Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

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

Senior Living: Keep Moving and Keep Improving with Senior Health and Fitness Day

moving_seniorsNational Senior Health and Fitness Day is approaching with celebrations focused on senior health and wellness across the country on Wednesday, May 27.  Many YMCA’s, health clubs, park districts and especially Independent and Assisted Living Communities will structure programs and activities to promote staying healthy as we age!  The motto for this year is “Keep Moving and Keep Improving” That got me thinking about not just why it’s important to move but how exercise can actually continue to improve our quality of life. 

When I ask our active agers about the possibility of living to the age of 10, they always comment that they would be happy to live to that age under the condition that their bodies and minds are still capable of decent function, not necessarily great or even good function, but decent function to get around and still have cognitive ability.  Enough to move!

Movement is defined as an act of changing physical location or position or of having this changed (a slight movement of the upper body).”  The definition is not emphasizing how much or how intensely we need to move, it’s simply saying motion of the body, even slight motion of the body.  My goal for National Senior Health and Fitness Day is to promote moving the body! No matter what your limitations, there is an exercise that can be modified to benefit and keep the body moving!  The ultimate goal is that by movement (exercise) we will continue to improve quality of life.

So how do you keep moving with limitations?

  • First recognize your “movement” limitations and ask are they temporary or permanent? For example, if you broke your ankle and are recovering, or had recent surgery, for most those are temporary “movement” limitations. On the other hand, if you have arthritis in your knees, or have been told you have Parkinson’s then these are more than likely permanent “movement” limitations.
  • Second find an exercise routine that focuses on three things:
  1. Safety! It may be best for you to choose a movement with a limited range of motion or perform it sitting instead of standing.
  2. Strength! What will strengthen my “movement” limitations? For example, if you cannot move one arm higher than another because of a rotator cuff problem, continue to move them both separately, continuing to keep the stronger side strong and also allowing the weaker side to gain more strength.
  3. Fun! Whatever you do you need to enjoy it in order to continue doing it! If you enjoy a particular exercise classes, talk to the instructor about modification and your “movement” limitations when necessary.  Or, hire a personal trainer to design a program appropriate for you.  Remember always consult your physician before starting any exercise program.

The goal is to keep moving! If you keep moving you’ll keep improving! Celebrate National Senior Health and Fitness Day with a lifetime goal to keep moving!

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Topics: active aging senior living fitness center health and fitness

How NIFS Staff Spend Their Time In Senior Living Fitness Centers

4399_KF_3163

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

Increasing Participation in Senior Living Fitness Programs (Part 2)

FitnessFreezeLogoIn part 1 of this blog, I wrote about a program we offered that helped us address an area of opportunity for resident participation in our senior living fitness programs. One of the core messages from that blog was how important tracking participation data is, over time, for sustaining a truly successful program. There is so much more to a robust fitness program in senior living than hosting classes, offering assessments, and teaching residents how to use the equipment.

Part 2: Kickstart or Fine-Tune Your Fitness Program

Tracking participation data in your fitness services is crucial for any new or long-established program. In new programs, you need to simply start by keeping an eye on growth in membership and making sure participation steadily increases as you launch the offerings. In this blog, I’ll touch on some key numbers and trends you should be watching. 

An established fitness program you might consider “good” can become GREAT by tracking and strategically using participation data for continuous improvement. There is not an end date at which you cut off these practices no matter how old your program is. In addition to talking about data practices for new fitness programs, I’ll offer tips below from NIFS data trends over the past couple of years to show how you can use these practices to fine-tune an established fitness program.

FFparticipantKickstart Your New Community Fitness Program

New members: Part 1 of this series covered NIFS Fitness Freeze and how the membership drive component recruited new participants to join the fitness center. NIFS has a new client in Lakewood, New Jersey, that began staffing with us in August 2014. Since our launch, we witnessed an initial surge in residents enrolling, and then the normal steady trickle of participants in the months thereafter. And then we ran the Fitness Freeze and it generated a record-setting surge in new members in a month to finish off the year. If you are tracking your new members from month to month, you can keep an eye on when membership or participation starts to trickle off or plateau and run a targeted campaign to rebuild your momentum. 

Participation frequency: We have another client in Mystic, Connecticut, that launched with us in May 2014. In addition to tracking their steadily increasing membership rates, we’re also following the percentage of residents who visit the fitness center 8+ times in a month. For this relatively new client, that percentage is steadily climbing as the membership percentage increases. This tells us that more residents are joining, and more importantly, they are adopting a consistent routine once they become members. 

Fine-Tune Your Established Fitness Program

Group fitness participation: We have a client in Stone Mountain, Georgia, that has had a fitness program and staffing since they opened their doors in 2004. NIFS started managing their fitness program in October 2011. Over the past couple of years, we’ve had a lot of success with participation growth in group fitness classes, and because our data offered proof of that growth, we were able to garner budgetary support for more instructors. In 2014, we added 11 new classes per month to the schedule, and the average number of participants per class each month stayed the same. In short, we brought the residents more classes, and they took full advantage!

Personal training participation: Another client in Phoenix, Arizona, is showing steady growth in their personal training program. In 2013, there were 302 personal training sessions conducted, and in 2014 there were 707 personal training sessions conducted. We’ve added personal training as a program option in their health center, and we are currently hiring another personal trainer to help keep up with the demand for that growing service.

Membership rates: Lastly, three different communities that have been up and running with us for over five years all showed an increase of at least 4% or more in membership in 2014 compared to 2013, with little change in occupancy at those communities. Steady programming efforts targeted to spark different resident interests over time can help your membership continue to grow. Diversity in program offerings is what really drives that continual increase in membership, especially at our well-established communities. 

There are countless ways that you can track and evaluate participation data in your fitness program, and half the battle is just getting started. Determine what you want to track, how you need to track it, and then how you can effectively report that data over time so that it is usable and easy to evaluate. We aren’t statisticians with intricate spreadsheets spending hours crunching data each month. We do, however, have sound reporting methods so that our staff can gather this valuable data to continually build and evolve best-in-class fitness programs at the senior living communities we serve.

 If you’d like to talk about how NIFS can support the development of tracking tools and a program evaluation framework for your community’s programming, find out more about NIFS' wellness consulting service

If you want to learn more about some of NIFS’ most successful and creative programs for senior living communities, click the Best Practices button below.

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Topics: senior fitness management participation data collection nifs best practices senior living fitness center program planning

Increasing Participation in Senior Living Fitness Programs (Part 1)

I’ve written in the past about how consistent tracking of participation data in your community fitness center can help improve and evolve your senior living fitness program over time. Here is a two-part follow up series on what you are missing if you aren’t tracking data from your program. These observations are built entirely on NIFS’ experience doing this work for our senior living client communities.

FitnessFreezeLogoPart 1: Prevent the Dip During the Holidays

Did your community fitness program experience a dip in participation during the busy holiday season? You’re in good company—we used to see that as well. But in 2014, we were able to reverse the trend thanks to a custom program designed to motivate residents to move more when exercise often takes the backseat to holiday parties and family gatherings. 

It all starts with collecting the right data. For example, we knew from our 2013 reporting that there was a marked decline in participation from November to December in exercise program participation. We saw this as an opportunity to do better, so we built a program called Fitness Freeze to prevent that specific dip in participation we see over those two months. Following the program, we evaluated the effectiveness of the program design against our desired outcomes. Here’s what we found:

Total visits: An 11% increase in total visits to the fitness center and group exercise classes from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.

New members: An 8% increase in new members signing up to participate in the fitness center from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.

Appointment volume: A 26% increase in the number of appointments conducted from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.

We know that residents are already busy and preoccupied in December, so we wanted to make the program as simple as possible for them to be successful. Here are just a few of the design elements that contributed to Fitness Freeze’s success:

No elaborate tracking logs or point system: Residents don’t need one more thing on their “to-do” list, so keep it simple! Residents had to sign-in as they normally do to the fitness center and we took care of the rest. Our goal was to help residents be consistent in visits, even if their workout time was shorter than normal. If a resident exercised for at least 10 minutes, three times a week, they earned a snowflake that hung in the fitness center with their name on it.

FFdecorMake it visual: The individual snowflakes were a great way to decorate the fitness center with some seasonal cheer and residents LOVED being able to show off to visiting family and friends how many snowflakes they earned. It was eye catching, provided an easy avenue for discussion, and offered a constant reminder to the participants to stay on track. 

Recruit, recruit, recruit: As resident talk about the snowflakes on display in the fitness center spread throughout the community, residents who weren’t fitness center members yet learned that they could earn a snowflake just by joining in December. It created a fun and easy way for residents who might be on the fence about joining to take the final step and feel included among the ranks of our regulars. 

The Fitness Freeze was born out of our constant efforts to do better, which include a strong focus on data as well as routine evaluation of program effectiveness. Once we identified holiday-time as an opportunity for improvement, we built a tool to address that challenge. It’s a tangible and practical example of a targeted campaign to boost the participation in a given month. 

Watch for part 2 of this blog to learn about the value of evaluating data trends in brand-new fitness programs as well as in well-established programs from year to year.

Checkout more great programming from NIFS Fitness Management with our Best Practice Series.

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Topics: senior fitness management participation data collection senior living fitness center program planning

Is Your Senior Fitness Program Challenging Enough?

At this point most retirement communities have recognized that senior fitness programs are as important as having a great social program or food and beverage program. The impact these programs have on marketing is tremendous, and so it is no wonder that everyone is looking to have the most popular programs with the newest class titles. Now that exercise is a key focal point and the residents are in the community, take a look at your programs and see if they are doing the residents justice. 

senior_womenDoes Your Program Help Residents Reach Their Full Potential?

In the most recent ICAA Research Review, there is an article shining light on sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle strength and mass due mainly to age. Simply put, as we get older we naturally become weaker. While reading this article I began to question how many programs in retirement communities truly push their residents to accomplish their full potential. 

Does your program challenge your residents to get down on the floor and back up again a few times during a class? No? Why not? Many of my residents are insulted when others expect that they can no longer get on the floor. I also have many who say they cannot get on the floor because then they won’t be able to get up. Over time our community’s fitness instructors and I have been able to prove to the residents that they can still get up from down on the floor and that it does get easier with practice. More importantly, being able to get up off the floor is vital to practice. 

According to the CDC, one out of three seniors will fall, and less than half of them will go to the doctor in regard to their falls. Now stop and think about all of those people that can’t get on the floor because they “won’t be able to get back up.” Statistics show there is a very high likelihood that they will land on the ground, and that is a terrible time to learn they truly can’t get up. 

Don’t Get Complacent

We, as individuals, have always had someone to help guide us, challenge us, and push us to achieve more, work harder, and be true to ourselves. When do we decide we no longer push someone? At what age do we decide that an individual should turn on the cruise control and just be? As a person of wellness, I don’t believe there is ever a time to show someone it is okay to become complacent. These individuals need to see that they are still capable of doing a great deal more. We need to be willing to work with our seniors both in classes and individually to help safely get them stronger—or at least maintain the strength they have—in order to help them not only live a longer life, but live a longer and more independent life. 

How do you challenge your senior living residents? When is the last time you asked them if they were being challenged enough? I bet you would be surprised at how many are asking for something a little more. I know I was. 

For more on why fitness is so important for seniors, see this post.

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Topics: senior wellness programs CCRC fitness center senior living fitness center senior group fitness classes

Three Ways Participation Data Improves Senior Living Fitness Centers

group_of_seniorsDo your residents sign in when they visit the senior living fitness center or take a group fitness class at your community? In many senior living communities, there may be some practice established for residents signing in, but typically little to nothing is done with that information once the resident makes his checkmark or signs his name on the way into the fitness center. Consistent participation tracking is even less common in the group fitness classes.

Do you know how many classes you offered last month and which residents attended compared to the preceding month? Do you know how many appointments were conducted in the fitness center last year compared to this year? Tracking resident participation in all of your offerings is central to highlighting the value of your fitness program and continuing to evolve what you are doing.

Read on to discover three key ways participation data can help you provide more effective programming in your senior living community fitness center.

1. Create Visit Goals for the Residents

By keeping record of how many total visits you have to your fitness center, pool, and group fitness offerings, you can determine the ebbs and flows in participation through the year. As the busy holiday season approaches and exercise routines get pushed to the back burner, set a community goal for your residents to accumulate more visits in December of this year as opposed to last year. We’ve seen firsthand how residents LOVE to rally together as a team for goals like this. Providing them with weekly updates on their standings has helped us reach visit goals and prevented lulls in participation. You won’t know what a reasonable goal is, however, if you don’t have historical data to evaluate.

2. Reach Out to Individuals

Your tracking system should allow you to see how many times any given resident participates in part(s) of the program. If someone comes to a particular exercise class six times a month and the fitness center nine times a month, you should have that information at your fingertips through proper tracking procedures. Then you can recognize their efforts through recognition programs such as a monthly “Fit 15” listing. Similarly, if you have a resident who joined the program but stopped coming, you’ll have that important information at your fingertips. Personally contacting a resident and letting them know that their participation is missed and inviting them back to an old favorite or a fresh new opportunity can be a great tool for improving exercise adherence.

But beware: We’re talking about tracking attendance by resident; that’s the only way this will work. Taking simple headcounts for total visits in your program will not allow you to consistently evaluate the specific members who make up your participation and create those avenues for personal connection and recognition.

3. Demonstrate Value

Having participation data that shows you monthly totals for your different offerings will allow you to evaluate what is effective, what is gaining or losing momentum, and what might be ready for a change. By sticking with a group fitness class on the calendar that has only two or three consistent participants, you might be limiting resources that could go toward a fresh new offering that would cater to the needs and interests of more individuals. Residents will be much more able to embrace change when you can show them the data and well-thought-out intentions behind it.

Similarly, if you feel your program cannot expand further without additional resources, let the data demonstrate the value in your current offerings. If an exercise class is busting at the seams, have a few months worth of data to show the growth and articulate the need for another class on the schedule. If your fitness center participation is increasing, use the monthly visit and appointment data to demonstrate the need for additional staffing support or more equipment.

***

Don’t shy away from data. It can support important decisions about the future of your fitness program. Start small with a simple list of all the residents in the community and invite them to start checking in. From there, you can build basic spreadsheets (ask your IT support to help if you need it) to create a tracking tool that will help you determine what parts of your community’s fitness program need the most attention.

For more on the benefits of tracking participant data, see this blog.

If you’re overwhelmed and not sure where to begin, consider contacting us for consulting. Click here to find out more.

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Topics: active aging fitness programs for seniors participation senior living fitness center

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.

 

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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

Do Your Residents Understand That Wellness Is More Than Fitness?

chair exerciseMake no mistake about it, physical activity is important. Study after study links regular exercise with myriad health benefits. And more recently, there have been a host of research proclamations professing the value of exercise to stave off cognitive decline. We were made to move our bodies. We were built to spend the bulk of each day in motion.

You will never hear me say that exercise isn’t really that big of a deal. But it’s not the only deal when it comes to resident wellness. And more often than not we work with residents who think they’re doing “that wellness thing” because they take water aerobics three times per week. Commonly, residents don’t see the bigger vision for their wellbeing.

It’s your job to continue opening their eyes to additional opportunities for living, experiencing, tasting, touching, learning, and giving throughout life at your community. That means attention to all dimensions of wellness.  But here’s what we’ve learned: When you manage, program, and execute well on all dimensions of wellness, there’s a strong chance that your fitness program will further excel.

So, where do you start? If your residents have tunnel vision about what living well really means, how can you nudge them beyond their limited perspective to experience and to truly understand more about the possibilities for living well?

That’s really kind of the question, right? Okay, before dive I off the deep philosophical end in pursuit of a perfect plan for resident wellness, consider these more practical questions:

  • Are you building multidisciplinary events for your community? If so, how are you inviting residents to participate?
  • Is the programming passive (residents sit and observe) or is it active (residents move, engage, and interact)? Do you have the right balance of those activities?
  • And maybe the most important question for consideration: how do you know your programming is actually working?

It’s tough. It can be hard to know if you’re hitting the mark with your audience.

And let’s be honest. Sometimes the personnel tasked with cultivating a resident wellness program don’t really understand the whole multidisciplinary thing, either.

So how do you start over…to begin at the beginning? Start with a simple, multidisciplinary initiative that anyone in your community can administer and that all of your independent residents can embrace.

And today is your lucky day because one of NIFS Best Practices for senior living is a profile of our Wellness Challenge. This simple program folds in competition for both residents and employees on teams over the span of eight weeks. The initiative drives participants toward diverse opportunities in their community. Some of the spotlighted wellness events are one-time events coordinated intentionally with the challenge in mind. Other key activities for the challenge are ongoing programs or services that are routinely available but which might otherwise be overlooked as residents and employees move through their daily routines.

We gathered a lot of data from the program, and each time we run it, we learn a little bit more about what resonates with the residents and employees who engage in the challenge. In the most recent offering, some of the self-reported outcomes included the following:

  • The average participant spent more than 90 minutes each week engaged in volunteer-related efforts.
  • Most participants averaged more than 7 hours per week enjoying activities that captivated their brains, such as lectures, reading, music, and puzzles.
  • Ninety percent of participants were able to meet the daily water consumption goal for the challenge.  

And that’s not all…

Remember when I indicated that a well-executed wellness strategy will enhance your fitness program participation? Check out what the Wellness Challenge did for numbers in the fitness program at one of our client communities:

  • Increased fitness center visits by 43 per month.
  • Increased group fitness class participation by 65%.
  • Increased the number of residents with eight or more visits per month to the fitness center by 31%.

Want to learn more about The Wellness Challenge? Sign up for our Best Practice series to receive the Wellness Challenge webinar as well as all of the other Best Practice spotlights.

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Topics: water senior center solutions senior wellness programs CCRC fitness center senior fitness cognitive function senior living fitness center