Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Exercise Through the Continuums: Determine what you could be doing?

ThinkstockPhotos-116356163.jpgActivities Directors in assisted living and memory care environments are busy.  They have a lot of balls in the air, not the least of which is some type of movement-based programming for their residents.  Unfortunately, that specific element of their enrichment programming often takes a back seat to other priorities.

In a previous blog, I offered questions for leadership in assisted living and memory care environments to help them give new attention to what fitness options might be missing for their residents in assisted living and memory care environments.  As we carry those questions forward and consider how to provide more comprehensive exercise classes and services, it’s easy halt progress because you’re overwhelmed by limits.  After all, resources, like staffing, are often in short supply; and when you don’t have the people to pull off an excellent program, it becomes daunting to even consider a change. 

At our upcoming workshop for senior living activity directors on March 7, 2017, we’ll discuss opportunities to piece existing resources together to enhance the health and fitness program for your IL, AL, SNF, and memory-care residents.  Below you’ll find some tips to help you get started with exercise through the continuums.

3 Resources at your Fingertips: People, People, & People

  1. Passionate & Creative Activities Professionals: we often find that the activities staff are those responsible for providing daily exercise classes for residents. They are also those who are incredibly dedicated to finding enriching experiences and programming opportunities for their residents. We have found success with Train-the-Trainer programs where the NIFS fitness staff on campus provide tools and resources to activities personnel to create more variety and tailored offerings to residents.
  2. Qualified Fitness Staff: Many CCRC’s have group fitness instructors, personal trainers, or exercise physiologists supporting the health and fitness program for independent living (IL) residents on campus but they are limited in reach through the continuums of care. IL is where many residents begin to adopt a physically active lifestyle. With proper planning and strong communication, the existing fitness staff can bridge programming and resources to other continuums of care on campus.
  3. Supportive Clinical Staff: In communities without an IL component or where no regular fitness staff are present, therapy and nursing staff can play a more central role in supporting the day to day physical activity needs of residents. This can be key in residents maintaining the positive outcomes they gain as part of a spell in direct therapy services.

The passionate, caring, and dedicated staff in your senior living community might be your best untapped or underutilized resource in further serving the health and fitness needs of residents through any continuum of care. The great thing about these individuals I highlighted above is they likely already know many if not all of your residents, where individuals have struggled or what motivates them.  The March 7 workshop hosted at NIFS will provide more details and action steps on how to bring a team oriented approach to supporting the health and fitness needs for you residents. With various hands and skillsets in the mix, you can support your residents in a whole new way. Stay tuned for part 3 of this blog series on additional resources to explore in enhancing your fitness offerings.

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Topics: senior living communities senior fitness Exercise through the contnuums NIFS Workshop

Spice Up Group Fitness Routines for Seniors, Keep Residents Interested

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

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

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

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

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

Mixing Up the Exercises in Your Routines

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

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

Incorporate Music into Your Classes

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

Interactive Exercises

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

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

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

Senior Living Activities: Changing the Name or Changing the Notion

I read a blog recently on the Eden Alternative website about the power of language, in which the author quoted Alan A. Watts: “the menu is not the meal.” She was outlining her thoughts about words like “elder,” and “care partner,” and “home”—an important discussion! But the blog also got me thinking (as a good blog should) about lifestyle programming in communities. 

What If the Activities Director Was Called Something Else?

In the last five years, the senior living industry has started to make a title shift away from Activities Director and toward alternatives like Lifestyle Director, Life Enrichment Director, and Program and Events Director. Yet, this subtle shift in position naming, though necessary, is insufficient to make a true paradigm shift in how we support the elders who choose to reside in a senior living community. Changing the name is not the same as changing the notion.

I think the senior living industry as a whole is feeling a nudge (maybe it’s a push) toward doing better for our clientele. Consider the CCRC NameStorm from LeadingAge. The goal was to build a new potential name for Continuing Care Retirement Communities that would resonate with current and future buyers for this kind of product.

The idea about changing your activities department to your life enrichment department is the same: build something that resonates with your market. Still, as the Alan A. Watts quote hits home perfectly, simply changing the name is not enough. You can’t just create new name badges, update the job title on the position descriptions, order new business cards, and call it done. It’s not enough to simply change the name; we have to also (or at least) change the notion, the idea, of what activities can become in senior living. 

In fact, I would posit that you could actually keep the “activities department” if the staff are genuinely focused on building a better lifestyle for each resident. If they understand the personal passions, interests, desires, limitations, and fears of the members and provided “activities” that truly engaged those desires, the name “activities department” works just fine. 

But if your life enrichment department is still focused on filling the calendar to simply entertain residents, they are functioning the same way they were when you called them “Activities.” When they’re taking orders from a vocal minority of residents to drive largely homogeneous activities each month, they’re doing what they’ve always done, regardless of the name change.

Three Ways to Turn Activities into Life Enrichment

senior_group_ThinkstockPhotos-528133531

So how do we start to make that shift, away from the same old filling-the-calendar senior living activities to facilitating life-enriching opportunities that allow the residents to live the lives they want to live? Here are three ways to start looking beneath the surface of your calendar to cultivate meaningful experiences for your participants.

  1. Get to know your customer. How well do you really know the members of your community? Sure, you know names, and there are “regulars” you know better than most. But how well do you know where they came from and what makes them tick? Can you get information from the sales staff discovery process to start building a profile on each member? What questions do you need answered about each resident that could be folded into the discovery process so that newly moved-in members don’t feel like they’re being poked and prodded to provide you with answers? How can you use the intel you get to start building experiences for each resident?
  2. Get creative with your budget. Budgets are what they are, and changing the name of your department isn’t going to suddenly give you unlimited funds. Yet, if you’re listening to your residents, and understanding how they want to live your in community, you may find that helping them accomplish just that does not require additional FTEs or operating funds. Sometimes pairing folks with common interests can allow an organic opportunity to form without costing the community a thing. For example, suppose, through discovery, you learn that you have four residents who love to play chess and who are passionate about teaching others to play. Once you connect those four members and help them determine times to establish a “club,” or ways to connect with a local after-school program to teach the game they love, you’re on your way to fulfilling a social, intellectual, and vocational pursuit for your members. 
  3. Get familiar with the numbers. If you’re in the business of filling calendars, there’s no reason to gather data. You can see from the calendar that it’s full. But if you are focused on building purposeful programming that allows participants to live more full lives, I suggest you start to get a handle on whether your efforts are making an impact. For example, many of your residents may still be working. How does your 10am group fitness class resonate for them? Does it fit their schedules? I’ve heard a lot of directors say that no one will do activities (except the theatre or related events) after 4pm, so they don’t program anything after 4pm. Do you know that because of what happened historically, or do you know that because you know your members and you know the data?

I’ll be speaking at the 2015 LeadingAge Annual Meeting on this very idea of data from activities programming. If you’re reaching for a way to do better for the members you serve, consider putting my session on your schedule.

Topics: CCRC senior wellness programs data collection senior living communities program planning activities enrichment

Senior Living: Fitness Center Design for Current and Future Residents

father_daughterSeveral months ago, my parents were prospects in the market to relocate to a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) from their 4.5-acre home of almost 20 years. There were a variety of reasons for them making this move consideration, but age and ill health weren’t on that list. 

My parents (at the time of writing) are both 72 years old and in quite good health. My mom walks up to an hour with friends most days of the week; she’s done that for as long as I can remember. My dad is an avid exerciser and he’s the reason I’m a runner today. He gets significant cardiovascular exercise for more than an hour four to five days per week, along with rigorous strength training at least three days per week in his home gym. They are both very active in their community and in the extensive gardens and rich woods on their property.

They aren’t frail, and they don’t fit into the more typical average age of 80+ in most CCRCs. 

Checking Out a Community with My Parents

So when they started shopping and had narrowed down their list to a primary community that held their interest, they asked my family to join them for a tour. We walked through the community center building and got a great look into the typical areas including the bistro, the formal dining room, the library, the craft areas, and the fitness areas. 

After we left the community, and 100% without my prompting, my dad asked me why their fitness center had “all of that strength equipment for old people” in it. Those were his words, not mine. This comes from a man who has never belonged to a gym, who has exercised in his basement with modest equipment for decades, and who doesn’t bear an ounce of pretension. Yet he very quickly identified the “old people” equipment in his community’s fitness center.

Senior living community operators are in a tight spot when they try to cater to current residents but build space, programming, and services that they hope will appeal to future residents. The fitness center tour and post-tour discussion with my dad is no exception, and it’s exactly the reason that any operator engaging in a fitness center build—whether as part of brand new construction or as a positioning project—needs to thoughtfully and carefully establish their fitness center layout.

Design of the space and the equipment you select matters. Both elements can profoundly impact the residents’ experience in the space. And when your community is continually battling someday syndrome as a barrier to getting prospects to make the move, how you outfit the fitness center can also be a factor.

CCRC Fitness Center Equipment and Design Considerations

Here are a few things to think about with respect to senior living fitness center design and equipment that engages current residents and attracts future prospects: 

  • Create your group fitness studio and your fitness center as distinctly separate spaces. We see a lot of first-draft designs come with an accordion or partition wall between the two rooms. There is no actual utility for that design; and in fact, it may limit how both rooms can be used. 
  • Build size for the future. If your community is poised for a phase two or three that adds residential units and creates more potential fitness center members, build the initial fitness spaces for growth. 
  • Lay out the equipment with accessibility in mind. Put the equipment most likely to be used by your most frail residents nearest to your main entrance so that it is easy to access. 
  • Create clear sight lines for the fitness management staff. Design the spaces so that staff will have the greatest visibility possible for all areas. Part of the reason for having staff managing your fitness program is for participant safety. It’s tough to keep people safe when you can’t see them exercising.
  • Choose equipment that is built with an older adult in mind, but that doesn’t scream “old.” While there is currently a gap in the marketplace for a complete line of strength and cardio equipment well suited for this audience, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy beautiful and functional equipment that will work well both now and in the future. Contact me to get an operator’s perspective on the equipment that’s available

No doubt you have a lot to consider with a fitness center design project. If you’re a visual learner like me, you might get some inspiration from looking at a few of the projects we’ve been privileged to support.

Click on the button below to download a sample of our work!

Fitness Center Design

Topics: CCRC senior fitness management CCRC fitness center senior living communities fitness center for seniors nifs fitness center management

How NIFS Staff Spend Their Time In Senior Living Fitness Centers

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We are often asked by prospective senior living clients how NIFS staff spend their time in senior living fitness centers mangaging the fitness program. Using our monthly report data and through some Q&A with our staff, we pulled together the data below. The information is based on several client settings where we provide one full-time employee to manage the client’s fitness program.

IL Occupancy

# of Group Fitness Classes/Week

Hrs of Group Fitness Class Instruction/Week

Exercise Prescriptions/Month

Senior Fitness Test/Month

Other Appts/Month 

328

13

7.5

64

2

87

158

8

4

8

3

62

307

10

5

5

50

39

268

17

10.5

17

4

39

493

8

5.5

11

5

71

265

5

4

58

0

41

260

8

6

9

23

87

238

5

2.5

54

2

14

Average

9.25

5.5hrs

28

11

55

The following points of clarification provide more information about this data:

This data set does not include the one to two additional classes per week that many of our staff are teaching in AL/health center environments. That could easily represent an additional one to two hours each week excluded from the time outline above.

We don’t typically recommend classes that are longer than 45 minutes for this audience, both from an endurance standpoint (for some) and from the perspective that the lifestyle calendar is typically really full and we don’t need to take up more time than necessary when members have many other things to be doing. We want exercise to be as attractive and as easy to fit in as possible, and it’s quite appropriate to expect a solid, effective workout from a 30-minute class.  

At most of these locations, there is at least one outside instructor teaching a specialty format class like Zumba Gold, tai chi, etc. These above figures represent what our staff teach as part of their 40-hour work week.  

Here’s how the math breaks down on hours per week for all of the services above for NIFS fitness management (as averages):

  • 5.5 hours per week teaching.
  • 28 exercise prescriptions per month = 7 per week at 90 minutes per appointment = 10.5 hours per week.
  • 11 fitness tests per month = 2.75 per week at 60 minutes per appointment = 2.75 hours per week.
  • 55 other appointments per month (orientations, blood pressure checks, etc.) = 14 per week at 15 minutes per appointment = 3.5 hours per week.
  • Roughly 20 to 25 hours per week spent directly providing these kinds of services, allowing another 15 to 20 hours per week for program development, recreational activities like Wii Bowling, coordination/collaboration with other departments, meetings, and reporting or other administrative tasks.

How does this compare to what your fitness staff is doing? Maybe your senior fitness program could use a boost in productivity to draw in more residents. 

If you’re in that place where you’re trying to decide whether it’s beneficial to staff your fitness program with a full-time employee, consider watching our staffing webinar by clicking below. 

10 Benefits to Adding Quality Staff Webinar

 

Topics: senior living communities productivity senior living fitness center nifs fitness managment CCRC Programs and Services

75 year old resident with Parkinson's steps up to the challenge

This is the story of a man, who by all accounts, has received a challenging diagnosis, and who, by any standards, could have slowed down years ago.  But he hasn't, and instead, he's overcoming his health challenges to help patients at Lurie's Children's hospital through the Aon Step Up For Kids fundraiser.

Larry Pirovano, a resident at The Clare, in downtown Chicago has been working with his NIFS personal trainer, Zach DeCoster to accomplish the stair climb challenge that required more than 1,600 steps.  We've got his amazing stats below as well as a video from a local NBC affilate who profiled his inspiring story.

  • On January 25, 2015, Larry and Zach climbed 80 flights of stairs in the Aon Center in 50 minutes and 15 seconds.  
  • Larry placed 2nd in his age bracket.
  • He raise the most money of all individual participants and was 16th in total fundraising including all teams and individuals.

 stepping_up

Topics: active aging senior living communities personal trainers

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

Active Aging: What if your activities director stopped being an order taker

timeoutIt’s busy at your community; sometimes it’s so busy that residents complain they have a hard time choosing what program to attend.  Inevitably, the calendar is so full they have to miss events they love in order to attend something else. And your activities director is at the heart of that bustling calendar. 

She’s responding to her monthly resident committee, and she’s fielding one-off requests from residents who stop by her office or who catch her in the hall.  She’s also responding to phone calls from community groups or individuals who are interested in performing for or working with the residents. 

Oh, and don’t forget the opportunities offered by other areas of the community.  The therapy group has a monthly educational presentation they want to do.  The fitness manager runs a host of exercise classes each week and wants to draw residents into his quarterly competitions.  The dietician and chef want to host a bi-monthly cooking demonstration, and the social worker wants to bring in experts from the community as resources for the residents. 

Your activities director performs a delicate balancing act every month taking “orders” (requests) from residents and the community; all while, she’s balancing existing and long-standing calendar events.  (Do not mess with the card player’s schedule!)  The programming is delicately placed on the calendar and carefully scheduled with typically limited space inside the community and tightly booked transportation to areas outside of the community. 

If this sounds like your community, then you can agree that it is indeed busy. 

And yet, busy doesn’t build purpose. 

Residents in your community aren’t looking solely to be entertained.  They’re looking for purposeful living in a setting where some of the barriers that used to get in the way, like home maintenance, have been removed.  They’re looking for opportunities to contribute, and to grow, and to connect in new and challenging ways. 

What if your activities director stopped being an order taker?  What if she stopped using the meeting minutes from her monthly committee minute as a to do list and started thinking strategically about how to engage a variety of stakeholders in the planning process for resident events and activities?

You see, right now, the activities director is functioning much like the wait staff in your dining venues.  She’s greeting a table (resident committee), introducing herself (new residents), and asking residents what they want to do.  She’s taking their orders, and fulfilling the requests (as best she can).  And in fact, there’s nothing wrong with that model.  It’s what happens in most communities on a regular basis.  In most cases, residents are quite happy with their program/event options.

So, if the residents are happy, why on earth would I be talking about a different way of building lifestyle at the community? 

Because there’s more richness out there for your residents; there is more that can be done to build purposeful living.  And there are residents who don’t participate because you haven’t tapped their interest or desires yet.  (Oh, there is also marketing goodness on the table with a changed approach.)

If your activities director moved away from taking orders, could she build more intentional opportunities for residents to engage in the community lifestyle programming?  Would more of your residents be involved in the offerings because of the thoughtful approach to a variety of interests represented by your diverse audience?

To be clear, I’m not advocating you turn programming on its head. (We do not need your residents in an uproar over substantial changes to beloved activities.)  I am instead suggesting that your activities director take a fresh approach to how the calendar is organized, who is supporting events, how events are developed, and how success is measured. 

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start when you’re trying to change an approach or a process.  Our Build Vitality webinar series (which covers branding, staff, program, and fitness center design) is a good resource.  I linked a few of our blogs above for more information as well.  If you’re still not sure where to go to get started, or you’d like a more hands on approach, consider bringing us onsite for consulting to help you chart a course to build a multidimensional activities calendar that cultivates purpose for your residents.

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

Topics: active aging senior living communities

Active Aging: Breathe Life into Olympic Programming (Part 1 of 2)

seniors high fiveMany communities have regularly scheduled recreational activities on the monthly calendar such as croquet, bocce ball, or Wii that seem like fairly logical programs to spin into Olympics-themed events in senior living communities.  Still, it’s not enough to simply group these regularly occurring events together and call them your Community Olympics.  How do you set up the initiative so that it has broad appeal and allows those residents who participate in the events regularly to feel inspired and challenged alongside their novice neighbors?  This two-part blog will provide creative tips to kick your Olympics up a notch with your resident favorites as well as provide fresh new ideas for events.

Part I: Kick it up a notch

Many active aging residents, who participate in weekly recreational offerings such as shuffleboard, putting contests, are quite good. Wait, I take that back –they are really excellent! After all they are playing on a regular basis (perhaps their entire lives) and enjoying the friendly competition amongst their neighbors. As the media starts to promote the next Summer or Winter Olympics and you begin brainstorming ideas for another competition, consider how to create something that will be a truly memorable experience for your residents when they are already playing and honing their skills on a regular basis.

Get more of the community involved:

While some residents aren’t interested competing, that element of competition can breathe life into your Olympics and get more residents involved by tapping into volunteers as well as creating spectator opportunities. Create opportunities for your non-competitive residents to engage as volunteers to be scorekeepers, line judges, and coordinators for the individual events. Furthermore as you designate various venues for your events, make sure you include space for spectators and consider offering light refreshments. Market the opportunity for residentsin your senior living community to come and watch and cheer on their neighbors participating in the events. You could even host a workshop where residents can make banners or signs to bring with them and cheer on the Olympians. This can inspire not only your competing Olympian to feel the support of their neighbors, but it might also inspire a resident who is watching the event to give it a try themselves the next time around.

Make it a formal affair:

I’m not talking black ties and ball gowns, but do consider hosting a more formal approach to an Olympics by including an opening and closing ceremony as well as medals ceremonies for the different events you offer. Promote these ceremonies to the entire community and not just the Olympians. If residents are already use to regular tournaments for the recreational programs at the community, these ceremonies can help set your Olympics apart from the offering they partake in from month to month.  If you are hosting a variety of different events in your Olympics, have a parade at your Opening Ceremonies to present your Olympians in each event. If you are able to tap into resident volunteers and spectators, recognize their contributions with spirit awards at your Closing Ceremonies. 

Residents Unite!

Your residents are already competing amongst themselves on a regular basis. Why not unite your residents into a team and invite neighboring retirement communities to be your opposition for the Olympics. Plan the friendly competition well in advance so all participating communities have a chance to practice and hone their skills at the events that will be offered. While corn hole, for example, may be a big hit with your residents, it may be a new activity to residents at another community and they’ll need some time to reach Olympian status. This can motivate your residents to come together as a team and provide a fresh spin on an activity they already know and love.

Up next in part II of this blog, I’ll outline the variety of events you can consider for your Olympic Games.

Click below and subscribe to our best practice series and see how our active aging staff create great programming to engage residents!

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Topics: active aging senior living best practices active living senior living communities fitness programming

Active Aging: Lessons Learned for Teaching Classes in Memory Care

chair exercise resized 600

Just like any exercise program, there is a long list of health benefits that come with exercising. In fact, exercise not only improves physical health, but cognitive health as well. The Alzheimer’s Association widely accepts that, “Physical exercise is essential for maintaining good blood flow to the brain as well as to encourage new brain cells. It also can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, and improve oxygen consumption”. Though memory impairments affect the body’s cognitive heath, it’s important to perform cognitive and physical activities to improve brain function. The body also needs strength and endurance to perform its activities of daily senior living such as eating, dressing, and getting around your home.

With this in mind, we began offering a special class to meet the unique needs of the memory-care residents at our community. We made it our goal to incorporate exercise as a means of fall prevention and overall improvement of physical and mental health. Having taught group exercise for quite some time, I thought this would be an easy transition. I reached out to my colleagues for advice on specific exercise recommendations for older adults with memory impairments and quickly mapped out an exercise class format. Boy was I surprised when I taught the class for the first time!

The normal exercise cuing of “Lift your right leg up. That’s 1, 2, now 3….” just didn’t cut it. Some of the individuals followed, but most of the residents looked at me with confused faces. One resident even said, “You know you are a really bad dancer!”. So, over the next couple months, with much trial, error and research I developed a new class called “Moving Minds”.

The new class incorporates seated exercises that are both engaging and effective. We always begin with a short warm-up with seated marching and a game. The game is as simple as passing around a beach ball, bean bag toss, or some form of bowling. This gets the residents moving and their brain focused for the main exercises. Our main exercises include low-impact joint movement and stretching. We use equipment such as pool noodles, balloons and bouncy balls to add a little fun.  The residents love doing the exercises with the noodles and are always playful with each other.

I always encourage the residents to count with me out loud as we go through the exercises. After 10-15 minutes of our main exercises we wrap up with another game. We also engage in conversation while doing the exercises where I ask the date, day of week, and various other questions. Some are more attentive than others, but they always have something interesting to say. One of my most enjoyable residents, yells “10, big fat hen!” every time we count to 10.

Overall, the residents’ health is continuing to improve and I have noticed small gains in cognitive ability. Sometimes the residents remember my name and I can tell they are getting used to their Moving Minds routine. The Center for Brain Health states, “Physical exercise may be one of the most beneficial and cost-effective therapies widely available to everyone to elevate memory performance”.

Moving Minds may not look like a typical exercise class-in fact, I still have residents who comment on my “bad dancing” or make animal noises the entire time we exercise. However, the truth lies in their many giggles and big smiles as they leave the class. Each week I’m reminded how great it is to work with this population.

Quick Tip to Strengthen Your Community Exercise Program

Topics: active aging senior living senior living communities group fitness for seniors memory care