Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

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.

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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!

Get our Slideshare: Improve Resident Engagment

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.

Get our Slideshare: Improve Resident Engagment

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

Creativity Meets Physical Activity in Senior Living

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

Dart Art

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

Dart Art resized 600      dart art results 2 resized 600

Wine Bottle Ring Toss

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

Mr. Brauntuch Volunteer wine bottle ring toss resized 600

Aqua Golf

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

Mr. Morrissey I%27m getting wet Aqua Golf

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

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

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

Senior Living: Using Wellness Programs to Combat “Someday Syndrome”

social seniorsThere’s a lot of talk about what some in senior living call “someday syndrome.” It’s the phenomenon by which adults who have a lot to gain by moving to a retirement community for one reason or another put off the move, indicating they’ll make that change someday.

There are industry articles, LinkedIn discussion groups, and product/service provider blogs about this phenomenon. I’ve heard it in my own parents’ discussion about moving out of their house and into a community. They’re ready…sort of. Well, not really quite yet, but they’re taking steps to be ready. I think they’re like so many of their generation. They have very good reasons to put off leaving their house. What they’re missing are compelling reasons to make that difficult change and move into a senior living community.

In 2008 and for a few years afterward, there was a delay by older consumers largely because of the housing crisis connected with the great recession. But more recently, as the housing market has slowly made a turn for the better, someday syndrome remains. My parents and many of their contemporaries are waiting because they simply don’t see themselves, their lives, anywhere but in their current home.

The Power of Storytelling

In one of Steve Moran’s blogs, “Is Good good enough?,” he talks about recent trips to two better-than-average communities. And although he records being politely and promptly greeted as well as appropriately “sold” during his visit, he felt no connection to either location. He was given good marketing collateral and told quite a bit about both communities, but there was nothing in that messaging to provide unique, compelling, relatable, or personal connections. In short, if he were a prospect, he had no heartstring tug, no strong pull to move to either community.

In the end, Steve comes around to the idea of telling stories as a way to distinguish your community from those around you, and I think he’s right. The stories about residents, their family members, their lives at your community, and how the staff facilitate the very best for them are the essence of who you are.

The good news here is that you already have stories; if you’ve been in business a while, you quite possibly have tons of them. But the hard work lies ahead in figuring out how to use them to communicate your culture, your way of life, as a tool for inviting prospects to join your community family. One of the places you should be looking for stories is within your wellness program.

What a Life Plan Community Can Offer Prospective Residents

If we look at broad brushstrokes of what a life plan can offer to prospects, there are two big categories: safety/security and lifestyle. Both categories are clear distinguishers in terms of providing more/better than what a prospect is able to achieve in her own home. The continuum of care with qualified and passionate clinicians, along with related services (therapy, podiatry, etc) all within the four walls of your community is simply not achievable for an individual who remains at home. And if your organization is on the cutting edge of opportunities for education, service, growth, and camaraderie in your wellness programming, you no doubt have robust programming that no one individual could so easily experience living in her home.

If you are a healthy individual in your 70s or 80s and you’re considering moving out of your home into a retirement community, which of those two messages is likely to pull you through someday syndrome and toward relocating in a community setting: how you’ll be cared for when you’re sick or dying, or how you can experience new opportunities and enrich your wellbeing as you live at the community?

Let me offer a word of caution here. The idea of using lifestyle to combat “someday syndrome” only works when your lifestyle programming is truly compelling, diverse, individually oriented, and life affirming. If you calendar is full of various card games, bingo, the occasional trip, the occasional lecture, the same old group fitness classes, and the monthly podiatrist visit, there’s no lifestyle to sell and you won’t be different from the competition. Make no mistake: just because the calendar is full does not mean the events are expanding the horizons of your residents.

How to Sell Lifestyle

After years of working with our senior living clients, here’s what we’ve learned about selling lifestyle:

  • Selling lifestyle is easy when you have the right programming and people in place that can elevate resident stories of successful living.
  • Selling lifestyle is easy when your programming has data to back up participation and engagement rates.
  • Selling lifestyle is easy when your marketing and sales staff understand the language they need to use and have specific stories to make a connection with a prospect.

If you’ve been nodding your head and you believe it’s time to elevate your community lifestyle both to serve your residents better and to create a true market differentiation for what you’re selling, check out this blog.

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

Topics: senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center senior living engagement active living senior living community marketing

Active Aging: Liven Up Your Olympics Programming (Part 2 of 2)

seniors swimmingIn part I of this blog series, we discussed opportunities to develop a comprehensive Olympics-themed program that would create a more memorable experience for participants as well as opportunities to attract more resident interest in the events. In the second part of this blog, we will explore a variety of events that you can consider folding into your Olympics to compliment the recreational activities your residents already know and love or to take a different path all-together.

Part II: Freshen up your Olympic events

Weekly recreational offerings with a strong resident following might seem like low-hanging fruit when it comes to spinning off an event for an Olympics-themed program. However, creating a flyer with your own Olympics logo and inviting these participants to a “special” tournament one afternoon can be less than inspiring for residents.  Read on to broaden your horizons on additional events you can pull into your next Olympics adventure.   

Recreational Activities & Games:

You’ve probably considered croquet, putting contests, corn hole, shuffleboard, bocce ball, ping pong, water volleyball, billiards, etc., but have you considered adapting your own versions of the following?

  • Frisbee Discuss: Play it indoors or outdoors and mark targets at varying distances. You can use hoola hoops or simply use tape to mark off the targets. You can designate varying point values for the different distances or recognize participants by the number of Frisbees that hit inside or on the target.
  • Water Balloon Shotput: Teach your residents how Olympians throw a shot put (without or without the spinning in a circle…OK, probably without the spinning) but use a water balloon! Measure the splash marks and who can shotput the water balloon the furthest distance.
  • Wii: Many residents are already familiar with Wii bowling and golf, but consider purchasing the Wii Fit if you don’t have one and allow your residents to hone their skills on downhill skiing. Wii also has games for archery, hunting & target practice, and many other options that might appeal to your residents.
  • Synchronized Swimming: Planned well in advance of your Olympics, you can have small groups of 3-4 residents compete against one another in synchronized routines they develop or have one large group of residents work together to put on a spectator sport for the entire senior living community. Perhaps you could host your Opening Ceremonies in your pool area to increase exposure of this wonderful amenity your community has to offer!

Brain Fitness:

You’re Olympic events don’t necessarily have to be recreation or fitness related. Finding other ways for residents to compete can be a great way to attract more individuals to participate.

  • Scavenger Hunt: Take pictures of random artwork and landmarks inside and outside at your community and provide these snapshots to participants. They will embark on a scavenger hunt trying to recall where they’ve seen these different items throughout the community and will visit each location. You can make it a timed event for the top three finishers or do recognition awards for everyone who makes it through.
  • Brain Trivia: Host a Jeopardy or other trivia type event for residents to promote intellectual wellness as part of your Olympics. For a large turnout, you can have multiple games going on at different tables simultaneously, or you can have residents work as teams for the answers.

Let your creative juices flow in developing a comprehensive and fresh approach to your next community Olympics!  If you like what we have shared, check out our Best Practice Series featuring 11 of our Best Practices we have implemented in active aging communities!

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Topics: active aging nifs fitness management senior living active living senior living community nifs best practices

Why Nobody’s Using Your New Resident Fitness Center (Part 3 of 3)

seniors meetingYour marketing and sales team may be missing the mark when selling fitness to residents.

I started this blog series talking about the importance of following all the way through on your capital investment for your resident fitness program. In part two of the series, I covered some basics on the importance of quality leadership as central to your community’s exercise strategy.

In this third part of the series, we’ll look at how your marketing and sales team can better tap into your fitness program as a sales tool. After all, once you nail the strategy and the staffing for your program, it only makes sense to make sure your marketing team can communicate your updated and comprehensive services to prospective residents.

Promoting Senior Lifestyle Benefits in Marketing Collateral

How does your community talk about wellness to prospects? How do you promote resident lifestyle in your collateral? If you haven’t given much thought to this, it’s definitely time to start. You’d have to be under a pretty big rock to have missed the continued rise to prominence that wellness is making in senior living.

And it’s because of that elevated importance that breezing through or ignoring your resident wellness amenities and services is no longer an option. Skipping over wellness in your collateral and marketing events is a huge mistake.

Promoting the Senior Wellness Program Effectively During Facility Tours

When I consult with communities, it’s really (frighteningly) common to talk with the marketing and sales staff and learn that they’re offering something like this during a tour:

“Now we’re walking past our pool and coming up next will be our exercise room. We have personal trainers and a lot of different types of group fitness classes available for you to try all week long.”

It’s like running through a checklist of “stuff” you’re throwing at a prospect. Dining, check. Exercise, check. Crafts, check. No stories, nothing a prospect can sink her teeth into and really consider how her life would be if she had access to those opportunities.

Typically, when the tour sounds like that, there is also a lack of marketing collateral about wellness, and there generally aren’t events for prospects that communicate how your community helps residents live well.

Sometimes the glossing over is because of a lack of confidence about the community’s amenities or services. Here’s the thing: you do not have to offer jaw-droppingly beautiful amenities in order to execute well on a message of well-living at your community. But you do need to have solid services with the right staff people behind that programming in order to market the lifestyle at your community effectively.

The right people plus the right program gets you the right stories you need to help prospects relate to what it will be like to live in your community. And that’s what you ultimately want, right? Happy residents are the ones who feel connected, who engage in more living, and who contribute to their own lives and the lives of those around them through the opportunities you offer.

If you’re looking for a place to start on more effective communication and marketing opportunities around resident wellness, look no further than some simple numbers.

Data Matters, and Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Differently

There are a number of areas in your wellness program where you can gather data, and I’m a big advocate for data because it’s crucial to determining success as well as to telling the story about what wellness is at a community. You can make a big impact in marketing messaging simply by spotlighting how many residents participate in your fitness programming. But you can’t capitalize on that number or message if you don’t actually have the data.

Consider a resident story that might look something like this:

“At ABC Community, our residents believe that moving your body is one of many ways to live well. In fact, they’re such big believers that 83% of them participate in our fitness programs on a regular basis. When Mrs. Jones moved here in 2007, she wasn’t much for exercise. In fact, she’d never been to a class, or walked on a treadmill. But after she met with our fitness manager and had her personalized program created, she started moving and hasn’t stopped.” 

My hunch is that the pretend story I outlined would resonate with a lot of prospects who have never exercised, are a little afraid of it, and are entirely unsure how to get started. Unless you have a story to which the prospect can relate, the sales staff mentions “fitness center” and “trainer,” and the prospect automatically writes that off as a nice perk but one she’ll never use. And just like that, you’ve missed a chance to help the prospect see how living at your senior living community is not only different (she already knows that and it’s part of what’s keeping her from moving), but actually better than where she’s living now. Mrs. Jones—the resident in the testimonial—sounds like that prospect, probably looks like her, and she’s been able to live exceptionally well since she moved into your community. It’s compelling and reassuring, and it’s all backed by a wellness strategy that captures the data and the stories for use at the right times.

Now, getting that data and those stories is not rocket science, but it does require that you have the right personnel behind the wellness programming to facilitate a more strategic approach to resident lifestyle. You need health-oriented professionals (do not read that as “clinicians”) who have a head for numbers and a heart for people. If you need a refresher on the quality leadership part of this puzzle, return to part 2 in this series.

 

Whitepaper: Creating a Wellness Culture

 

Topics: senior center solutions senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center senior living community marketing senior living fitness center data wellness consulting

Why Nobody's Using Your New Resident Fitness Center (Part 2 of 3)

training seniors resized 600Your residents need quality leadership in order to engage in the fitness services.

There is a lot of movement in recent years for senior living communities to include expansive, thoughtfully designed fitness spaces in their new community development or refurbishment plans. Surveys have indicated that wellness is a priority for prospects, and we don’t really see that going away as the boomers look toward their next life and how they want to live that next chapter. (I know you’ve heard this a gajillion times, but they are coming, and no amount of burying your head in the sand will change that. Get ready or get out of the business of anticipating their needs and knocking their socks off.)

So if you read part 1 in this blog series, you read about how your investment in wellness cannot stop with capital dollars. In this section we’re focused on why your residents need quality leadership in order to engage in the fitness services.

What Quality Fitness Leadership Is Not

Let me start perhaps with a list of exclusion—a list of what quality leadership is not. It is not limited to a traditional 1990s model of group fitness classes and a very part-time, questionably qualified attendant. It is not a personal trainer service (fee-based or free). It is not a silo-style environment where fitness is an island operating independently of what’s happening with activities, or resident services, or dining or other continuums of the community.

If any of that sounds familiar, I have a bad news/good news message for you.

  • Bad news: You’re stuck in a decades-old model. It may be working for you, but it’s worth asking whether it’s truly delivering on your brand promise. I would submit to you, at the very least, that if you’re working within a dated model, you’re lacking the capacity to truly be forward thinking. If your fitness services were built to be really strategic and forward thinking, you wouldn’t still be partying like it’s 1999.
  • Good news: You have fantastic opportunities to do more for your residents through your fitness program.

Quality Fitness Leadership Includes Core Skills and Soft Skills

Quality fitness leadership for your residents isn’t rocket science, but it does require some core skills that are learned through an accredited university curriculum, as well as soft skills that articulate a true passion for serving the residents in your community.

No doubt, you have more than enough practice at ferreting out the soft skills piece; after all, finding people who want to make a career out of serving our elders is your business. But understanding the technical competencies required in a qualified fitness center manager for your senior living community may be a little trickier. And then once you’ve found that qualified individual, you need to be prepared to take a strategic approach to on-boarding them in your community, which includes preparing both existing staff and residents for the new personnel.

The Keys to Hiring the Right Fitness Center Manager

There are a few keys about hiring that I think are helpful to communities venturing out in this process on their own. I’ve listed them quite briefly here:

  • Make sure you get familiar with the candidate’s credentials. Carefully evaluate certifications they list; not all fitness certifications are created (or earned) equally.
  • Require the candidate to demonstrate the skills required for the job. If you need them to teach group exercise classes for your residents, have the candidate provide a demo. If you need someone who can administer a senior fitness test, talk through that testing with the candidate or host a mock test as part of the interview.
  • Ensure the candidate can program for your audience. Evaluate their capacity to create print materials that fit with your brand, as well as the skills to execute a program from start to finish.

I’m here to tell you that those capable and passionate professionals do exist. We’ve written extensively about how to hire and how to successfully onboard fitness and wellness professionals. If reading isn’t your thing, consider watching our webinar on building better wellness staff in our Build Vitality webinar series. To discuss in greater detail, drop me an email and we can take a closer look at what you need as well as options on how to get there. Subscribe to our blog now to make sure you can catch part 3 of this blog series: What marketing needs in order to really sell your new amenity to prospective residents.

Topics: senior center solutions senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center engagement senior living community senior living fitness center hiring tips

Why Nobody's Using Your New Resident Fitness Center (Part 1 of 3)

empty fitness centerFrom the wellness consulting and fitness management work we’ve done with our clients over the last several years, we’ve seen our share of essentially empty fitness centers and pools in senior living communities.

It’s sad.

So often, community leadership invests substantial capital dollars for dedicated fitness spaces including rooms that hold the exercise equipment, rooms devoted to group exercise classes, and additional (and typically significant) spaces for aquatics amenities. The result after construction is that the spaces are beautiful—even stunning.

But these same swanky spaces, unfortunately, often aren’t functional. Sometimes they contain the wrong equipment or a dysfunctional design. Most commonly, the biggest roadblock to a thriving fitness program is that these spaces weren’t considered under any type of strategic plan, so programming of the space is largely ineffective for the residents and typically disjointed from the rest of the community.

The result is a beautiful new space that sits unused.

If you’re wondering why you poured so much money into this non-revenue generating space that appears to provide no additional benefit to the residents, or how to avoid this phenomenon, stick with me on this blog series, where I’ll write about the following:

  • Your capital investment isn’t the end of your commitment.
  • Your residents need quality leadership in order to engage in the fitness services.
  • Your marketing and sales team may be missing the mark when selling fitness to residents.

Part 1: Your Capital Investment Isn’t the End of Your Commitment

It’s a big deal: You spent a lot of time with your developers on crafting a new space (or overhauling an existing one) that will match your community’s appearance, and that you hope will be a welcome addition (or change) for your residents. It’s not cheap, either, but you’ve done your due diligence, secured the funds, and designed the heck out of the space(s).

The capital investment may be so substantial that it feels like enough.

Alas, your time and your money are, in fact, not enough. There are important details to consider regarding the design of the space—details that can make or break the overall function of the amenities. Read our blog on key things to avoid when you’re building a fitness center in senior living to find out more about common pitfalls when designing a new fitness space for senior living.

But you can’t stop with the physical space. This isn’t an “if you build it, they will come” type of project. You will need to cultivate a strategic plan for effective use of the space after it’s open for use.

Maybe that strategy is the job of the activities director.

Or maybe…the community needs a whole new approach to resident wellness that puts a wellness director at the top of the activities food chain. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Wellness is a way of life, not an activity, and it should be cultivated accordingly. Do the activities drive the wellness program in your community, or does the wellness culture dictate the activities? Answering that question according to the organization you are striving to be will help you figure out the hierarchy question.

Regardless of who is in charge of it, the strategy for effective use of the fitness center is really central to ensuring that this new space contributes positively to residents’ vitality. Questions for cultivating the strategy should include the following:

  • What is the goal, mission statement, or focus of wellness in the community, and in what ways do you expect that your fitness program will contribute to that end?
  • What investment needs to be made in staffing for the fitness center? (The answer to this question varies by community, but I can just about guarantee you that fee-based personal trainers and group fitness instructors are not enough.)
  • How will you know you’re achieving success in your programs? Will you mark it with simple participation goals, or will you be reviewing health outcomes, satisfaction, or other outcomes in your programming?
  • If you’re changing your activities/wellness hierarchy, how will you communicate those changes to the community and how will you reinforce your emphasis on this culture shift? Will that information need to be communicated to the residents? If so, how will you do that?
  • What operating decisions need to be scrutinized in light of your new emphasis on resident wellness? Does it make sense for your organization to make this strategic shift by including wellness for your employees at the same time?

To be sure, these questions, when thoughtfully addressed, will likely lead to more questions. Be patient; cultivating a strategy takes time and often requires continuous tweaking. It is a journey well worth taking, both for the benefit of your business and for fulfilling you commitment to facilitate a vibrant lifestyle for your residents.

In part 2 of this blog series, I’ll write about the importance of the right leadership in your fitness program. Make sure you have subscribed to our blog so you don’t miss a beat on this series and other hot topics we’re covering.

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Topics: senior center solutions senior fitness management CCRC fitness center engagement senior living community marketing fitness center for seniors nifs fitness center management