Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

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

Residents Expect More from Senior Living Community Exercise Programs

ThinkstockPhotos-535515241.jpgI got a call from a resident of a senior living community the other day. She told me that she’d been thinking about how her community could do better with the exercise program it offers. She saw a lot of potential to build on already successful offerings, and she’d been working with a resident team on this idea. Over the last several weeks, she’d been all over our website and decided it was time to talk about how we might be able to support her team’s goal to report on options to improve the community’s exercise program.

This woman was sharp! She had a good understanding about what was available to them, what was working, and where they needed to progress. Specifically, she told me that the classes were well liked and that didn’t necessarily need a change, but she also noted these common issues:

  • The pool is largely empty except for the regularly scheduled water aerobics classes.
  • The fitness center is typically unused because residents don’t feel like they know how to use the equipment to their benefit.

She had grabbed our quick read on how to grow participation in your aquatics program, and that’s when it hit her: she knew it all came back to staffing—that having qualified fitness staff running the community’s exercise program was central to its success.

Your Current Residents Expect More—and They’re Telling Their Friends

So if you’ve been focused on other competing priorities at your community and the exercise program is an afterthought running quietly in the background, now would be a good time to give it a second look. Because your residents are already doing that; and you can bet that if your current residents have a radar for what’s possible, your prospects do, too.

Sometimes there’s a hurdle in understanding just what a fitness center manager should be doing. I suppose that varies by community, but for a staffing organization like ours, we have clear expectations and supports for how NIFS staff spend their time in our client’s fitness centers

Maybe you think this kind of astute observation by residents isn’t happening at your community. That might be true, but before you make that assumption, consider how the resident with whom I spoke shared her observations with a prospective resident.

She told me that she had invited a friend to dine with her recently who was not a resident of the community but who was shopping for a senior living environment he could call home. He asked her if there was anything negative about living there. She said she couldn’t come up with negatives (which is great!), but then she told him about how they could do better with their exercise program (which is not so great).

And this isn’t the first conversation I’ve had like this where a resident found our organization and reached out to see whether and how we could help.

Review Your Wellness Programs as Well as Fitness

For what it’s worth, your entire wellness initiative may need a review—it’s rare to have a strong exercise program and a weak holistic wellness offering. It’s also unusual to have your holistic wellness program be strong while your exercise program suffers. Wellness and fitness go hand in hand.

If you’ve been waiting to address your exercise program until the residents complain, it’s time. Begin your investigation on possibilities by downloading our quick read below designed to help you quickly evaluate your overall wellness program. It highlights some broader wellness areas as well as specific exercise program components. Share it with your team and start a conversation about how to do wellness better in your community.

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Topics: senior wellness senior living senior fitness senior living community resident wellness programs exercise program

Are You Talking Senior Wellness TO Residents, or WITH Them? (Part 2)

Now it is time to apply what you learned in Part 1. Let’s look back on some key points:

  • Only 12% of the U.S. population is health literate.
  • Health and safety information should be delivered on a fifth-grade level.
  • “Why” is a crucial question to ask and to answer in resident wellness.

Did you think about how you and your clients communicate and how instruction is delivered? Do you talk to your clients, or do your discuss with your clients? Let me ask you this: How often are you creative with your answers? How often do you use analogies that can be seen in the everyday world?

The Power of Analogies in Senior Fitness EducationThinkstockPhotos-529580019.jpg

I love using analogies. The body is an amazing machine, but also a mystery to many. I know we have all explained osteoarthritis many times over in our careers, but how well is the message getting through to the client? We can try to explain that the cartilage in the knee has slowly been worn down over time due to previous damages that may have occurred.

Now imagine that you have no idea what cartilage is, or can’t picture it. Would anything after that word mean anything to you? Probably not. So let’s put some visualization to this. Cartilage covers bones where they will meet with other bones and rub together. It is like a wet plastic sheet. Over time, damage happens because of impact from the many falls, running, and jumping that we have done. It also becomes more dry and brittle as we get older. Because of the damage and the dryness, the bones do not slide across each other smoothly anymore. The rough surfaces rubbing together will cause more damage, and the moist plastic lining is not there anymore to stop the bones from rubbing together. This explanation took a little longer, but I also know that the client now has a good picture in their mind of what is happening inside their knee.

Perspective and Visualization

One surprising statistic I learned while in my physics class in college is that if you hold a gallon of water straight out in front of you, your shoulder has about 100 pounds of pressure on it, even though a gallon of water is approximately 8 pounds. This is a statistic I am always passing on to my senior wellness clients. It can be very hard to understand why such a small weight is so difficult to lift, and maybe even painful. Some even feel embarrassed that they can’t lift a larger amount of weight. As soon as I tell them this, there is always a light bulb that goes off, along with surprise, of course. Again, the body is a machine. Machines follow the laws of physics, but how many of us can explain physics well enough for a fifth-grader to understand? Visualization is key.

Working with Plain Language: A Training Manual, written by William H. DuBay, has a great deal of information on the background of plain language, why it is necessary, and how to apply it in all manners.

One of our greatest joys as health, wellness, and fitness specialists is seeing the people we work with succeed. So let’s find that common ground where we are not just talking to our clients, but discussing with our clients about their health, wellness, and happiness.

Interested in how you can do wellness better for your residents?  Grab our quick read below to see how you can better evaluate your wellness offerings in your senior living community.

Download Now
Topics: senior wellness senior fitness resident wellness programs education communication

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

How One Senior Living Community Got Focused on Brain Fitness

senior_puzzleMost senior living communities have a variety of group fitness classes on their calendars focused on balance, muscular strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health, and the clients we work with are no different. But we’ve landed on a program tied in with our group fitness classes for seniors that has become wildly popular with the residents. It turns out, it’s been a great way to draw more participants into the exercise program, too.

The Popularity of Brain Activities

At one of our client’s communities we have many of the typical activities to stimulate the mind: card games, lectures, forums, resident committees, etc. And at one point we offered a “Memory” workshop series. This was so popular that we added a word of the day and the TriBond® game to our daily information board in the fitness center, along with including puzzles in our newsletter.

Over time, we noticed that more and more people started coming to the fitness center to learn the word of the day, to get the TriBond® puzzle, and to ask questions about the puzzle in the newsletter. It was obvious that our residents were craving ways to challenge their minds, and we were eager to respond in ways that would help them keep their minds strong or increase their abilities.

So we added a brain fitness class to our group fitness schedule, and that class is thriving each week! In the weekly offering, our residents have a wonderful time challenging their minds. They learn new games like Sudoku, and play old games like Memory™. They also engage in history trivia questions and challenges. One of our residents recently named all 44 presidents, in order, off the top of her head!

How to Start Brain Fitness Classes at Your CCRC

We’ve started offering this type of class at our other senior living client sites with similar popularity. Here’s some advice on how you can get it started in your community:

  • Hold an event such as a brain fitness fair for your residents to see how fun and important it is to continue to work on the mind.
  • During the event, pay attention to what the residents like and don’t like. This will help you build a class structure that works for them.
  • Do not always make the class what they like. In order to strengthen the mind we need to challenge it. Typically the things that we do not like are the things that we find challenging.
  • Begin putting puzzles in your weekly or monthly newsletters.
  • ADVERTISE EVERYWHERE!

Brain Class Structure

For the structure of the class, consider the following ideas:

  • Begin with a task that can be done while waiting for everyone to come in and sign in. (Example: Write your name with your non-dominant hand or with both hands at the same time.)
  • Have classical music playing in the background. Some studies show this increases the brainwaves that stimulate thought process.
  • Come prepared with four to five activities. Make it a variety of word games, long-term memory/short term memory, and deductive reasoning. Here are some sites that might provide some ideas: MazestoPrint.com, Activityconnection.com, BrainBashers.com, and ThinkablePuzzles.com.
  • Leave time for discussion in small groups and then time with you for answers.
  • Have the answers for all activities to share with the participants. (The residents will be angry if you don’t!)
  • If you do not finish all activities, consider giving “homework.”

Learn more about physical exercises that help improve cognition here.

Let us know how your brain fitness program works in your setting! We’d love to keep sharing these kinds of ideas to improve the health of the residents we work with. 

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Topics: CCRC active aging senior living communities brain health cognitive function resident wellness programs memory

Creativity Meets Physical Activity in Senior Living

During National Senior Health and Fitness Day earlier this week, the residents at Sandhill Cove, one of NIFS partner communities, had a ball with a wine bottle ring toss, dart art, golf, and more.  Check out the images below that tell the story of a successfully active day for the residents in that senior living community.

Dart Art

This event was the clear resident favorite for the day.  The balloons were filled with paint and participants took turns hitting the balloons with darts, carnival-style.  The residents were so pleased with the outcome, that a section of the painted sheet will find a new home as framed artwork in the community for everyone at the community to enjoy.

Dart Art resized 600      dart art results 2 resized 600

Wine Bottle Ring Toss

What better way to put the wine bottles from last night's happy hour to use?  We're not sure we can call it environmental wellness, but the residents were really focused on ringing those bottles!  

Mr. Brauntuch Volunteer wine bottle ring toss resized 600

Aqua Golf

I guess when you've retired to south Florida, playing golf in the water is the only way to play. 

Mr. Morrissey I%27m getting wet Aqua Golf

The rest of the day was filled with other games like corn hole, shuffle board, a putting tournament, and croquet.  There were health check ups for the residents too.  Based on the smiles and participation, we think the day was a fantastic success for all who came out to play.

Want to learn more about NIFS Best Practice programming like this?  Sign up for our Best Practice series below!

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Topics: active aging best practices senior living community resident wellness programs