Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

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

5 Ways Wellness Consulting helps the Mission of your Senior Living Community

There are a lot of commonalities among senior living community mission statements including high quality of care, exceptional service, and peace of mind.  Also making the list are pledges to promote enhanced quality of life, independence, wellbeing, and dignity.  These are lofty aims and organizational mission statements are not to be taken lightly.  But as resident wellness comes under an increasingly brighter spotlight, I wonder how many communities are examining their wellness-related services under a mission-focused microscope. 

I do a lot of consulting for communities across the country and what I see time and time again is that wellness is still sitting in a second place seat under an Activities banner that represents an old way of doing business.  Wellness is not an activity; it is a way of life. 

And while executive directors often recognize that more should be done for their residents to help them live well and to truly engage with life, they don’t know how to progress to a true community wellness strategy. Add to that confusion an organizational ambivalence about “consultants” and in the blink of an eye, the inertia of status quo starts to look very, very appealing. 

But doing what you’ve always done because it’s too hard to make a change may not truly be aligning your wellness strategy with your mission. 

This is where a consultant can help.  Before you recoil at the word “consultant”, consider these five very-real benefits you can gain from opening up your senior living community to wellness consulting.

#5:  The Fresh Perspectivehappy senior

You know it’s true.  Sometimes activity directors are so buried with the task of filling a calendar each month that it’s difficult for them to see the forest for the trees.  And when you have director-level staff who have been with your organization for several years, “what we’ve always” done is a tough cycle to break, even with the best of intentions. 

When we come in to consult, we bring the benefit of unbiased observation.  We don’t know you and we’re starting with a clean slate to figure out what you’re doing really well, and where the opportunities for improvement might be.  We think there is profound value in not knowing your organization because we can use that position of ignorance to build a non-threatening relationship with your staff.  We can ask the hard “why” questions, because we simply don’t know the answers.  We can see areas of opportunity that wouldn’t be readily visible to you because you’re in the environment every day.

#4:  The Change Agent

Let’s go back to the idea that you recognize there should be more substance and strategy to how your community is facilitating a healthy resident lifestyle.  It’s tough to get there, or to even start the conversation as an insider.  Staff can get suspicious, they may feel threatened by potential change (“Is what I’m doing not good enough?”), and before you know it, your efforts to live into the community’s mission are thwarted. 

Bringing in a consultant, as an outside observer, allows you to position the consultant as the change agent.  Then, you can effectively leverage the consultant’s experience in wellness strategy design to start initiating change in your lifestyle offerings. 

#3:  The Resources

If you work with NIFS for wellness consulting, you get the benefit of our years in the field and all of the work we’ve done with other communities.  We don’t just consult; we put our staff on ground in communities across the US.  So we’ve tested our own recommendations and we’re continually innovating with real-world programs for actual residents. 

In short, we walk the talk.

The same should be true for any other consulting organization you choose.  If they bring a cookie cutter approach to evaluating your situation, be suspicious.  You’re unique, and the consultant’s approach should be also.

#2:  The Report

When we consult, we provide a report that covers areas of need/attention specific to the client.  It’s common for our recommendations to cover everything from branding your wellness strategy for effective marketing, to updates on physical spaces in the community.  We don’t shy away from tough topics like assessing staff credentials and effectiveness, evaluating liability and making risk reducing recommendations, or establishing better structure to your initiatives so that you can evaluate effectiveness

We’re not just pointing out areas for improvement.  Our report offers practical and tested solutions that you can put into action. 

#1:  The Value

Consulting isn’t free; you will get billed for time and travel.  But you can get a project estimate up front that should outline both anticipated costs as well as expected outcomes from the consulting work.  Before you engage in a consulting relationship, get all of your questions answered. 

  • Find out how the agency works with your staff.
  • Determine if they will be willing to talk to your residents.
  • Learn about their specific areas of expertise in wellness strategy.
  • Ask what the final report will look like.
  • Find out whether there is opportunity for ongoing support if needed.
  • Ask if they can provide you with references from previous work.
  • Determine if their recommendations will narrowly connect you with their product/service or if they will connect you with resources where you can decide which are best for your organization?

It’s time to look at aligning your wellness programming with your mission.  And the great news is, you don’t have to tackle this alone.  Consulting doesn’t have to be daunting, unfulfilling, and lacking in value.  If you’re ready to cultivate a wellness focus for your community that works with your current strengths and that compliments your existing brand, then contact me to get answers to those value questions I outlined above.

Are you ready to do wellness better? Learn more about wellness consulting.
Topics: active aging nifs fitness management senior center solutions wellness consulting

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

Wellness in Senior Living: Kit vs. Culture

senior woman stretchingUnless you live under a really, really big rock, you have no doubt heard about the importance of robust wellness opportunities as central to a successful senior living community. There have been some fabulous profiles lately on organizations that are doing an amazing job of connecting their residents and others in the surrounding areas to opportunities to live well. Two recent examples highlighted by LeadingAge are these:

What strikes me about both of these offerings is that they are wellness initiatives. I don’t know that the communities packaged them that way, but in fact, they are a model of innovative wellness programming at its very best.

The other element I find compelling about these offerings is that they’re culturally driven. That is to say that this type of creativity can only come from an organization that believes that living well is truly central to its brand.

When your senior living communities investigate what’s possible under the umbrella of resident wellness, it’s important to consider what it is you truly want to build. Is wellbeing something that leadership wants to cultivate, explore, and weave into the very fabric of the community? Or is the community focus elsewhere for now, such that wellness is more of a task that needs to be crossed off the long list?

Looking for the Wellness Kit?

If wellness for your community is about crossing something off the to-do list, then you might be looking for a kit solution. There are organizations that can help you, when you buy into their model, to plant monthly wellness initiatives at your community. Your activities director can typically fold them into the monthly calendar, and you can begin to dip your toe into the wellness water to get a sense of how your residents will receive programming and activities built around traditional wellness pillars like nutrition, physical activity, and so on.

But that's not how we do it. We're not about the monthly theme, unless it's right for your residents, and we're not about the pre-packaged materials, unless they've proven their value.

Wellness Culture Means Cultivating a Lifestyle in Senior Living

At the end of the day, a wellness culture is where we need to be headed. When we adopt a healthy culture as the way of life we’re building for residents, then we start to grasp what’s really possible.

But here’s the thing: culture is person-driven, not program-driven. There are not enough programs in the world to build a culture. Wellness is a way of life, not an activity, and it should be cultivated accordingly. Here are a few considerations if you’re contemplating the challenging and rewarding work that is wellness culture building in a retirement community:

  • Determining a hierarchy: Building a wellness culture means giving consideration to hierarchy for wellness and activities (or leisure services, or life enrichment, or whatever your organization calls the events coordinator at your community). I would challenge you to think about whether activities actually rolls up under wellness instead of wellness being a branch of activities. If you buy into the idea that wellness is a way of life rather than an activity, then challenging the status quo that activities is at the top of the programmatic/community calendar food chain warrants significant thought.
  • Hiring a wellness director: Building a wellness culture requires a dedicated and competent professional blazing the trail. I’ve written about hiring a fitness professional for your community. The principles in that blog apply to hiring a wellness director as well.
  • Thinking progressively and strategically: Building a wellness culture means thinking differently about how you program, and it requires a commitment to moving beyond the bocce tournament you’ve always done. It also requires you to strategically think through what program data you need, and how you’ll use the data to inform your next culture-building steps.

Make no mistake, building a culture is no easy task and you don’t ever really arrive. You just keep learning, building, and growing. You keep evolving to meet and anticipate the needs of your audience. You keep striving for the experience of a life well lived, for breadth and depth of lifestyle choices that provide meaning for each individual.

If this sounds daunting, it is. The wellness kit idea is much simpler to understand and to execute. But the real richness lies in the proverbial road less traveled. Partner organizations, including ours, can help you map out a path to get started.

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

 

Topics: nifs fitness management senior center solutions senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center health culture fitness center for seniors

3 Programming Twists to Boost Fitness Center Participation

presentation groupRecruiting residents to participate in your community fitness offerings can be a challenge. Most communities offer a variety of standard services, classes, and programs to try to regularly engage their residents. Whether you are wanting to recruit new residents or spark some enthusiasm for your regulars, read on to learn about three nontraditional programming ideas that can help boost participation in your community fitness offerings.

Fashion Show – Yes that’s right, I said a fashion show. Many residents show up to exercise in their normal clothes (dress slacks, button-down shirts and all)! While this is OK for some modes of activity, educating residents on the importance of exercising in appropriate active wear, including proper footwear, can be inspiring and quite helpful for some individuals. Contact a local boutique with active wear apparel and host a fashion show at your community while providing residents with an option to purchase what they are seeing. You could work with the boutique to allow your residents to be the models so residents can see firsthand that exercise apparel can be fashionable, comfortable, and appropriate for older adults. Don’t forget about swimwear! Many older adults shy away from participating in pool programming because of not having purchased a swimsuit in perhaps decades. Bring the suits, water shoes, etc., to your fashion show and remove this barrier for your residents!

Philanthropic Program – Let’s face it, it can be a challenge to come up with prize ideas for residents to recognize their efforts in incentive programs that will truly get them excited. While older adults recognize the importance of physical activity for their own vitality, finding ways to ignite enthusiasm into their workout is still important to keep things fresh and fun. Connect a fitness program with a philanthropic approach instead of a traditional prizes like water bottles, t-shirts, or pedometers. Establish a community goal that if residents come together to achieve X minutes of walking or attend X number of group exercise classes in a month, the community will make a monetary donation to a local charitable organization. You could even include a canned food donation requirement as an entry fee to your group exercise classes for the month. Chart the residents’ progress through the month so they can see how they are doing and they can recruit their friends and neighbors to participate.

Educational Lectures – Well qualified fitness staff with an educational background in health and fitness can contribute more to resident wellness than exercise instruction alone. Tap into this educational background and recruit your fitness staff to share their expertise and educate residents on a variety of health and wellness topics on a regular basis. This can help some residents begin engaging with the fitness staff in a way they may otherwise never do if avoiding the fitness center. When your fitness staff can demonstrate that they are knowledgeable about various health conditions or other resident interests, they can begin building trust and relationships that will hopefully translate into engaging that resident in the appropriate fitness services for their needs.

Find out more about how NIFS provides these ideas and others through wellness consulting at senior living communities.  Or, check out how one client uses NIFS wellness consulting for better marketing outcomes in her communities.

VIDEO: How one client puts NIFS consulting to work

Topics: active aging nifs fitness management senior center solutions program planning

“Must-Do” Responsibilities for Retirement Community Fitness Managers

senior fitnessIf you have residents who want to use the fitness center at your community but aren’t sure how to get started safely, you may have given some thought to adding a fitness center manager who can provide that individual attention for your residents. Perhaps you’re unsure about where to start looking for your fitness center manager and what types of things they should be doing while they’re on the job. Read on to learn about four key job responsibilities we think your fitness center manager should be executing often and well.

Providing Value-Add Services to the Members

The whole idea of providing consistent staffing in the fitness center is to get more residents to use the amenity along with other services to live well, right? Consider these types of opportunities to communicate value to your residents:

  • Equipment orientation: There’s a good chance you have residents who have never used a treadmill, a NuStep, or other fitness equipment before. They need at least a basic overview of how each piece works to grow confidence in using the equipment. In truth, NIFS views the orientation as a required piece to “join” the fitness center—it's one of several elements in our risk-management protocol. To read more on how to manage you community’s liability related to your fitness center, download our whitepaper: Managing Your CCRC Fitness Center Liability.
  • Senior fitness assessment: This testing tool is an important opportunity to get some baseline data on the level of fitness for a resident. Starting with an assessment before moving into writing an exercise prescription (described below) is a good way to truly customize the exercise program and assess the resident’s progress over time. This assessment data can also offer compelling messages for your marketing and sales staff on how effective your community’s exercise program is for residents.
  • Exercise prescription: After a resident has gone through the equipment orientation and (ideally) a senior fitness assessment, they can move into an exercise prescription appointment with the manager. In this service, the manager works with the resident to create an exercise plan that is tailored to meet the resident’s needs and goals. The manager then walks the resident through the program on a few different visits to increase the resident’s understanding and confidence about having success with the exercise program.

Protecting the Residents’ Safety and Managing the Community’s Liability

Your fitness manager can take several steps to advocate for resident safety while also decreasing your liability. Implementing a membership process for your fitness center is one of those steps. Consider the following elements.

  • Waiver/release of liability: A handful of states do not recognize waivers/releases of liability, and the language in them is really critical where they are recognized for protecting your community. You should work carefully with your counsel to draft an appropriate release for your circumstances.
  • Health history questionnaire: The fitness manager can initiate a dialogue with residents about the impact of an exercise program on their wellbeing when he or she has a basic health history from residents. In truth, it’s challenging (at best) and possibly negligent for a fitness manager to prescribe any type of specific exercises to a participant, or assess a resident’s fitness level, without the health history information.
  • Medical release: For the active aging population, involving an individual’s medical provider (physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, etc.) in the process of developing an exercise program is crucial. In almost all cases where an individual has a complicated medical history involving past surgeries, current medications, and so on, a well-trained fitness manager will not have a robust understanding of an individual’s medical history without the support of the clinical community. The medical release notifies the medical liaison that he or she is engaging in exercise and provides an opportunity for the clinician to make specific recommendations about the exercise program for that individual.

Collaborating with Other Department Directors to Cultivate Community Wellness

This seems like a no-brainer, but from our experience working in a variety of retirement community settings, collaboration is anything but seamless. I’ve talked about this in other blogs, so I’ll spare you my soapbox here. Suffice it to say that your overall community wellness programming will be more rich and balanced when you include the expertise of your fitness manager for a creative twist on more traditional offerings.

Evaluating Program Success

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to evaluate what you’re doing in resident wellness. In our two-part blog on gathering wellness data you can actually use, I outline some specifics on how to set up your initiatives for simple but effective evaluation as well as how to evaluate the program when it’s complete. Read those blogs for more information on program evaluation.

The other element of data gathering and evaluation that we often see missing from fitness programs is program attendance. All too often, communities are not capturing resident attendance in group exercise classes or in the fitness center. Your onsite manager should be keeping track of who has joined the fitness program and how often they are using the amenities. This data allows the manager to report to the community personnel about utilization trends. It also informs decisions about what group classes and other services to keep on the schedule and which should be evolved into new opportunities.

If this leaves you with more questions than answers about what your fitness center staff should be doing, contact me to learn what’s on our job descriptions and how we work with our senior living clients.

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Topics: nifs fitness management NIFS senior center solutions senior fitness management CCRC fitness center senior fitness

Top 5 things to avoid when building a fitness center for senior living communities

senior fitnessWe work on a lot of build/design projects in retirement communities where the project is either new construction for a new community, or the plan is part of a repositioning that includes enhanced wellness spaces and services.   I’ve got two communities on my desk currently where we’re helping to map out their fitness center and related spaces.

If you follow industry trends, you see it all the time in press releases, RSS feeds and other media avenues:  ground breakings for projects that include a state-of-the-art wellness wing, indoor/outdoor pool complex, etc.  Communities are getting serious about folding resident wellness into their broader business strategy to remain viable in the market.

Over my years at NIFS, I’ve had the pleasure of working on more than 20 different types of fitness center builds.  As you can imagine, I’ve learned quite a bit along the way.  Below are my top five recommendations (in random order) on pitfalls to avoid during your design journey.

#5 – Don’t let your design team talk you out of consulting with an expert who is used to programming fitness spaces. 

You should rely 100% on your architectural team to provide all the elements of the space that speak to code, compliance, overall flow and esthetics as those elements relate to the  broader project goal.  But it’s not reasonable to expect them to understand how your personal trainers and fitness manager will work with your residents in the space.  Unless your architect had a previous career managing a fitness center for an active older adult audience, my hunch (based on my experience) is that he might miss some key elements in the design that would ultimately inhibit the end-user experience.  

#4 –Don’t overlook the value of qualified management for your fitness areas.

There is nothing worse than pouring money into fabulous state-of-the-art digs than to have them sit idle after the grand opening.  We know that senior living fitness centers are not an “if you build it they will come” proposition.  Your resident audience will be expecting support to use the pool, fitness center, and other health-related spaces.  Plan to hire a qualified manager who is dedicated to running this physical dimension of your wellness strategy.  (Note – this is not the same as your fee-for-service personal trainer.)  You’ll be glad you did.

#3 – Don’t assume that what you’re planning for today will fit you tomorrow.

If you follow #5 and #4 above, you’ll be quite pleased with how well-utilized the exercise programs are in your community.  And it won’t be long before you need to add another treadmill, a mat table, or another piece of equipment.  If you design with growth in mind, you’ll be able to do some subtle shifting of existing equipment to make new pieces fit.  Similarly, if you anticipate that the space and services will quickly become wildly popular, you may need to add staffing.  Planning for additional staff workspace is also essential.

#2 – Don’t get swept up by a sales pitch from an equipment vendor. 

Exercise equipment comes in a lot of shapes and sizes – it is not one size fits all.  Treadmills can vary widely on the marketplace in terms of features, cost, warranty, and ease of use.  Do your homework (or hire someone to help you) and avoid being swayed by the sales pitches from equipment retailers.  All of them will put together a layout for you at “no extra cost”.  All of them will tell you they’ve been in the active aging market for decades.  All of them will tell you that they have the best science behind their product.  It’s a very buyer beware market.

#1 – Don’t get tunnel vision on what a quality fitness program (bricks and mortar + management) can do for your residents and the greater community. 

Expand your vision of what’s possible in the space.  If you can dream big on this project, you’ll be able to anticipate where the market is headed for resident wellness.  Do you have an opportunity to capitalize on your local neighbors for some revenue by opening up your fitness center and services to the 55+ community who does not yet live on your campus?  Can you see a path to combine therapy and wellness in your new space where the transition of care is seamless for your residents?  How do you need to design the space to support these concepts as part of your future?  Think about separate entrances, equipment, user privacy needs, data lines and medical records storage.  What has to be in place for your dream space to become a reality and potentially a new best practice in resident fitness programming?

It can be both exciting and daunting to embark on a substantial construction project.  Getting the right stakeholders to the design table early will help you carefully navigate some of the common pitfalls I noted above.  If you’ve “been there” and “done that”, share your tips below.  If you’re about to embark on this kind of project and you’d like to learn more about the key elements of fitness center design, download our Build Vitality eBook.

Download our eBook: Build Vitality In Your Community

 

 

Topics: active aging nifs fitness management senior center solutions CCRC fitness center staying active

Two New NIFS Clients with Two Different Service Angles

Active Aging LogoNIFS was thrilled to begin fitness management services at two new retirement community client sites in April. Furthermore, we were honored to be able to tailor our staffing services for the unique needs of each location. Community fitness and wellness programs can’t be addressed with a cookie-cutter approach. Read on to learn how NIFS is supporting the unique needs of each location and their residents.

Peabody: 20-Hour-per-Week Fitness Manager

Peabody is a CCRC in North Manchester, Indiana. Although Peabody did not have a fitness center for its residents until the grand opening of the brand new Billie Jean Strauss Wellness Center in April, NIFS has been supporting this community since early 2012 through consulting and equipment recommendations. NIFS provided recommendations for the fitness center and aerobics studio, including everything from treadmills to strength equipment to balance-training tools and space layouts. When the build was complete, NIFS was able to support the equipment installation and helped the community prepare for the grand opening celebration.

Because Peabody residents are not accustomed to exercising in an onsite fitness center or having group fitness class options in an aerobics studio, the community began staffing services at 20 hours per week with a NIFS Fitness Manager. As NIFS’s best-in-class fitness programming sparks resident engagement and enthusiasm, they anticipate growing the manager position to full-time to add more opportunities and services for residents. So far the launch of the program has been a great success and residents have been very eager to learn about the new equipment and program. NIFS is excited to expand the possibilities for Peabody residents and grow with the community.

Sandhill Cove: 40 Hour-per-Week Wellness Director

Sandhill Cove is a CCRC in Palm City, Florida. The community has a fitness center, pool, and contracted group fitness and personal training services. NIFS visited the community for a consulting arrangement in the fall of 2012 and provided a variety of recommendations to unify their program offerings in creating a stronger wellness brand. Following those recommendations, community leadership felt that NIFS could best lead this movement for the community and began staffing services with a full-time NIFS Waterfront Wellness Director.

The community had strong elements of a wellness program in place for its residents. The Wellness Director will be leading the initiative at the community and helping to pull in the various programs, services, and personnel under a unified vision for the program. In addition, the Wellness Director will be providing NIFS’s traditional best-in-class fitness programming and management services.

NIFS launched at the community in early April and we are thrilled with the progress made with increasing resident awareness of new and existing services available at the community and with the turnout at the Waterfront Wellness Open House. Residents received a passport to guide them on a tour of different booths. The booths highlighted different programs and service offerings around the community and educated participants on the different dimensions of wellness. Eighty-nine percent of residents who participated in the event submitted a completed passport indicating that they visited every booth. This was a great first step in helping residents identify the various programs and service offerings available at Sandhill Cove under the Waterfront Wellness Program.

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Topics: NIFS senior center solutions senior fitness management CCRC fitness center senior fitness