Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

3 things I learned at the 2017 LeadingAge Annual Meeting and Expo

LeadingAge 2017.jpgThis week more than 7,000 professionals working in senior housing and related businesses converged in New Orleans, LA, to share their passions, learn from each other, and return back to their communities inspired to continue doing great work for the older adults they serve. I was honored to be at the LeadingAge annual meeting both as an attendee and as an exhibitor.

Typically when I go to a conference, I learn in two categories:

  • There's the "duh-why didn't I think of that...it's brilliant" way where I'm usually listening intently in a session, scribbling copious notes and the speaker says something that resonates deeply for me.
  • And there's the "thinking about it later" way that usually comes up when I'm reflecting on the day, on the people I met, and the conversations I had.

Below are a few of my takeaways that, not surprisingly, fall into both of those categories.

#1: Status quo does not equal thriving

My first session of the conference was "Nature Meets Nurture: Designing a WELL Building". The content of the presentation was interesting; I had read some about the WELL Building Standard, and the session helped me get a better understanding of how the standard applies at a more practical level. What struck me during this session was when one of the speakers categorized the Standard as moving forward, moving beyond the status quo.

I realized that's true of so much work being done in senior living. Status quo is not the same thing as thriving. Moving forward, doing better, trying new things is not equal to doing what we've always done. Of course, this isn't just true for how we build communities; it's true in the areas where NIFS works as well, including building and executing on a life enrichment or fitness program strategy, and I have already started looking with fresh eyes at how we can help communities move past their status quo to build thriving living environments for their residents.

[Read More: 5 ways wellness consulting helps meet the mission of your community]

#2: There is no single solution

There is no one-size-fits-all solution that works in every community and the volume of providers stationed through the exhibit hall is proof. Even in our work with a family of communities all united under the same brand, our delivery of services is unique per location because the resident and client desires drive the strategy. The LeadingAge expo was a great reminder that communities deserve creative and flexible partners who are willing to adjust their models to meet unique needs.

The flip side of the creative partner coin is the open-minded senior living community.  If you strolled the expo thinking (or saying) you don't need X product/service because you already have it covered, see #1 above.  Maybe rethink that "we already do that notion" and give a second look to the information you gathered form the expo before you put it in the recycling bin.  There just might be a nugget in there to help your community make a move toward thriving.

 #3: Resident engagement is everyone's job

LeadingAge 2017 (2).jpgAs I sat in the Redefining Resident Engagement session with Michelle Holleran and Tim Johnson, I was intrigued by the Holleran model for the four domains of engagement. (Grab the whitepaper here.) My early thoughts were all around how much the domains are the resonsibilty of a communitiy's life enrichment director.  [Full disclosure - that role is kind of a sweet spot for NIFS as we consult with and provide staffing solutions for communities in that role.]  However, the further we got into the session, the more I realized how deep the idea of engagement really runs. 

There are lots of ways to improve traditional activities in communities, and many of those opportunities rest squarely with your Life Enrichment staff doing their jobs differently.  Yet, beyond the prominent role your Life Enrichment department plays in facilitating opportunities for resident engagement, it is the entire community supporting those opportunities, connecting with residents, and communicating with each that is the foundation for engagement.  Residents also have to be present at a fundamental level.  We should not be simply filling an activities calendar and calling it done.  For strong engagement, we have to invite residents into their own life story and then step back to allow them to live it.  


If you attended the 2017 LeadingAge Annual Meeting and Expo, I'd love to hear your key take aways in the comments below.

Topics: senior living senior living communities senior living wellness programs LeadingAge LeadingAge 2017 resident engagement senior living status quo

Balance Redefined: Creating experiences to engage residents in living well

ThinkstockPhotos-526312285.jpgWhen we first started talking about Balance Redefined inside our organization, our sole focus was on physical balance and the unique, wrap-around fall prevention programming we provide. But we knew that wasn't the stopping point for us. Because our work outside the fitness center serving as life enrichment directors for a variety of clients has demonstrated that living well extends way beyond an individual’s physical health, particularly for older adults.

We believe that wellness programming in your community should be diverse and built around the interest of your residents. The idea is to inspire residents to get involved and in order to do that, you have to know what makes the residents tick. You have to know what makes them want to get out of bed in the morning and what inspires them to invite their neighbors to join them. Filling the calendar is definitely more art than science; avoiding common pitfalls like order taking is tough. And ensuring there are very few sit-and-listen programs on the calendar requires discipline. But there are plenty of fun, engaging program ideas to go around.

[Related Content: Evaluate the quality of your wellness program]

Below are a few examples of programs created by our lifestyle staff that demonstrate our commitment to creating experiences to engage residents in balanced living.

How does your garden grow

Create a focus on gardening by using National Exercise in the Garden Day to host a balance class in/near the resident garden area. Emphasize the residents gardens by setting up a stand where residents to showcase/sell their produce to their neighbors. Provide a presentation from a master gardener with tips/benefits on organic gardening; it's possible you have residents who are trained as master gardeners who could provide this talk. Offer a series of short group fitness classes that are designed to prepare residents to be active in the community gardens. Host a themed garden party for happy hour.

Water, water everywhere

You might this theme would speak only to pool-based programming. Certainly, if your community has a pool, it should be a spotlight, but that's only one element in this robust program that deals with everything water. Start this programming with an event to teach residents about the importance of proper hydration; build a challenge encouraging them to drink enough water daily. Hold an aquatic ambassadors program to promote pool participation. Serve fresh seafood in your dining venues and showcase the origin and health benefits of the spotlighted menu items. Host a series of coffee talks with your a dietitian discussing the importance of fish in a balanced diet. Wrap the water themed programming up with a polar plunge, a luau, or a pool party.

Train your brain

Help residents engage their brains in less traditional ways by launching language courses from a nearby partner university. Add 15-minute meditation sessions following the weekly balance class; consider spotlighting other brain fitness programming you may have onsite (i.e., Dakim(R)). Build a brain teaser program that runs riddles/cluse on your community's CCTV where residents are invited to various areas of the community to find the answers. Run a museum marathon where the month's outings focus on area museums and special tours are provided by the museum staff. Spotlight brain-boosting foods on your dining menus, and offer coffee talks focused on memory-related disorders as well as what services you provide in-house from your memory care center.

If these programs sound delightful but you're not sure you could get them going in your community, consider connecting with us for wellness consulting. You can put our years of experience in senior living communities across the US to work in your organization to build better programming that speaks to resident passions and that engages staff across your organization for a more collaborative approach.

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

Topics: balance training senior living wellness programs balance redefined

Active Aging: Using the Fitness Freeze to keep visit numbers up

fitness_freeze1.jpgEveryone is planning their holiday vacations and parties. As the manager of a fitness center, your job is about to get just a little tougher. This time of year it’s incredibly difficult to keep the attendance up in the fitness center. I think a lot of members think they can just “put it off” until January 1st and that it’s not that big of a deal if they miss a few weeks of workouts. Unfortunately for those people, there can be major losses after just two weeks of skipping workouts. According to this article, it only takes two and a half to three weeks of inactivity to start seeing strength declines; and losses in cardiovascular fitness can happen even more rapidly.

So, in order to combat those declines in our Active Aging sites, we’ve created the Fitness Freeze program. The basic idea of the program is as follows:

Members earn a snowflake for each week where they exercise three or more times. This can include attending a group fitness class, working out in the fitness center, or exercising on their own somewhere else. At some sites, residents can earn a “bonus” snowflake by completing an assigned task such as a scavenger hunt, an express workout, or trying a new machine or exercise. As members earn their snowflakes, the manager will hang them up throughout the fitness center. The effect is thrilling. Each fitness center becomes a “snowy” wonderland as more and more residents earn their snowflakes.

It’s a fun, simple program that has proven extremely effective in our Active Aging sites. Last year was the first running of the Fitness Freeze program and it resulted in:

  • 11% increase in the total visits from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.
  • 8% increase in members gained from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.
  • 26% increase in the number of appointments held from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.

Our team has set even higher goals for the 2015 Fitness Freeze and I can’t wait to see the results! How are you keeping your members motivated during the holidays?

It's not just about creative programming, how do you plan to take your program to the next level?

Download our eBook below for strategies to take your fitness center from vacant to vibrant!

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Topics: active aging senior living senior living wellness programs

How to create more effective wellness program

Planning ahead is central to what we do.  It’s how we create successful initiatives like our March Into Better Balance Challenge, the 30 Day Squat Challenge, Club PED, National Senior Health and Fitness Day, Active Aging Week, Maintain Not Gain, and several other offerings. One of the ways that planning ahead helps us better serve our clients is with program evaluation.  We’ve written before about the importance of measuring the impact of activities in your wellness program.  In order to effectively evaluate what you’re offering, you have (1) know the programs you’re running, and (2) do the work to set up the program well.

Beyond program evaluation, there are a lot of factors our staff consider to pull off successful programs, and the one element that holds all of that programming together is our planning process.  In fact, our team is already hard at work filling out their 2016 program planning templates. The planning tool allows managers to look at several elements at once:

 1. Balance

Viewing the year-at-a-glance program plan is really helpful for our staff who are looking to provide a balanced programming strategy.  For example, staff can spread out their larger wellness initiatives and sprinkle smaller programs into parts of the year that are typically busier for members. They can also create a balance between types of programming such as fitness incentives, wellness programs, and educational pieces.

 2. Deadlines

Probably the most practical reason to plan ahead is to make sure all the prep work gets done in time. Many of the events and initiatives run by our managers involve other staff and departments. Planning ahead allows you to make sure you can get everything done on time. For example, let’s say you have a field day event planned. You’ll need to work backwards from the date of the event to be sure you have time to order supplies, advertise the event to your members, make arrangements for food and drinks, and plan what you’ll need for set-up. All of those details can take six to eight weeks or more to come together depending on how involved your program is. You can’t get started a week before and expect it to run smoothly.

 3. Community Collaboration

When we plan out the structure of our year ahead of time, it gives us a chance to take that plan to the other departments within the client – be it at a corporate site or in senior living – to allow for optimal collaboration.  And the possibilities for truly engaging programming is great. Our partners offer fantastic creativity to boost initiatives for better participation and for a more well-rounded approach.  Planning in this way also helps us avoid overlap with other key initiatives at the client so that the audience (employees or residents) isn’t confused, frustrated, or otherwise dis-incentivized to participate. 

What’s next?

If it’s true that failing to plan is planning to fail, then how do you go about building this plan?  Below are some tips and tricks to get you started.

Build programs with purpose

We’re not spending time and energy on programs for them to go unattended. And none of us really have time to slap spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks.  Instead, consider developing programs that have a purpose behind them.  It might be that you’re trying to tie into participation goals for the fitness center, or group exercise classes.  Then design the offering geared toward that goal. 

Establish annual campaigns

Members love a good tradition, and you can easily play into that nostalgia with fun programming that occurs annually. Competitions with bragging rights have worked well for us.

Look at untapped areas within your environment

In our corporate settings, sometimes the cafeteria or outdoor settings provide new spaces for creative programming.  In senior living communities, the pool may be a huge opportunity for social, intellectual, and/or physical programming. Grab our quick read on how to grow aquatics participation or click below.

  CTA Aquatics Programming

 

Our creative staff have come up with creative ways for drawing in participation for programs in a variety of settings.  Check their success with the Fitness Freeze, Meditation, and NIFS150 programs. Subscribe to our blog to receive future posts about our successful programs.

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Topics: programming for wellness effective wellness programming senior living wellness programs