Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Senior Living Activities: Changing the Name or Changing the Notion

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

What If the Activities Director Was Called Something Else?

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

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

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

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

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

Three Ways to Turn Activities into Life Enrichment

senior_group_ThinkstockPhotos-528133531

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

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

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

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

Tips for Starting Balance Training in Senior Fitness

Balanced_older_womanYou might know that some of the basic elements your senior fitness workout program should include are weight training, cardio activities, and as much flexibility as possible. One element that needs special attention among the senior population is balance training. Training for balance has been considered a fourth recommendation from many organizations, and there has been a much bigger emphasis on balance training in senior wellness programs in recent years.

With balance training now a part of a strong recommendation for your daily workout routine, where do you start? What is balance training? These questions are pretty common among seniors, and the perfect place to start is with training. 

Following are some tips for starting and maintaining your new balance program—that is, if you have not already been working on balance.

Start with Assistance

Even if you feel like you are pretty surefooted, start light and use something to assist with your balance activities. Anytime you work balance, you are using muscles in your body that may cause your balance to become shaky. Once you are more acclimated to the balance activities and you are comfortable with progressing, try slowly releasing the assisting device or object to get more challenge from your balance activities.

Be Consistent

Anytime you start an exercise program, consistency will be important. The same rule applies here. When working on your balance, maintaining a three-day-per-week or five-day-per-week schedule will add up in no time. Consistency will train your mind, body, and muscles to improve your balance over time.

Modify and Vary Your Program

Again, when working on balance, be cautious with your modifications. Start with light modifications and progress with different activities. For a good list of modifications and additional balance exercises you can add to your balance program, click here.

Learn to Scale When Needed

Scaling a workout is something that many do, and when working with seniors, scaling is important. When you scale your workout, you are essentially changing something to make it more individualized. In other words, if standing on one foot is too easy for you when holding on to a sturdy chair, you should scale, if appropriate, by trying a single-leg stand without holding on to the chair.

Select Your Exercises

Starting your program should be slow. Start with about one or two balance exercises and progress as you feel necessary. Starting slow will progress you into a good program, but it will also help you take it slow (just like in other aspects of your training). When you start your balance program, hold your balance activities for about 20 to 30 seconds in each position and aim to complete about two or three sets. For a good amount of exercises and demos, consider the information here to help get you started on new balance training exercises.

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If you have any additional tips that worked well when you started a balance program, please leave some helpful hints in the comments below. If you found some things to work and others to not, we would like to hear your experiences.

Interested in how we provide balance training for seniors?  Check out our whitepaper, Advanced Balance Training Programs for CCRC Fitness Center by clicking below.

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Topics: senior wellness programs balance senior fitness balance training exercise for elderly

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

Active Aging: “We All Need to Be Needed”,Emotional Wellness and Dementia

When creating senior wellness programs, we often focus on the physical realm of wellness. I would like to take some time to talk about emotional wellness. In particular, I want to get into the emotional wellness of our residents with various forms of dementia. 

All too often when someone begins to feel the effects of some form of cognitive loss, they begin to pull away. At first it is out of embarrassment over not being able to recall a friend’s name immediately or the name of a common object, or the frustration as they lose the concept of time and place. 

senior_careTaking Care of Someone with Cognitive Loss

Imagine if you had the knowledge that you were no longer able to follow a conversation with a group of people and be able to equally contribute to that conversation. Wouldn’t that lead you to draw away from your friends and family to save yourself from such an embarrassment? All our youthful years we identify ourselves by what we do or what we know. I’m an athlete, a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer, and so on and so on. Wouldn’t this also lead you to be depressed if you could no longer identify yourself? 

What if we as the caregivers could do more than take care of someone with dementia? Do more than shower and dress and prop them up somewhere. Those of us in wellness tend not to be the ones to deal with the hygiene portion of an individual’s care, so how can we contribute to their daily lives? The easiest and best way is time and attention. Depending on the stage of disease, there are many things that we can do to let our residents know they are still loved. 

It is easy to say, “Yeah, but I don’t have time. I teach classes and run programs and work with people individually and there is just not enough time in a day.” There is good news. It does not take a lot of time. Programs can be created to include spouses, friends and family members, or volunteers to help share the responsibility of time. These programs can be built to be held in short increments of time. The most important thing with any of these programs is to just remember to be with your residents. Not shuffle them from place to place or activity to activity. Take the time to truly be with them. Let them tell you a story; ask questions about their interests. Don’t try to control the conversation. Let it go wherever it may, just as you do when catching up with a good friend. 

Ideas for Emotional Wellness Programs

Here are a few ideas to include in a dementia program:

Music time: Sing-alongs, classical music, or music of their time. Music is the universal language understood all over the world and is the best trick up our sleeve.Story time: This is not time to read a story to your residents. This is time to listen to your residents’ stories. Pay no mind if that story switches tracks; just be there to listen to that story and contribute to a conversation that may come out of it. 

Current events breaks: Try to focus on some happy current events. 

The most important thing to remember is to live in the moment, because that is all someone with dementia has: a series of moments. I encourage anyone who potentially will be spending time with someone with dementia to either read the book or see the movie Still Alice by Lisa Genova. It is a profound story that will open your world to an amazingly deep understanding of an individual’s perspective of the need to be needed.

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Topics: senior wellness programs brain health dementia memory care mental health emotional wellness

How to Evaluate the Quality of Your Resident Wellness Program

In this blog, I want to run through a handful of questions that often come up when I have an initial call with a possible client who is interested in doing wellness better at their senior living community. But before I get too far into that information, I thought I should start by offering my definition of wellness so that we’re all on the same page for that terminology. 

When I say wellness, I’m talking about multidimensional, active programming that can span the continuum and that fosters maximal participation throughout the community. It is not just fitness, or activities, or dining, or chaplain-based services, and it certainly isn’t clinic-based or born from a healthcare model. Wellness incorporates a very broad range of program and event types, and it’s built to provide purpose for the participant.

The other element to defining wellness that might be confusing is the distinction I make between wellness and activities. It is my opinion that building a true resident wellness program requires more than simply renaming your traditional activities program. You’ll need to consider existing personnel in your community and whether/how they can collaborate for improved offerings under a different strategy. You will also need to formulate a plan around changing how programs are developed, executed, and evaluated. 

So with that context established, let’s get on to the questions and answers that you can use to benchmark where you are now with resident wellness and how to do wellness better. 

Do you have dedicated staff who plan and execute a variety of activities for residents in the community?

In many communities, it’s common to hear that there is a resident wellness program, when in reality there’s an activities program, a fitness program, chaplain services, etc., all functioning in their own silos with limited collaboration. 

For your wellness program to truly be robust, you need to have a leader at the helm of program/event development. There are a lot of ways to do this; sometimes it’s the activity director who assumes this role; and in other cases, this position is given to the fitness coordinator or social worker. You want to make sure you’re tapping the right person who can effectively lead a team, who has strong capacity for strategic thinking and collaboration, and who has a better-than-high-school understanding of human health. 

Do you have dedicated fitness personnel who manage your exercise programming?

Even in 2015, the fitness “room” (if you will) still comes in all shapes and sizes. It is consistent to see some space dedicated to exercise equipment within most communities, and typically group exercise classes are held in other areas of the building. Pools are still very hit-or-miss in established senior living communities. 

Best-in-class services for your residents demand a dedicated fitness professional (or team, depending on the size of your community and the desired scope of services) who can manage the exercise program for your community. That individual should have at least a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field with strong expertise in prescribing exercise for seniors. He or she should also be quite skilled at teaching a variety of basic group exercise classes. And that fitness manager absolutely needs an outgoing, approachable personality to go along with the technical expertise.

In most cases, we see a hodgepodge of group fitness instructors and personal trainers floating in and out of the community to support exercise activities for residents. While this approach will allow you to have some staff support in your exercise room as well as maintain your class schedule, you are failing to build a strong service that includes 1:1 attention for the residents as well as community-wide programming and data that can inform how the exercise program should evolve. 

activeaagingWhat percentage of your community events/program are active (up, moving, interacting with others, learning, growing, doing) as compared to passive (sit-and-listen)?

Just because the residents are retired from their careers does not mean that they are retired from life. Providing opportunities for participants to learn new things, meet new people, discuss new concepts, and see new places builds a purpose-oriented lifestyle in your community. If more than 50% of your activities calendar includes routine programs like cards and sit-and-listen offerings, it’s time to take a fresh look at how you can build more person-centered offerings on a regular basis.

What percentage of your residents participate in the activities offered at your community?

In most cases, activities for senior living fall into the Pareto principle, where 20% of the residents are engaging in 80% of the activities. Often, we see this phenomenon in place because your activities and events planners have slipped into an order-taker role. Their ears are tuned to the vocal minority and they fill the calendar with ideas offered by the residents who are already participating. To get out of this order-taking mode and to start moving toward programming that attracts more than the same 20% who have been participating for years, you’ll have to try something different with your team and your expectations. This is where a strategic, multidisciplinary plan steps in.

How is programming developed and executed at your community?

When I talked about personnel in one of the earlier questions, I mentioned the individuals working in silos so that events happen independent of each other throughout the community. A more strategic approach to programming is warranted if communities are committed to engaging more residents in lifestyle on their campuses and appearing more attractive to hesitant consumers. This type of practice requires planning activities well in advance with input from a team of experts. It requires thinking that moves away from the one-and-done offerings and toward layered, multidimensional, inviting programs that have the members talking, connecting, participating, and learning. 

It also requires a thoughtful approach to gathering data for the programs. Each offering should be created with an intended purpose that is measurable. Program plans should be built with that goal in mind, and tactics designed to help achieve that goal should be identified. When the program is complete, the team should evaluate whether and how they achieved their goal, as well as identify what they learned in the process that can be used for more effective programming in the future.  

So, now that you’ve finished all the questions and answers, where does your community stand? If you’re ready to do wellness better, we have some tools that might be helpful. See the list below for those additional resources:

NIFS Best Practice Programs for Senior Living

NIFS Build Vitality Webinar Series

NIFS Slideshare: 3 Keys to Improving Resident Engagement in Wellness

Not sure how to start evaluating your resident wellness program?  Contact us below.

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Topics: senior wellness programs corporate wellness staffing program planning nifs fitness center management

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

Active Aging Week: What does it take to plan a successful event?

aaw14Active Aging Week is fast approaching! Our staff started planning this year’s events months ago - I’m talking work groups starting back in early April. We wait patiently for the ICAA to roll out the annual theme and then the creative geniuses of our staff get to work. As we continue to fine tune the last details of the events coming up on September 22-26, staff and residents alike are excited and the buzz of Active Aging Week is in the air! Read on to learn why we put so much advanced planning into our week of events:

  • It Takes a Village: for an over the top successful Active Aging Week, we’ve learned that the more involvement we include from different community staff, the better! When residents hear about various staff and departments being involved in the planning of the events, they won’t be able to resist getting caught up in the buzz and excitement. As we map out our events for each day of the week, we flag which programs could benefit from the added skill sets and passions of other community personnel (not just your activities and fitness staff) as well as resident volunteers. We then spend time working with these folks on their creative ideas and how they can contribute to the program in a way that is meaningful and fun for them! When you plan well in advance and can speak with staff about how they could volunteer, you have time on your side to coordinate this additional layer of community involvement! 
  • Set Your Event Apart: our staff have annual planning calendars of the various fitness and wellness programs they already offer to residents each month of the year. It takes an additional effort from a planning standpoint (what can we do that is fun, creative, innovative, etc.), but also from a marketing standpoint to help Active Aging Week rise above the rest. It’s a lot of work (fun work mind you, but work none-the-less) planning daily events, so we like to take it to a new level to make sure we get the participation!
  • Diversify “Active” Offerings: when residents hear “Active Aging Week” it’s important to help them identify that the week isn’t just about those who are physically active. As we map out our day to day plans for week, we reflect on the eight dimensions of wellness and ensure that each one is touched on in some way or multiple ways throughout the week’s events. This can span more resident interests and abilities than simply focusing on physical activity options alone. It’s important to recognize residents for being active in the community in a way that is meaningful for them so don’t overlook these opportunities to diversify your program options.
  •  Add Some Friendly Competition: residents often ask our staff what kinds of programs and participation NIFS has established at other communities - they can’t fathom that any community could be as active as theirs (insert our sly smile here…) During Active Aging Week, we report daily participation totals in the events we plan for a friendly competition amongst the communities we serve. Staff report daily standings on a printed display board and communities are able to see how their participation fairs to other communities (scores all are weighted of course to account for varying occupancy levels). Residents truly rally together inviting their neighbors to events to best represent their community’s active lifestyle. Collaborate with neighboring senior living communities or create an internal competition with a focus on daily participation goals!

Whether you are offering a small or large scale Active Aging Week this year, kudos for your efforts in supporting an active and engaging lifestyle for the seniors you serve. Best of luck for a successful year!

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Topics: senior wellness programs active aging week,

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 CCRC Can Offer Prospective Residents

If we look at broad brushstrokes of what a CCRC 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 CCRC 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

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