Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Reasons Why Your Resident Wellness Program Shouldn’t Be Clinical

As communities have continued to adapt their concepts of and practices around what it means to provide wellness for residents, we have seen program offerings, cultural shifts, and amenity updates that really run the gamut. Some organizations have molded their own definitions of the dimensions of wellness along with branding symbols and adjustment of community taglines. In other cases, senior living communities are just putting a toe in the water by beginning the wellness dimension conversation with residents and employees.

There’s plenty of room for creativity; communities absolutely can (and should) put their own stamp on how they intend to execute on resident wellness. But there’s one trend I’ve seen in resident wellness that gives me pause: situating wellness in a clinical setting with a clinician at the helm. The most common articulation of this is tasking a registered nurse (RN) as the community wellness director and positioning all things wellness from the home base of the clinic, which is called the “wellness center.”

Differentiating Factors for CCRC Prospects

I’ve written before about the two primary areas in which communities can position themselves to senior consumers as being a better living option than aging at home. The first differentiator is in the area of care/safety for seniors as they age. The other primary area where communities can stand out from competition lies in residents’ opportunities to experience new places and people, to learn new things, to engage in stimulating discussions, and to participate in strategic reminiscing—all in ways that are unique to a community culture.

That second differentiator is your wellness program; it includes programs/events, dining, the physical environment, social opportunities, spiritual connection, emotional care, and intellectual opportunities. It may touch, or run into, a clinical environment. But situating your wellness program in a space that provides primarily reactive care to illness misses the boat entirely and sends a mixed message to your residents.

Creating an environment that maximizes well-being requires us to get our heads out of only physical health (and I mean fitness too). It requires adapting the dimensions of wellness into a person-focused framework like the one offered by The Eden Alternative’s domains of well-being.

Blending the Factors Dilutes the Senior Wellness MessageIMG_2740.jpg

Whether or not an RN with the right background can build your programming strategy and support a built environment that truly facilitates resident well-being depends on the knowledge, skills, abilities, and passions of the RN. I would suggest, however, that physically housing your wellness program in a medical environment, such as your health clinic, will limit your ability to deliver on a message of distinction about what it means to live well in the community because you’re blending the care/safety distinction with the wellness differentiator. By marrying them both that tightly, you’re diluting the message. For seniors who know they need the clinical support but aren’t quite ready to address that for themselves (and how many prospects are psychologically in this place?), they won’t hear a message about wellness that stems from the clinical care.

I’m not advocating that the clinic and the wellness offerings operate in distinct silos. I am, however, suggesting that wellness doesn’t start with medication management, blood pressure regulation, or access to a podiatrist. Helping individuals be individually well begins with understanding what creates purpose for them. The clinical care is a byproduct of age. Choices on how to live well are core to who the individual is. Attention to that fundamental element of each resident deserves staff and spaces that are dedicated to the lifestyle you’re promising each resident.

Interested in knowing how you could do wellness better for your residents?  Click below to find out how NIFS can assist you with wellness consulting.

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Topics: senior wellness CCRC marketing resident wellness programs

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 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

Evaluating Your Retirement Community Fitness Program

active seniorYou likely receive feedback from residents on how much they enjoy certain group fitness classes or instructors, or perhaps the NuStep in the fitness center. You hear it in passing comments like, “Don’t get rid of the yoga instructor,” or “We need another NuStep.” Those comments provide great feedback as part of your overall assessment of the fitness program. But beyond those individual preferences, how do you measure the true value of your community fitness program and what it lends to your resident population as well as to your community’s marketing potential?

Cater to the All Potential Participants

Your lifelong exercisers will likely find opportunities that they enjoy no matter how much or how little your community is able to offer. Positive feedback from these select participants doesn’t mean that your program is making the grade for your resident population as a whole. There is likely an untapped audience in your community and creative programming plus personal touches can help draw those less active residents into the fitness center and/or classes. This is definitely an area of strength for us. Our clients quickly see the benefits of a partnership with NIFS when we can show them exactly who is participating in our programming.  

Measuring the Effectiveness of Your Fitness Program

So that begs the question: Do you know what percentage of your residents participate in group fitness classes or uses the fitness center from month to month? Which classes are the most popular or which pieces of equipment are most frequently used? Have your residents shared why this is the case? If you can’t answer all or some of these questions, that likely means your community fitness offerings could benefit from a more solid foundation to evaluate participation and resident interests.

Consider these simple steps your community can take to begin measuring the effectiveness of your program:

  1. Utilization of your fitness center and participation in group fitness classes should be tracked daily and reported on a regular basis. Communities can determine the information they would like to evaluate and implement tracking methods for their fitness staff and residents. We find that residents take to simple sign-in sheets fairly easily and fitness staff and group fitness instructors can provide friendly reminders to residents to sign in. Providing a structured memberhsip process is a good starting point to clearly track who is and is not participating.
  2. Conduct annual surveys to gather direct resident feedback to rate the overall quality of existing classes, instructors, programs, and services. Learn from the resident population as a whole (don’t just send the survey to active participants) about additional programs that they would like to see or ask them to share why they aren’t currently participating. After processing the results, develop an action plan to follow up with individual residents or on general program improvements to continually evolve the program and hopefully engage more participants.
  3. Your fit and active crowd will likely be the most vocal about the types of equipment they would like to see or group classes they would like to try. However, it is important to regularly evaluate the full scope of programing including balance in class offerings, available equipment, and scheduled programs focused on fitness. Residents of all ability levels should have exercise options in the fitness center as well as group exercise classes for their specific needs. It’s fine for instructors to provide modifications for residents of all ability levels in classes, but it’s important for lower-functioning participants to feel like they have options all their own and that they aren’t simply being condescended to in a group of more able-bodied residents.

Taking these simple steps can help improve resident satisfaction in your community fitness offerings. It will also provide more concrete talking points for your marketing department when speaking with prospective residents. Important program metrics coupled with powerful and personal success stories speak volumes to prospects who are trying to gain an understanding of what their lives can be like if they move into your community.  

CCRC Fitness Center Marketing

Topics: senior center solutions senior fitness management CCRC fitness center senior fitness marketing program evaluation