  • Most participants averaged more than 7 hours per week enjoying activities that captivated their brains, such as lectures, reading, music, and puzzles.
  • Ninety percent of participants were able to meet the daily water consumption goal for the challenge.  

And that’s not all…

Remember when I indicated that a well-executed wellness strategy will enhance your fitness program participation? Check out what the Wellness Challenge did for numbers in the fitness program at one of our client communities:

  • Increased fitness center visits by 43 per month.
  • Increased group fitness class participation by 65%.
  • Increased the number of residents with eight or more visits per month to the fitness center by 31%.

Want to learn more about The Wellness Challenge? Sign up for our Best Practice series to receive the Wellness Challenge webinar as well as all of the other Best Practice spotlights.

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Topics: water senior center solutions senior wellness programs CCRC fitness center senior fitness cognitive function senior living fitness center