Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Three Ways Participation Data Improves Senior Living Fitness Centers

group_of_seniorsDo your residents sign in when they visit the senior living fitness center or take a group fitness class at your community? In many senior living communities, there may be some practice established for residents signing in, but typically little to nothing is done with that information once the resident makes his checkmark or signs his name on the way into the fitness center. Consistent participation tracking is even less common in the group fitness classes.

Do you know how many classes you offered last month and which residents attended compared to the preceding month? Do you know how many appointments were conducted in the fitness center last year compared to this year? 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.

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.

But beware: 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.

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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 (ask your IT support to help if you need it) to create a tracking tool that will help you determine what parts of your community’s fitness program need the most attention.

For more on the benefits of tracking participant data, see this blog.

If you’re overwhelmed and not sure where to begin, consider contacting us for consulting. Click here to find out more.

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

How we engage residents in senior living fitness programs

thumbs upRaise your hand if you love hearing stories about how your staff make a resident’s day, particularly when it occurs organically, if you will, by the employee simply being who she is.  I know…me too.  That’s why I couldn’t resist sharing these two stories in our blog and how we engage residents in senior living fitness programs. 

Our organizational structure is such that we hire exceptionally capable, qualified, and passionate staff who we train well.  When they’re ready, we set them off at their client location to do their work.  Certainly, we provide a host of supports, ongoing training, and other touch points, but it’s tough for me to keep track of their day to day challenges and victories when they are far flung in 22 states with more than 60 clients.  So when these two stories got back to me, I simply had to give this shout out!

Story #1

When we first start working with a new senior living client and we place one of our fitness center managers onsite at the community, we sometimes get pushback from a small group of vocal residents about the information we require of them prior to helping them with an exercise program.  Industry standards through the American College of Sports Medicine establish that sound practice involves gathering relevant health information, securing a signed waiver, and getting a medical release where appropriate.  If we get push back from residents, it’s typically with the waiver and a common objection to the industry standard language we use. 

This story comes from that exact circumstance where a small group of residents had protested our use of a release for the fitness program.  While we were in discussion with leadership at the community about NIFS practices, and how the community wanted to proceed, our manager, Ali, continued to do what she does.  

She worked with the early adopters providing senior fitness testing, individualized exercise programs and guidance, and continued to follow up with those participants about their progress and any questions they have.  She offered creative group exercise classes and continued to enroll residents in those programs.  She focused in on improving resident’s balance through both class and 1:1 settings, and she continued to help participants track their progress as their strength and balance improved. 

Meanwhile, the residents did what residents do.  They talked to their friends and neighbors.  Those who were engaged in the new fitness programming with the NIFS fitness center manager talked about how much better they felt, how they could tell their balance was improving, and how easy the manager was to work with. 

And then those initial naysayers started thinking that they might be missing out on something really positive going on in the community.  So, within a few weeks of raising strong objections to our paperwork, those most vocal opponents put aside their concerns, completed the paperwork, and started receiving the same positive health benefits that their friends and neighbors had been experiencing.  We’re grateful for the opportunity to serve more residents in the community, and I’m completely tickled that it all came about simply because the NIFS manager kept doing what she’s amazing at with those who were ready. 

Story #2

The second story is one of those “well, duh” moments.  The action our staff member took in response to a resident need is truly a no-brainer.  But I say that and I know that I may not have arrived at that simple action which has definitely resulted in improved quality of life for that individual.  Rachel made this resident’s day simply by being who she is – a creative problem solver who is passionate about helping the residents enjoy very active living.

When Rachel learned that one of their formerly regular participants stopped exercising, she wanted to get to the bottom of it.  Turns out, the resident was unable to use the check in scanner because of a low vision condition, so she simply stopped attending group exercise classes.  After Rachel learned about the barrier, she worked with the resident to place a small piece of adhesive felt to the membership tag and taught the resident how to orient the felt in front of the scanner for a successful check in.  That resident was able to feel her way to a successful fitness center check in and removing that barrier was enough to pull her back into group exercise classes twice each (and every) week.

I suspect you have your own ‘feel good’ stories like this – share them in the comments below to help spread the love!

Click below to find out how NIFS attracts and attains the industry's best fitness professionals. 

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Topics: active aging senior living fitness programs for seniors nifs fitness management staffing CCRC Programs and Services