Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Tips for Starting an Exercise Program at an Older Age

According to an article in Psychology Today, one of the major reasons people tend to stop exercising after recently starting an exercise routine is that they do not want to experience discomfort. After reading this article, it made me wonder whether this is the reason some residents are more hesitant than others to incorporate exercise into their everyday lives. Investigating further into this, I had conversations with several residents about this. Some of them mentioned that they have the feeling they might be doing too much, too soon.

[Getting started: What Exercises Should I do?]

ThinkstockPhotos-72459386.jpgWith exercise showing benefits such as improved balance, increased total-body strength, improved cognition, and reduction of chronic illness, it is difficult to understand why people would not exercise. However, there are two reasons why I think this “too much, too soon” judgment could arise in senior fitness: 

  • Your body has not become neuromuscularly adapted to exercise and you are engaging muscle groups that are not commonly utilized in everyday life.
  • The exercise is too strenuous from overtraining, either causing strains in de-conditioned muscle groups, or potential re-injury. You can use this article from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as a guide to determine whether you are experiencing overtraining. 

Following are four tips for starting an exercise program at an older age that I provide to residents in my senior living community.  Combat that “too much, too soon” feeling, and ease into the process of adding exercise to their everyday lives without overdoing it.

Monitor How You Are Feeling

A great way of measuring this is to use an RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) Scale to measure how hard you feel your body is working. On a scale of 0–10 (with a 0 being at complete rest, and 10 being at highest possible intensity), you should exercise within a 3 or a 4 intensity (at a moderate intensity).

Recording your heart rate after exercise is also an effective measurement of exertion. If you notice after several minutes that your heart rate is not decreasing after exercise, your body is not recovering properly.

Stop exercise if you are experiencing severe bone/joint pain, or sudden pressure in your chest, neck, shoulder, or arms.

Begin Slowly and Gradually Increase Duration/Intensity

If you are new to exercise, start out by scheduling exercises at least 2–3 times per week, for 15–20-minute sessions. As you become more physically adapted to exercise, you could increase your frequency to roughly 4–5 days per week. When you reach a point where you would like to increase your resistance and/or intensity, make sure that you make no more than a 5% increase in one week.

If you have been exercising for a while, don’t hesitate to reduce your workload to re-acclimate your body to the regular routine. This might include coming to an exercise class that is seated rather than standing, or cutting back a few minutes on your daily walk.

Plan Rest Days Accordingly

If you do not give your body the opportunity to rest in between exercise sessions, it will have physiological effects on your nervous system, and potentially develop micro-trauma and overuse injuries. You could also spend your rest and recovery days doing light stretching exercises, or going for a light walk.

Be Patient

It will take at least 3–6 weeks for your body to develop neuromuscular adaptation to exercise, and to achieve long-lasting results.

If you incorporate a slow and steady approach and find that proper balance in your exercise routine, you’ll have a higher rate of success in achieving your exercise goals and avoid a setback. 

Exercise for older adults is about more than just physical fitness, grab our quickread below and read more about the importance of exercise in aging well.

  Download: Why is exercise important for seniors? >

Topics: exercise active aging senior fitness senior living community

3 Must-Have Services in Your Senior Living Community Fitness Center

4399_KF_3163-1.jpgWhile the size and shape of fitness spaces can vary dramatically from one senior living community to the next, it is very common for there to be at least some dedicated space with exercise equipment for resident use. It’s also quite common for communities to offer group exercise classes as part of the activity program. In some cases, communities also offer a personal training service.

However, that’s often where the fitness-related services for seniors stop. Below are three additional considerations that will elevate your exercise program to better serve current residents and to attract prospects who are looking for their next home.

Membership

Establishing a membership practice for your fitness center will serve a few key purposes.

  • The first is to help manage your liability tied to the community’s fitness spaces as well as to protect the seniors you serve. Fitness facility standards outlined by the American College of Sports Medicine are designed to be an industry-standard set of practices for the safe and effective management of fitness areas. Adhering to as many of their standards as is reasonable will help ensure the fitness program is successful for both your community and the residents.
  • The second is to establish a database of active participants so that staff can accurately track who is using the fitness programs and services and how often. Tracking attendance by member allows your staff to proactively reach out to residents who have historically been regular participants and who may have slowed or stopped their activity, or to those residents who have not yet joined the fitness program.

Exercise Prescriptions

Many of today’s residents haven’t engaged in regular exercise outside of their lives in your community, so it’s intimidating for them to approach a treadmill, recumbent bike, or strength equipment. Providing residents with an expert who can create an exercise program based on individual goals and limitations is a great way to help a novice exerciser start to understand how to use the equipment. Following up the exercise prescription service with regular support during each workout demonstrates a real commitment to physical wellness in your community.

Senior Fitness Testing

Getting a baseline on your residents’ fitness level is a great way to help them understand the progress they can make in the fitness center to either maintain or improve their physical well-being. The senior fitness test provides those results and feeds well into the exercise prescription service outlined above. There is inexpensive software (and a manual) that can be used to administer the testing and provide the participant with results. The equipment for each test is also relatively inexpensive and includes items like cones, a step bench, and a timer, among other equipment.

In addition to residents benefitting from their individual results, the community can use aggregate fitness testing data to determine strengths and weaknesses within the fitness program so that classes and other programs appropriately target residents’ fitness needs.

What’s Next?

To be fair, the membership piece could be managed by a lifestyle director. But the exercise prescription and fitness assessment pieces need to be managed by a trained exercise professional who understands the ins and outs of prescribing exercise for older adults. Read about how to hire a qualified fitness professional for your community, or consider working with us because NIFS managers provide these key services as part of our standard senior living fitness programming. Or, click the button below if you’re looking for more ideas about what you should expect from a robust fitness program.

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Topics: NIFS senior fitness management senior living community senior living fitness center group fitness for seniors personal trainng exercise prescriptions

LeadingAge Expo: Creating Successful Senior Living Exercise Programs

At the end of October, we'll be setting up shop at the LeadingAge Expo in Indianapolis where we'll be working with senior living community leaders to help them understand how they can start to build more thriving, active and vibrant senior exercise programs.  

img_2727.jpgCreating successful senior living exercise programs should be complicated, but I've seen so many communities struggle to create anything beyond their typical group fitness classes and hosting some personal training in their fitness space.  At our booth, we'll be showcasing these opportunities for senior living community professionals:

  • Our fabulous fitness staff will demonstrate fun group fitness toys, like the resistance chair, that they put to regular use in the communities we serve.  Attendees can watch them work, or boldly give each piece a try themselves.
  • We'll have information on how NIFS supports community construction projects with fitness center design and equipment expertise.
  • Data from NIFS programs will be on display and attendees can learn how to get their own exercise program outcomes that make the job of community marketing and sales staff easier.

We are also launching our brand new workshop at the Expo.  "Exercise Through the Continuums" is a one-day workshop geared for Activity Directors who are interested in improving exercise options for residents in Assisted Living and Memory Care settings. Access our "save the date" page here to find out more.

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NIFS is committed to helping senior living communities turn their fitness program from vacant to vibrant and we'll have plenty of information and resources at our LeadingAge Expo booth (#1025) to help you do just that. If you're not attending the LeadingAge Annual Meeting and Expo, or you can't wait until the end of the month, click here to find out more.

Download our Ebook on how you can take your community fitness center from vacant to vibrant, click below.

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Topics: active aging senior living community senior fitnes senior lliving

Residents Expect More from Senior Living Community Exercise Programs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review Your Wellness Programs as Well as Fitness

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

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

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

Prevent Falls in Your Community with a Strong Balance Training Program

All too often, older adults don’t realize their balance is not what it used to be until after they experience a fall. Unfortunately, falls are dangerous; many of them result in significant injury in the short run. Lasting fear of falling can also negatively impact an individual’s quality of life in the long run. Because falls can be prevented wmoving_seniors-1.jpgith a proactive approach to balance training, we have embarked on a comprehensive fall-prevention model.

While rehabilitation might be a good starting point for residents with severe balance impairments, our fitness center managers take several steps to play an active role in providing balance training long before residents experience a decline in quality of life. 

Transitions with Therapy

A referral service can work two ways. For example, when a resident graduates from therapy services, NIFS fitness staff ensure they are continuing with their balance exercises in the fitness center. This helps residents remain independent while enjoying the lasting effects of their achievements from working with physical therapy. Similarly, when our staff members identify a resident who could benefit from working with therapy, they refer that resident to therapy services on campus to create a seamless transition of care. Read this blog to find out more about how our staff supports a positive fitness center–therapy relationship.

Individual Services in the Fitness Center

Residents with less-significant balance issues benefit from working with our staff to receive an individual exercise program that addresses their unique balance needs. In addition, our staff provides assessments of the residents’ balance abilities, which can be used to more appropriately prescribe exercises and to demonstrate noted improvements over time.

Group Fitness Classes

Most communities offer a group exercise program, but many schedules still lack classes that are dedicated to balance training. While many class formats incorporate balance training, we believe it is essential to offer dedicated balance classes to meet residents’ needs.

Unique Programming

Sometimes individual services in the fitness center get buried among all the activity opportunities at a community, and the group fitness classes as a recurrent series of events don’t always command a fresh look from your residents. That’s why we believe that specialty programming is a significant element in a comprehensive fall-prevention strategy for your senior living community. NIFS Balance Challenge is a great example of such programming.

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The need for effective balance training opportunities for older adults will continue to rise as the large baby boomer population enters retirement. Current residents and prospective residents will appreciate this comprehensive approach in addressing balance issues through therapy services as well as through robust programming options in the fitness center.

Want to find out more about how we provide our clients with well-rounded fall prevention/balance-training programming?

Click below to download our whitepaper.

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Topics: physical therapy balance senior fitness senior living community fall prevention group fitness quality of life

Does This Count as Exercise? A Senior Fitness Challenge

Recently we were challenged at our senior community to increase our exercise and record it to send to our corporate office, in hopes of raising awareness of how important exercise is for those who have Alzheimer’s and those hoping to prevent it through senior fitness.

An Exercise Challenge for Alzheimer’s Awareness

The Goal: Each community needed to accumulate around 1,500 hours of exercise in 60 days, which would translate to 100,000 total hours from all communities.

The Prize: The corporate office would donate $10,000 to the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter.

The great thing about this challenge is that we already have many group exercise opportunities where hours are easily accumulated, as well as a fitness center that members can utilize. But we wanted to amp up the amount of exercise residents were doing because, after all, it is a challenge to exercise more to bring awareness.  

While explaining this challenge to the residents and fielding questions the following weeks, I found that many residents and members did not know what was considered exercise. I was getting questions left and right, “Is this exercise? Does this count?” 

ThinkstockPhotos-163162703_1What Counts as Exercise?

So here is the thing: exercise doesn’t have to be a hard workout routine only in a fitness center or group fitness setting. Some folks feel as though that is what exercise is, and I am happy to break the news that it is not the only way to get in exercise! Guess what, things that you enjoy as well as activity needed for healing count as exercise!

Here is a list of the “does this count” exercises residents asked me about. 

These are just a handful of the activities residents are participating in that they weren’t sure would count as exercise. The great thing about fitness and activity is that there are many avenues to take in order to reach the level of fitness you are looking for. Exercise does not have to be a boring, long-drawn-out routine. 

If a regimented fitness center routine is what you like for your workout, that is great!  But, if you need something else to hold your interest, whether it is a game like corn toss or working long hours in your garden, it is best to do an activity that you will stick with. And if you want to add intensity or are having a hard time finding what suits your interest, that’s the best time to consult with your fitness specialist to plan out exercises or activity that are best for you!

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Topics: senior wellness CCRC senior fitness senior living community exercise and wellness exercise for elderly Alzheimer's Disease

What to Do When Traditional Senior Living Activities Fall Short

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed recently and stumbled across a posting for a Life Enrichment Director with a prominent senior living provider. The title was intriguing enough—I’m always curious about what’s happening in the area of wellness and lifestyle in senior living—so I clicked on the link, taking me to the job posting. What I read on the posting was enough to make me hang my head.

senior_ladiesWithout getting into detail, I’ll tell you that a primary responsibility for the position was to “create pleasant days.” Now, that requirement was in quotes on the posting, which makes me think it’s a branded program that’s a hallmark for the organization. And to be clear, the posting was for a Life Enrichment Director in a memory care community. So I can appreciate the need for programming to minimize participants’ agitation and anxiety, and to maximize the enjoyment of their days. Still, the idea of programming around building pleasant days for residents (in any level of care) struck me as wildly patronizing and profoundly off base.

Folks, we are doing an enormous disservice to the adults in our communities (in any area of the community) if our primary focus is to make their days nice. The residents are living, not passing life by sitting in a rocking chair on your porch. Your Life Enrichment Director shouldn’t be facilitating passive and placating activities unless that’s what the participant wants. 

The Need for More Engaging Senior Living Activities and Programs

Most of the amazing older adults I’ve met as I’ve traveled to various communities are full of life, eager to connect, and interested in learning new things. We have got to do lifestyle programming better than building pleasant lives for them. To be fair, a lot of organizations are succeeding at implementing creative, active, and engaging programs for their members. For example, Mather Lifeway’s café concept provides for fabulous connections with peers in the midst of unique and lively programs. 

However, in many cases, what I see in communities is a calendar full of activities where 90 percent of what’s listed are recurring events like cards, exercise classes, arts/crafts groups, religious services, shopping trips, and coffee or happy hours. The remaining 10 percent are unique to the month and are typically grouped into musical offerings, lectures, and excursions to the theatre or opera. From a maintaining status quo standpoint, there is nothing wrong with that calendar. Just don’t confuse it with one that is built to engage more than the 20 percent of your residents who participate in existing programs. And don’t consider that calendar creative and interesting simply because there’s no white space left to pack in more activities. 

Building a Better Activities Calendar

If you’re interested in building a better activities (or life enrichment, or wellness…) calendar and program, here are some starting points for consideration:

  • Evaluate what needs to change about your current mentality on programming for your members. If your job is to provide lots of opportunities to keep residents busy, it’s time to rethink the job. Residents don’t want to be kept busy; toddlers need to be kept busy. Building a successful and person-centered programming schedule is about inviting residents to engage in the lifestyle they want—the lifestyle that’s driven by their passions and interests.
  • Ask what success looks like for any given program. (Hint: the answer is quantifiable and isn’t measured by how satisfied the residents look.) Then establish your programming goals and figure out how to measure them. Take what you learn from that evaluation and do better with the next program.
  • Understand what drives your residents, and keep track of that information. Ask them what they’re passionate about and what makes them get out of bed in the morning. If you don’t have programming that speaks to those interests, figure out how to support them anyway (for example, see how one community supported an interest in golf). When you have an inventory on all the members, you have a tool to inform what types of programs you should start building and which residents you need to tap to be champions for the newest offering.

It’s time to stop busying yourself and your residents with filled-to-the-brim calendars that lack intention and invitation. Start actually building Life Enrichment by getting to know what motivates your members and build your creative and strategic (and dare I say “edgy”) program around your people, not their pleasant days.

Ready to get started?  Click below to find out how we can help you.

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Topics: senior wellness programs engagement senior living community program planning program evaluation

3 Ways to Do Wellness Better with Better Resident Onboarding Processes

Raise your hand if your senior living community does not have a formal, functioning, and strategically built new resident onboarding/orientation/integration process. It’s common—really common—to see communities either have no process or expectations on how to integrate new residents, or to have expectations that are so loose and disorganized that the “process” is ineffective.

There is so much to take care of when someone moves in, not to mention all the other responsibilities of community jobs that don’t stop just because a three new residents arrived last week. Still, I think we’re missing a huge opportunity to do right by those new residents in the community’s wellness program when we only look at orienting them to the community as simply another item on the “to-do” list. You might be wondering how I’m making the leap on the orientation affecting wellness. Bear with me and read below about three ways you can do better with new residents to ultimately build a better wellness program.

Of course, in order for this to make sense, you’ll need to appreciate that I’m coming from the position that your wellness program is more robust than simply filling the calendar with “one and done” activities. For your wellness program to be multidimensional and person-centered, it has to be based on fulfilling the purpose and passions of the residents you serve. For tips on how you can better evaluate the quality of your programs, read this blog

 

#1: Shift Away from Telling Them What They Need to Know.1-_senior_independence

In most communities where I’ve provided wellness consulting, if there is any formal new resident integration process in place, it involves staff scheduling time with the resident to tell him about a particular area of the community. There’s usually collateral involved, and the time the staff member spends with the resident is usually a download of programs, services, and how-to’s related to that department.

I’m all for making sure new folks have the information they need in your community. They should absolutely know how to place a work order for service, how to reserve their seat on the bus trip to the symphony, and how to access their financial accounts with the community. But spending your “I’d like to get to know you better time” with that individual overloading them with do’s and don’ts, calendars, contact information, and anything else on your 20-point checklist will be daunting and downright exhausting for even those who are wildly enthusiastic about their move into your community. Imagine how it feels for those who are ambivalent about their transition.

This is not the end of your onboarding process.

#2: Start Focusing on Individual Purpose and Passion.

Once you’ve followed through on providing the basic how-to-get-what-you-need information for new residents, you can turn your attention to understanding individual resident passions. It’s understanding what makes an individual tick that sheds light on his potential. And that is the place you can help him connect in your community.

Several months ago, I wrote about the position of activities director and how it’s turned into something of an order-taker role. Tasking your activities director with onboarding new residents in a different way can be a great first step toward breaking down that order-taker paradigm. It could also be appropriate to consider a Community Navigator, as described in this blog from Glynn Devins, for this kind of role. Regardless of whose job it becomes, someone on your team initiates the “get to know you” visit with a new resident. But instead of using that time to download from a checklist, the time is spent asking open-ended questions that drive conversation and allow the staff member to honestly learn about what motivates and inspires the new resident.

I would advocate for some set/standard questions, but also allow space for the conversation to meander along the individual’s personal history to afford glimpses of who that resident is and what they’re truly passionate about. (In truth, your team members may need some training to learn how to do this style of conversation and investigation.)

Remember, too, that by the time a resident is ready to move into your community, they’ve already gone through the prospecting and sales process with your counselors. There’s a good chance that the resident answered several questions about personal interests as part of that wooing process, and using that information in advance of the 1:1 session will help maximize everyone’s time during that face-to-face meeting.

#3: Use What You Learn.

The information you gather from your sit-down with the resident should be used to start building a resident profile to help you connect that individual to opportunities in the community to learn and grow. You should also use the information you’re gathering from all new residents to build a database that informs your wellness programming strategy, because now (finally!) you have a basis from which to build programs and services that speak to the actual articulated needs of your residents. You’re no longer slapping spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks; instead, you’re building what they’ve asked for, and you’re feeding the resident’s purpose. You’re helping them live exceptionally well.

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

Topics: senior wellness senior living community nifs fitness managment

Active Aging: Make no bones about it

walking_seniorsHow healthy are your bones? This may not be a question you can answer quickly. Many seniors already have weak bones and don’t know it, but the good news is you’re never too old to take steps towards keeping your bones strong. Strong bones support us and allow us to move well. They protect our heart, lungs, and brain from injury. Our bones are also a storehouse for vital minerals that we need to live.

When you think of bones, you might imagine a hard, brittle skeleton. In reality, your bones are living organs. They are alive with cells and flowing body fluids. Bones are constantly renewed and grow stronger with a good diet and adequate physical activity. The amount of calcium that makes up your bones is the measure of how strong they are. Your muscles and other systems in your body must also have calcium to work. Therefore if it is in short supply from what you get in the foods you eat, your body will simply take the calcium from the storage in your bones.

Falls are a common thing you hear about when discussing senior bone health. It is a major reason for trips to the emergency room and for hospital stays among older adults. You can help prevent fractures by maintaining the strength of your bones. If you fall, having healthy bones can prevent hip or other fractures that may lead to a potential severe disability. If bones are fragile, even a minor fall can be detrimental.  

Some things that weaken bones are out of your control. For example, if your family member has a bone problem, you could also be at risk. Also, some medical conditions can make you prone to bone disease. But there are also several things you can do to maintain your bone health as you age. 

Each day, calcium is deposited and withdrawn from your bones. If you don’t get enough calcium, you could be withdrawing more than you’re depositing. Be sure to get an adequate amount, this can be done by eating calcium-rich foods and taking supplements. It can be found in dairy products such as low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese. You can also get it from orange juice, nuts such as almonds, soybeans, fortified cereals, and dark green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli and collard greens.

Vitamin D is necessary to help your body absorb the calcium. As you get older, your bodies need for vitamin D also increases. It is made by your skin when you are in the sun but many older people don’t get enough vitamin D this way. Eating foods with vitamin D, such as salmon, mushrooms, and fortified cereals and milk will greatly benefit your body. You can have a blood test done to check for a vitamin D deficiency or abnormal calcium levels. Taking supplements can help as well, talk to your doctor about how much vitamin D you need.

Physical activity is another way to keep your bones strong. Try to get a total of at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, even if it’s broken up into 10 minutes three times a day. Participate in activities like walking, dancing, stair climbing, gardening, or strength training. When you jump, run, or lift a weight, it puts stress on your bones which sends a signal to your body that your bones need to be made stronger. New cells are then added which strengthens your bones.

Talk to your doctor about your bone health questions and concerns; together you can evaluate your risks. The doctor might recommend a bone density test. This is a safe and painless test that will assess your overall bone health and determine your risk for fractures. It is recommended that women over 65 and men over 70 should all have a bone density test.

By 2020 half of all Americans over 50 will have weak bones unless we make changes to our diet and lifestyle. As discussed, a diet that includes enough calcium and vitamin D and physical activity can help prevent bone loss and fractures. Take initiative today to keep your bones healthy and strong!

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Topics: active aging bone density senior living community healthy living

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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