Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Spice Up Group Fitness Routines for Seniors, Keep Residents Interested

ThinkstockPhotos-509732600_1.jpgGroup exercise classes are one of the top activities in senior living communities nowadays. With the increasing number of activities provided on community calendars, having a good group exercise program significantly impacts the overall resident well-being as they participate in their daily activities.

The initial spark of having a new group fitness class promotes a tremendous buzz throughout the community, and the new activity on the calendar generates a lot of popularity. Participation is high, and residents look forward to this new class to see what’s in store for them at the next session. A month or so down the road, however, you may notice that the residents who were highly motivated to attend a particular exercise class have begun to feel less interested in the routine, potentially causing a decrease in participation.

When people are acclimated to an established exercise routine, there may come a point where they feel tired of doing the same exercises over and over again, or don’t feel challenged enough in the journey to an improved quality of life. If you begin to notice these things in your exercise programs, it might be time to make some minor adjustments. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to turn your group exercise program on its head and start from scratch.  Spice up group fitness routines for seniors and keep them interested.

As an exercise instructor who thinks about these things on a daily basis, one of my primary goals is to encourage participation in our group exercise classes on a regular basis, regardless of their skill level. I actively think of different ways of keeping residents enthusiastic about our classes, while still maintaining their overall purpose. While residents want to exercise safely, they also want to be appropriately challenged so that they don’t lose the benefit of maintaining an active lifestyle.

Following are three different strategies that I have used in the past to keep residents interested in classes.

Mixing Up the Exercises in Your Routines

Adding different exercises into your routines will help keep your residents interested, and can increase cognition as they perform exercises that focus on balance and hand-eye coordination. A good way to map this out is to try one new exercise per class, and see how your residents respond to it. If they find enjoyment in the sequence, you are on the right track! Varying your group exercise sequences every month or two can go a long way in maintaining resident interest.

Another effective strategy that helps in mixing up your routines is to have two or three different formats for one particular class, and to rotate through those formats. I have always found that having a couple routines that I could rotate through on a weekly or monthly basis keeps people more engaged.

Incorporate Music into Your Classes

Whether it’s a choreographed mix-tape that has a variety of upbeat songs for low-impact aerobic routines, or a Big Band CD that is used simply as a background filler for the class, you will notice an immediate increase in residents’ mood in the class, and in some cases they might even get into the groove as the music is playing in class. Having a mixture of upbeat tunes along with songs requested by your residents will keep the excitement going in class. Music can also serve as a motivational factor for residents when they are participating in classes, because exercising to music can have psychological benefits that include improved cognition, reduced anxiety, and many more.

Interactive Exercises

Most people think of group exercise as performing certain routines in a repetitive motion for a certain amount of weight, repetitions, and sets. While in certain class formats that may work, it does not always have to be that way. For most of my exercise classes, I mainly focus on exercises that mirror our activities of daily living (ADLs), and also include sequences that incorporate the mind/body connection. The National Institute for Health (NIH) has an extensive list of various exercises that are both interactive, and ways to focus the class on functionality. Nontraditional balance exercises such as ankle spelling and ball tosses will keep your members guessing both physically and cognitively.

Make sure to use these strategies to spice up your senior living community exercise classes! Keep an open mind when trying out new things in your classes; see what works, and spice things up! 

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Topics: senior living communities balance senior fitness resident wellbeing group fitness music quality of life

What if: Occupancy and budget were not obstacles & you could focus on improving resident lifestyles?

Throughout 2015, we’ll be blogging about our dreams for corporate wellness, fitness, and aging well.  Some of the content will represent a gentle “poking fun” at the industry, but it’s all written to stimulate thought about what really could be if we put our heads together and started mapping out what’s really possible in the realm of individual wellbeing.  We hope you’ll join the conversation by commenting on the blogs, giving us additional ideas about which to write, and/or by finding us out on Twitter at #wellnesswhatif.

seniorlivingwomentalkingWe do a lot of wellness consulting in senior living, and by “wellness”, I mean non-clinical, lifestyle-focused consulting.  For many of our clients, that consulting relationship involves a thorough review of their “activities” department; in other cases, it’s focused more on what’s happening with their exercise program.  Regardless of the original area of focus, we always arrive at the same point – building a strategy that allows the community to shift from filling a calendar toward supporting resident purpose and passion.

Often, when I talk with a client who thinks he’s interested in having us come onsite to consult, there’s a heavy discussion about cost.  And while I certainly understand a business’s sensitivity toward expenses, I often wonder:  If budget (and occupancy – the two are inextricably linked) was no obstacle, what would you be expecting from your activities department?

Leadership in senior living communities have a lot to focus on, and it makes sense that activities might not rank near the top.  In fact, it’s common for that department to be well-liked by residents and to be well rated on satisfaction surveys.  So no pain point exists because there doesn’t appear to be an issue.  The challenge with continuing to look the other way is two-fold:

  1. Your current residents may not realize what’s possible, so putting your faith in them to be your barometer for when something needs to change is ill-placed.  That is particularly true with activities because that area of your community traditionally bears out the 80/20 rule where 20% of your residents engage in 80% of the activities.  You are likely supporting the interests of a vocal minority in your community.  And the question becomes: What is your activities department developing to meet the needs and interests of the less-engaged majority? 
  2. The adult child knows better.  They are not content with bingo, cards, and trips to the theatre, and they won’t be fooled by a full calendar that lacks opportunities for them to live out passions, dreams, and purpose. 

If you think your programming is top notch and you perhaps just have an engagement challenge, take a look at our slideshare on how to get your residents to engage.

Get our Slideshare: Improve Resident Engagment

Maybe you know wellness is an important differentiator for your community, but you really feel compelled to nail down a more favorable and consistent occupancy rate before you begin fine tuning programming and other lighter elements at your community.  I can see why you’d adopt that philosophy, but before you stake your claim there, consider reading this blog on how and why wellness is an important differentiator for any community.

Think also about the long term investment of putting in some money up front on wellness consulting that breathes new life into your campus and creates a new outlook on how activities are developed and delivered.  It’s a chicken and egg debate but if a $5,000 investment could be an important step toward solidifying occupancy and thus improving your budget outlook, would that $5,000 be worth it?

Here’s our picture of what it means to do wellness better in senior living:

  • When you do wellness better, you have data your marketing and sales staff can work with to back up their stories with prospects about how fantastic it is to live well at your community. 
  • When you do wellness better, you have more diverse, robust, and life-enriching programming on your calendar that appeals to a wide audience. 
  • When you do wellness better in your community, you create natural bridges across departments for collaborative programming so that one over-worked activities director doesn’t have to do it all. 
  • When you do wellness better you understand individual resident passions and interests and incorporate those at the personal and program level to ensure opportunities where you residents can live with vitality in the ways that are true for them. 
  • When you do wellness better, you do so much more than fill a calendar.  You map out a program and service strategy, informed by data, resident interests, and past successes.

If you think your community may be falling short in one or more of those areas, check out what we have to offer in the way consulting to help you do wellness better.

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

Topics: senior wellness senior living senior living community wellness consulting what if resident wellbeing