Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Struggling with Occupancy at Your Senior Living Community?

If you quietly answered yes to that question and then pulled your office door shut so no one would know you were reading this blog, it’s okay. Take a deep breath. You’re not the only one who has struggled with occupancy at one time or another.

Kudos to you for looking at alternative means to boost your occupancy. It’s true: wellness programming hasn’t been a traditional area for tackling occupancy issues. But as more and more communities get on board with providing a healthy lifestyle for their residents, a creative and well-executed resident wellness strategy will become essential for communities to compete in the marketplace.

That may be the future, but I don’t think it’s too far off. And positioning your community now with a standout fitness and wellness program for your residents will only build your competitive advantage.

If you’re looking for some baby steps to take to get you started, consider reviewing the National Whole-Person Wellness Survey available from Mather LifeWays for $15. The report is extensive and details various trends in community wellness, covering multiple dimensions as well as details about program participation and anticipated future trends in community wellness.

You can also register for the NIFS Build Vitality webinar series. In this free four-part webinar series, we cover wellness branding, fitness centers, wellness staffing, and wellness programs.

If this all seems like too much to bite off for now, watch the short video below to hear why senior living marketing professionals are convinced robust wellness programming is central to their occupancy success.

Topics: active aging nifs fitness management NIFS senior center solutions senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center occupancy

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

The Secrets of a Successful Senior Living Wellness Brand

We see it all the time – fantastic retirement communities with diverse and enriching wellness programming for their residents, but lacking a unified banner to pull it all together.  Instead, the programming is a little bit hodge-podge and lacking in a strategic focus.  And senior living wellness professionals, because their busy and pulled in 100 different directions, are missing out on opportunities to capitalize on these engaging wellness activities.

What is your senior living community’s wellness strategy missing?

  • Are you able to capture stories of how your wellness services are positively impacting the lives of your residents?
  • Is your marketing and sales staff able to effectively articulate what it means to live vibrantly in your community to prospects who may be reluctant to leave their homes?
  • Do you have a wellness brand that is well-executed through the community within multiple departments, through a variety of personnel?

 If you didn’t answer a resounding YES to all three of those questions, then check out some of the key strategies below that we offer our clients who are working on building a better wellness brand.

  • Begin with the end in mind:  When you’re just getting started considering the brand you want to develop for wellness at your senior living setting, it is sometimes helpful to think about the end point.  Consider what you want to communicate and how that should look.  Once you are able to define that end-picture, you can start working backwards on what needs to be developed, designed, created, and transformed.
  • Identify and leverage existing successesThink about what is a huge success at your community?  What do your residents buzz about over and over again?  What kinds of events, programs, or services get the greatest participation?  Those offerings may provide you with a jumping off point for considering your wellness brand.  Giving thought to the stakeholders in your community who need to be at the table for these discussions also is part of this consideration.
  • Use the wellness dimension model to look for programming holes:  Start by writing down all the dimensions (physical, emotional, social, environmental, intellectual, vocational, spiritual) and list out all the programs you’ve run in the last six to 12 months.  Then put the programs into the wellness dimension buckets where they belong. (Most initiatives will fall into more than one dimension.)  This simple mapping technique should help you identify where you may have some gaps in services.  It should also show you low-hanging fruit opportunities for early success in your branding efforts.

To learn about two more strategies as well as some tactics for executing on your wellness brand, view our “Build a Better Wellness Brand” webinar using the button below.  If you want to cut to the chase and access all four of our Build Vitality webinars, click here.

Watch the Brand Webinar

Topics: active aging senior center solutions senior wellness programs CCRC fitness center wellness brand for senior living

Top 5 Reasons Your Residents Don’t Engage in Wellness

In my work with continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) across the U.S., I’ve seen resident wellness programs and services come in all shapes and sizes. These days, it seems all senior living communities advertise some kind of wellness opportunity for their residents. Clearly, communities are getting the message about how important resident well-being really is for both the resident and the business.

Resources like the National Whole Person Wellness survey that can guide and inform both strategic and tactical decisions for a community wellness initiative are becoming more commonly available. Similarly, the swell around opportunities like the International Council on Active Aging’s focus on Active Aging Week have sparked creative programming for older adults to engage in vibrant living.

For all of the fantastic diversity in wellness programming, resources, and opportunities available in senior living settings, there seems to be a consistent theme for many providers. They pull together initiatives only to have the same core group of residents participate. Simply put, there is a lack of robust resident engagement in the programs put forward by resident life coordinators.

It’s not an all-inclusive list, but what I’ve offered below represents some of the most common challenges I have seen in communities where NIFS provides staffing services or where I’ve offered wellness program consulting. If you find yourself nodding your head in affirmation as you read, it might be time to take a fresh look at what you’re offering and how you’re providing it.

Reason 1: You failed to leverage community champions as a promotional avenue.

Trying a new group fitness class, sampling from a new healthy menu, or participating in a new wellness initiative can be daunting if you’ve never done it before. There’s nothing like a personal invitation from a neighbor or trusted friend to help nudge you toward trying something new.

If you’re not working with your top resident participants to capitalize on their success as a tool for inviting new residents to engage, you’re missing out. Personal invitation, testimonials, and other individual connection can be very successful tools for attracting other, less active residents toward wellness programming.

  • Capture testimonials in resident newsletters and on community bulletin boards/CCTV.
  • Talk to specific residents prior to launching a new initiative and ask them to invite their friends to join them. Tell them why you think their personal invitation is so important. Perhaps suggest specific residents they could connect with for the activity.
  • Build a “refer a friend” component into your next activity challenge.

Reason 2: Power grabs and silos are overshadowing what’s really possible at your community.

Oh my goodness and for the love of Mike, please stop with the power grabs when it comes to activity programming in the community. No one wins when the activity director, the physical therapy group, and the fitness manager are vying for control of programs, spaces, and resident loyalty.

When community staff learn to play well together in the same programs and services sandbox, the community will benefit.

  • Activities staff should be eager to learn from their fitness director how to fold more exercise and other healthy messages into their standard programming. For what it’s worth, if you’ve done your homework and gotten the right person to direct your fitness center, then he or she is likely also qualified to provide expertise related to whole-person wellness.
  • The fitness director and the therapy department should be eagerly working together on a cross-referral program that supports appropriate therapy for residents in need and fitness program participation to maintain the positive work completed in therapy.

Reason 3: You forgot to ask the residents what they want to learn about and how they want to grow.

Communities are practiced at surveying residents, but those surveys typically encompass overall living at the community. Rarely are communities engaged in surveying residents about what their wellness interests and expectations are. Even rarer are custom focus groups where much can be learned about resident perspectives on current and future healthful-living offerings.

Reason 4: Volunteerism by residents is overlooked as a strategy to get more done with less staff.

Let’s face it : community financial resources are typically limited, and no one wants to charge residents more to expand services. So, you’re probably stuck with the staff resources you currently have. If that’s the case, consider tapping into occupational wellness by engaging resident volunteers to own some of the community wellness initiatives.

  • Walking groups, small-group Bible study, craft or hobby groups, and promotion and health-focused book clubs can all be resident driven.
  • You may be able to engage tech-savvy residents to support program data collection and analysis. Who could help you convert the manual attendance records into your software or spreadsheet for later analysis?

Reason 5: Data is king. If you don’t have data, you won’t know what’s working.

If I had a nickel for every time I talked to community professionals who told me they weren’t tracking attendance in their programs, I’d be set for early retirement. Folks, you need to start gathering data on your initiatives. It doesn’t have to be hard and the numbers don’t have to be confusing. But if you keep burying your head in the sand on numbers because you’re “not good with numbers,” you will forever be left with initiatives that are about as effective as slapping spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks.

  • Start small with participation numbers. Take attendance in your group fitness classes to learn which residents are coming and how often. Have residents self-report participation in the next healthy food tasting event, etc.
  • Refer to #4 for some support on how to use participation numbers to track trends over time.
  • Work with your marketing staff to find out what kinds of numbers they need to market your community’s wellness program, and then determine how to capture that data for them.

 What will you do next?

I’m not a fan of change for the sake of change alone. Still, sometimes change (or evolution, if you will) is necessary to elevate your offerings for the good of your community.

If you’re looking for a little help in evolving your community wellness strategy, visit our consulting page. If you busted right through the challenges above for top-notch service, share your best practices here!

 

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

Topics: senior center solutions senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center engagement senior fitness

Top 3 reasons to outsource fitness center management

Emily works with member.jpgOf course, it’s horribly self-serving for us to say that staffing your onsite fitness center and wellness initiatives isn’t a DIY (do it yourself) project.  We’re not above shameless self-promotion, but the truth is, the consequences of making fitness center management a DIY initiative can be costly.  Read on to learn NIFS top three reasons to outsource fitness center management of your retirement community or worksite fitness center. 

Reason #1: Your actual dollar cost is only part of the cost/benefit picture

If you’re reading this thinking, “Outsourcing is expensive – way more expensive than hiring my own personnel”, you’re right.  Of course, costs come in two types: direct and indirect.  So don’t stunt your thinking about this by looking only at the invoice from the outsourcing partner against your compensation profile for your own employee.

Reason #2: Outsourcing fitness center management provides expertise you can't build on your own

We would never lean toward such exaggerations as to say that health promotion, fitness, wellness (insert your favorite name for it here) is akin to rocket science.  It’s not hard, like organic chemistry hard.  But it’s challenging in that call center, customer service kind of way.  Let’s face it, anyone one who works in customer service knows that the hardest, and most rewarding, part of their job is working with the customer.  NIFS staff are in that same customer service spot.

To that end, there is a benefit to having a pool of like-minded peers who are doing the same type of work, sharing in successes, problem-solving through challenges, and brainstorming new ideas together.  When you hire an outsourcing organization to provide your staffing, they have that built in peer support.  When you hire your own wellness professional – they’re essentially on their own to build a peer network of support.

In NIFS case, the support network extends well beyond peer support.  Our staff-built intranet provides program creation ideas, internal form links, peer-to-peer continuing education and more.  All of these staff resources are a benefit to our clients. When they hire NIFS, they not only get their own manager, they get indirect access to our other 70+ like-minded professional peers.


Reason #3: Outsourced partners are experts in fitness so that you don't have to be.

Risk management related to both the physical spaces and the programming connected to those spaces is an important consideration for our clients.  They don’t lose sleep over their liability exposure in our programs though.  Maybe that’s because we’ve been managing corporate and CCRC fitness centers and wellness programs for more than 20 years.  Maybe it’s because all of our staff -- administrators, managers, and specialists – are all fitness and wellness experts.  We know the industry standards for waiver language, pre-activity screening, industry-appropriate certifications, subcontractor liability management, etc.  Speaking of which, when was the last time you checked the status of the liability insurance for your contracted group fitness instructors?

For more on assessing liability in a corporate fitness program, download our white paper here.

To read about managing liability in a retirement community fitness center, download this white paper.

If you’re the “I’ll fix my own brakes” or, “I’ll build my own home addition” type, then you’re more adventurous then I and perhaps you should hire your own wellness professional.  If you’re looking for an outsourcing solution that is more trustworthy and reliable than your mechanic, and less expensive than your home addition, consider checking NIFS out. 

Read our case studies (Sagewood | Marquette | NextGear) to see how we’ve provided scalable and cutting edge solutions for our clients.

Is outsourcing fitness and wellness right for you?

Topics: corporate fitness program corporate fitness Wellness in the Workplace employee wellness senior center solutions corporate fitness centers senior fitness fitness success Fitness Center

Functional Capacity in Corporate Fitness Programs, Senior Fitness

Increasing functional capacity through exerciseIn my last post, I explained that functional capacity is exercising in a way that improves the ability to perform activities of daily living. In this post I look at how this concept is being used in senior fitness classes and corporate fitness programs--in place of more traditional but less efficient training.

Senior Fitness Management Now Emphasizing Functional Training

One arena that has begun to understand this dilemma and has sought to eliminate it is senior fitness management. Some of the problems affecting older adults are poor balance, loss of strength, and a decrease in flexibility. As a fitness professional who frequently teaches senior fitness classes at retirement home fitness centers, I’ve noticed a trend in moving away from the typical chair exercise class, which was the norm years ago, to more functional training (training the body in the way in which it typically works).

Entire classes are now designed with the goal of improving balance. Many movements designed to improve strength are now done out of a chair and on the feet because this is how we typically function in everyday life. Along with this, retirement community fitness center management heavily pursues improving residents' flexibility. Since balance, strength while on the feet, and flexibility are all major needs of older adults, fitness professionals have made a move to more directly train in ways that improve these aspects specifically. This move is a perfect example of training to improve functional capacity.

Improving Employee Health Through Functional Training

Functional capacity can also be a synonym for aerobic health or power. Aerobic health or functional capacity is often the main measure used to determine one’s overall health. Numerous diseases that afflict many Americans today can be prevented or even reversed through improving aerobic health.

Many businesses have caught on to this and are pushing to improve their employees' physical health through exercise. This leads to less employee absenteeism, less fatigue on the job, and more productive employees. Since a company’s employees are one of its most valuable assets, many organizations have developed corporate wellness programs to help protect this asset. Because this can improve an employer’s bottom line, many companies are going one step further and building corporate fitness centers for their employees to utilize.

Through group fitness classes at these centers, personal training with staff, or even simply working out on their own, employees are improving the strength and endurance needed for their job as well as their aerobic health, leading to a lower risk of disease and less time lost from work. It is easy to see how this increase in functional capacity benefits both the employee and the employer over the long haul, despite the initial cost of building such centers.

Next: How everyday people can adjust their workouts to improve functional capacity.

Topics: exercise at work employee health healthy workforce muscle toning senior center solutions productivity improve absenteeism

Functional Capacity: Should You Add It To Your Exercise Program?

When most people begin an exercise routine, the primary goal is often weight loss. Getting rid of excess weight can benefit the body in numerous ways. Another goal that can benefit the body as well but is often overlooked is improving functional capacity. functional capacity and exercise

Working out to improve functional capacity, put simply, is when one strives to exercise in a way that will improve their ability to perform their activities of daily living. These activities of daily living vary from person to person and from age group to age group, but the goal is the same: To work out in the most efficient way so that the results transfer directly to how you live your life. As fitness evolves, this goal is becoming more and more commonplace, especially in retirement home fitness centers and corporate health and wellness.

Why Traditional Workouts Can Be Ineffective

While playing basketball during my free time in college, I learned the hard way that what may appear to be an effective workout may not necessarily be so. I had no problem running three or four miles at a time on a treadmill and thought that would help improve my on-court stamina. Once I began to better understand exercise science, though, I soon realized that even though I ran around the same mileage in a game, it was a very different demand in-game than what I was training for on a treadmill.

This same problem I ran into years ago can still be seen at any gym across America at any time. We often train our bodies in a way in which they don’t function in real life, simply because we haven’t questioned “common practice.” And as a result, our bodies aren’t functioning at their highest capacity.

Next: How corporate fitness programs and senior fitness management are using functional capacity training.

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program worksite wellness muscle toning senior center solutions

Corporate Fitness Programs: Improving Functional Capacity Every Day

Functional capacity and your jobIn previous posts, I have talked about functional capacity and how corporate fitness programs and senior fitness classes are using this concept to improve workouts and make them more beneficial to everyday life.

But what about the average person? How can they improve their functional capacity? Should they even seek to? Everyone, whether young or simply young at heart, can and should strive to improve their functional capacity.

Start By Evaluating Your Own Life.

What types of movements do you typically utilize? What does your day consist of? From here, seek out someone who can help you design an exercise program to help you improve directly on the movements and muscles you most frequently use in your day:

  • If you are on your feet a lot and on the move, starting a running or walking program can help improve your endurance, making your job that much easier.
  • If you are glued to a chair the majority of your day, you may find it beneficial to work on the strength of the muscles in your upper back, neck, and shoulders to ward off any pain and changes in posture that may be lingering.
  • If you are a recreational athlete, utilizing a program that will help you improve in a way that directly benefits your sport skills can be an exciting challenge. Fitness has evolved, and gone are the days of sitting down and doing bicep curls and triceps kickbacks every workout.

Join the movement and strive to get on your feet more, move, and train your body in the way in which it works every day. The improvements you’ll experience in both your health and your performance in everyday activities will be well worth it.

Topics: exercise at work employee health corporate fitness program muscle toning exercise at home senior center solutions productivity