Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

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

Two Key Things Your Wellness Program May Be Missing

staff working with residentAt NIFS, we work in both corporate and senior living settings supporting client wellness strategies. After having done that work in diverse environments for various audiences over the last 25 years, we’ve learned a thing or two about what really works when you’re trying to promote living well.

Below are two key elements your wellness program may be missing.

1: The People

We’ve hired hundreds of qualified wellness professionals to work with our many clients over the last two decades. And we’ve made some hiring mistakes. But we’ve learned from those situations and cultivated a more comprehensive interview and an effective onboarding process.

[Related Content: Tips for Hiring Your Own Fitness Professional]

Hire well and you’ll be well on your way to cultivating significant and meaningful opportunities for well-living for your employees or residents. If you don’t hire well for wellness, your strategy, programs, or initiatives are destined for mediocrity at best.

If you don’t know what skills and abilities you need for your wellness strategy, consider outsourcing your staffing to a partner. Let them be your expert so that you can spend your time and energy running your business.

2: The Program

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: wellness is not rocket science. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t require strategic thinking and thoughtful planning. Wellness services should be part of a larger vision that is focused on creating engaging opportunities for well-living.

There is no shortage of valuable resources available for program ideas online. Join a few LinkedIn groups and you’ll soon begin to see engaging ideas and thoughtful discussion that can help take your programming to the next level. Or subscribe to our blog for digestable on-the-ground tips for wellness practitioners as well as high level strategy solutions for wellness leaders.

And let’s talk a little bit about data. How are you gathering it? What are you doing with the data you have? Burying your head in the sand on data is not an answer. I’ve written before on how to gather data that you can actually use in your wellness program. You really can’t afford to continue the work without making legitimate attempts to measure what you’re managing. Otherwise, how will you ever know if your efforts are making the desired impact?

Looking for Best Practice Ideas?

Since we’re all about sharing the love and getting best practices out there for you to run with, I am very excited to announce our upcoming Best Practice Series that will launch in February 2014. There are two tracks:

Why not jumpstart your creativity with a little something that's worked in a similar environment for a similar audience.  (Who doesn't want their job to be a little easier?!)  

Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness program senior wellness programs senior fitness management corporate fitness managment corporate wellness staffing

Wellness in Senior Living: Kit vs. Culture

senior woman stretchingUnless you live under a really, really big rock, you have no doubt heard about the importance of robust wellness opportunities as central to a successful senior living community. There have been some fabulous profiles lately on organizations that are doing an amazing job of connecting their residents and others in the surrounding areas to opportunities to live well. Two recent examples highlighted by LeadingAge are these:

What strikes me about both of these offerings is that they are wellness initiatives. I don’t know that the communities packaged them that way, but in fact, they are a model of innovative wellness programming at its very best.

The other element I find compelling about these offerings is that they’re culturally driven. That is to say that this type of creativity can only come from an organization that believes that living well is truly central to its brand.

When your senior living communities investigate what’s possible under the umbrella of resident wellness, it’s important to consider what it is you truly want to build. Is wellbeing something that leadership wants to cultivate, explore, and weave into the very fabric of the community? Or is the community focus elsewhere for now, such that wellness is more of a task that needs to be crossed off the long list?

Looking for the Wellness Kit?

If wellness for your community is about crossing something off the to-do list, then you might be looking for a kit solution. There are organizations that can help you, when you buy into their model, to plant monthly wellness initiatives at your community. Your activities director can typically fold them into the monthly calendar, and you can begin to dip your toe into the wellness water to get a sense of how your residents will receive programming and activities built around traditional wellness pillars like nutrition, physical activity, and so on.

But that's not how we do it. We're not about the monthly theme, unless it's right for your residents, and we're not about the pre-packaged materials, unless they've proven their value.

Wellness Culture Means Cultivating a Lifestyle in Senior Living

At the end of the day, a wellness culture is where we need to be headed. When we adopt a healthy culture as the way of life we’re building for residents, then we start to grasp what’s really possible.

But here’s the thing: culture is person-driven, not program-driven. There are not enough programs in the world to build a culture. Wellness is a way of life, not an activity, and it should be cultivated accordingly. Here are a few considerations if you’re contemplating the challenging and rewarding work that is wellness culture building in a retirement community:

  • Determining a hierarchy: Building a wellness culture means giving consideration to hierarchy for wellness and activities (or leisure services, or life enrichment, or whatever your organization calls the events coordinator at your community). I would challenge you to think about whether activities actually rolls up under wellness instead of wellness being a branch of activities. If you buy into the idea that wellness is a way of life rather than an activity, then challenging the status quo that activities is at the top of the programmatic/community calendar food chain warrants significant thought.
  • Hiring a wellness director: Building a wellness culture requires a dedicated and competent professional blazing the trail. I’ve written about hiring a fitness professional for your community. The principles in that blog apply to hiring a wellness director as well.
  • Thinking progressively and strategically: Building a wellness culture means thinking differently about how you program, and it requires a commitment to moving beyond the bocce tournament you’ve always done. It also requires you to strategically think through what program data you need, and how you’ll use the data to inform your next culture-building steps.

Make no mistake, building a culture is no easy task and you don’t ever really arrive. You just keep learning, building, and growing. You keep evolving to meet and anticipate the needs of your audience. You keep striving for the experience of a life well lived, for breadth and depth of lifestyle choices that provide meaning for each individual.

If this sounds daunting, it is. The wellness kit idea is much simpler to understand and to execute. But the real richness lies in the proverbial road less traveled. Partner organizations, including ours, can help you map out a path to get started.

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

 

Topics: nifs fitness management senior center solutions senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center health culture fitness center for seniors

Active Aging: How to do wellness staffing right

The wellness staff you provide for residents in your senior living community can, quite simply, make or break your resident wellness strategy.  Hire only for qualifications, and you may miss the mark on a personality that works for the residents.  Hire with a primary focus on personality ("we can teach the hard skills, but you can't correct for personality") and you may never really get your services off the ground.

Recently, I wrote a blog about our hiring tips.  We're a staffing organization, so we do a lot of hiring to support senior living community wellness programs.  We also provide wellness consulting for retirement communities.  What I've seen from both ends of our work is that hiring incorrectly can significantly shortchange your active aging initiatives.  Fortunately, the converse is also true - hire well and your community can edge out its competition by providing a vibrant resident lifestyle.

In our Build Vitality series, we recently covered this very topic.  In the short, 25 minute program, you'll learn how to:

  • Determine the qualifications for the job.
  • Establish a job description.
  • Effectively post the job opening.
  • Develop a more in-depth interview process.
Watch the Build Better Wellness Staff Webinar

If you want to cut to the chase and access all four of our Build Vitality webinars, click here.

Topics: active aging senior wellness programs senior fitness management wellness brand for senior living

Proven Strategies for Building a World-Class Senior Wellness Program

senior livingPart 2: Eight Strategies to Bring About Successful Collaboration

In Part 1, I talked about the importance of setting aside power grabs and tapping into the skill sets of a variety of community personnel to establish a well-rounded wellness program for residents. Read on to discover a variety of ways your community leaders can work together to deliver best-in-class wellness programming to your residents.

Therapy Department:

1: A formal bridge program should be established between your community therapy and fitness departments to help residents transition from therapy to fitness and vice versa. Residents should feel supported in the collaboration that occurs between these two departments as their needs change.

2: Fall prevention and screening services can be offered through either department, but why not take a unified approach? Coordinate fall-prevention programs, lectures, health fairs, etc., and allow your therapy and fitness personnel to work side by side in addressing the variety of resident needs.

Activities Department:

3: As special trips or events are planned for residents, activities personnel can sit down with the fitness and therapy teams to discuss the demands that will be placed on the residents for said activity. Allow your fitness and therapy personnel to promote the upcoming event and develop educational opportunities or training programs to help residents prepare. For example, if residents are going on a trip to a historical destination where they will be walking on cobblestone or brick sidewalks, programs could be offered to help them prepare for extended walking on the terrain, or a discussion on the importance of proper footwear, cane use, and more could be provided.

4: As fitness classes or programs are coordinated and room reservations need to be made, help show your residents that physical well-being is a priority by making rooms and promotional space on calendars and newsletters available to market these programs. After all, if you are going to regularly advertise Tuesday Afternoon Bridge Group on the calendar, why wouldn’t you equally advertise the Tuesday Morning Gentle Yoga Class?

Dining Services Department:

5: Coordinate healthy cooking demonstrations for residents to help them learn how to order healthy selections in the dining room and then sample those healthy options at the demo.

6: You likely provide refreshments to residents at a variety of events. Consider serving cookies and punch as occasional treats and making healthy and engaging options for residents to enjoy. Allow them to create healthy smoothies or yogurt parfaits or create a DIY trail-mix bar with healthy options as you offer an afternoon seminar. Have members of your dining services team present so residents can better connect the healthy options flowing from that department with the educational lecture they are about to hear.

Resident Health Services Department:

7: Fitness and health services staff could coordinate their weekly free blood pressure screenings to occur right outside the doors of where a well-attended group exercise class takes place. This may help capture more participants in this service and it may bring more awareness to the group exercise class by other residents simply looking to take advantage of the free screening.

8: If you have underutilized services available through your health services department such as home health care, medication assistance, and so on, speak with your activities personnel about doing a monthly highlight of the services in the newsletter or in a presentation. It’s often that residents don’t understand or don’t realize that a service is available to them more so than not being interested. Find opportunities to spread the message.

You’ll notice that fitness isn’t included as its own separate header because it is already represented by collaborating with the other departments in the list. This remains NIFS’s philosophy on resident wellness programming. It’s how we support wellness for our clients, and we’ve found it to be an effective model that serves well the needs of current residents as well as contributes positively to community occupancy and viability in the marketplace.

Want to learn more about how to build those key elements in your community? Join us for our Build Vitality webinar series.

Topics: nifs fitness management NIFS senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center wellness brand for senior living

Senior Fitness: Building a Better Fitness Center

Senior living communities are spending a lot of time and resources today responding to the consumer's demand for opportunities to live well.  We see those responses translated into a variety of services and amenities that speak to wellness, and specifically exercise opportunities and fitness centers are one of the most common wellness elements in senior living.  Unfortunately, a lot of communities are still operating with exercise areas that are outdated and less than friendly for residents.  But money is tight, and allocating capital for improvements to existing exercise spaces or building brand new fitness centers is not a decision to be made lightly.  If you commit to investing in that type of capital improvement, you need to do it right. 

Questions about space allocation, design, equipment selection, programming, and liability can be overwhelming.

As you might expect, in my wellness consulting work at retirement communities, I get asked a lot of questions about new construction and rehabbing existing spaces.  I've answered some of the most common questions in a blog on the top 5 list of things to avoid when building a fitness center for senior living.

In a little bit deeper dive on key questions related to space design, size, and equipment, we hosted a "Build a Better Fitness Center" webinar, as part of our Build Vitality series.  The recording is below.  When you watch the 30 minute webinar, you find out more about the following:  

  • how to design/redesign a fitness area,
  • how to make sound exercise equipment selections for your residents,
  • what practices and policies need to be in place to effectively manage your liability, and
  • how to program the fitness areas for optimal engagement.

View the full Build a Better Fitness Center webinar using the button below.  If you want to cut to the chase and access all four of our Build Vitality webinars, click here.

Watch the Build a Better  Fitness Center Webinar

Topics: active aging senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center Fitness Center fitness center for seniors

Proven Strategies for Building a World-Class Senior Wellness Program

senior wellnessPart 1: Who Should Be Contributing to Resident Wellness?

There are many interpretations of what a community “wellness program” should be, and to be fair, many interpretations are quite valid. We’re not saying one size fits all; quite the contrary. What we are saying is that there are multiple VALID interpretations of resident wellness and making your community aware of the potential variety (pulling away from “this is what we’ve always done”) will be beneficial for all. Tap into the unique skill sets of your community personnel to cultivate a harmonious and healthy lifestyle for your residents.

For example, resident health services and therapy departments may perceive clinical programs such as health metrics screenings or gait analysis as wellness programming. Your activities personnel may perceive socialization and educational seminars as a wellness program, whereas your community fitness personnel perceive prevention programming such as balance training and healthy eating as wellness. The answer to which of these options is truly a wellness program is “all of the above”—if they are executed effectively with a collaborative approach to promote resident well-being.

Oftentimes there are power grabs at play among community personnel on who is offering wellness or who should be involved in certain types of programming. We’ve written about silos and power grabs before. A well-rounded wellness program cannot truly exist until these power grabs are set aside and everyone learns to contribute to the greater good of resident care and well-being as a team. After all, how long will a resident truly be successful upon discharge from therapy services if they don’t have the support of fitness programming to continue their progress? Or what good is an educational lecture on the importance of managing your blood pressure as coordinated by your activities personnel if health screenings and clinical support are not available?

The needs and expectations of today’s residents are too dynamic and unique to have a “wellness program” facilitated through the vision of one department or one individual. To best serve the needs of residents, all departments should be contributing their own skill sets under a central mission for improving resident well-being.

In doing so, your community will be able touch on many different dimensions of wellness from one department to the next without placing the entire programming burden on one or two individuals. In turn, the scope of possibilities in programming is not as limited and a current of wellness-based lifestyle programs and options will flow from one department to the next. If you were to remove one of these departments, it would likely create a gap in your program. This collaboration can demonstrate to existing and prospective residents that individual agendas and power grabs are not the priority at your community, but improved resident well-being through collaboration is!

You won’t want to miss part 2 of this blog, in which we look into eight specific examples of where your key community players can contribute to well-rounded wellness programming.

Topics: NIFS senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center wellness brand for senior living

Struggling with Occupancy at Your Senior Living Community?

If you quietly answered yes to that question and then pulled your office door shut so no one would know you were reading this blog, it’s okay. Take a deep breath. You’re not the only one who has struggled with occupancy at one time or another.

Kudos to you for looking at alternative means to boost your occupancy. It’s true: wellness programming hasn’t been a traditional area for tackling occupancy issues. But as more and more communities get on board with providing a healthy lifestyle for their residents, a creative and well-executed resident wellness strategy will become essential for communities to compete in the marketplace.

That may be the future, but I don’t think it’s too far off. And positioning your community now with a standout fitness and wellness program for your residents will only build your competitive advantage.

If you’re looking for some baby steps to take to get you started, consider reviewing the National Whole-Person Wellness Survey available from Mather LifeWays for $15. The report is extensive and details various trends in community wellness, covering multiple dimensions as well as details about program participation and anticipated future trends in community wellness.

You can also register for the NIFS Build Vitality webinar series. In this free four-part webinar series, we cover wellness branding, fitness centers, wellness staffing, and wellness programs.

If this all seems like too much to bite off for now, watch the short video below to hear why senior living marketing professionals are convinced robust wellness programming is central to their occupancy success.

Topics: active aging nifs fitness management NIFS senior center solutions senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center occupancy

The Secrets of a Successful Senior Living Wellness Brand

We see it all the time – fantastic retirement communities with diverse and enriching wellness programming for their residents, but lacking a unified banner to pull it all together.  Instead, the programming is a little bit hodge-podge and lacking in a strategic focus.  And senior living wellness professionals, because their busy and pulled in 100 different directions, are missing out on opportunities to capitalize on these engaging wellness activities.

What is your senior living community’s wellness strategy missing?

  • Are you able to capture stories of how your wellness services are positively impacting the lives of your residents?
  • Is your marketing and sales staff able to effectively articulate what it means to live vibrantly in your community to prospects who may be reluctant to leave their homes?
  • Do you have a wellness brand that is well-executed through the community within multiple departments, through a variety of personnel?

 If you didn’t answer a resounding YES to all three of those questions, then check out some of the key strategies below that we offer our clients who are working on building a better wellness brand.

  • Begin with the end in mind:  When you’re just getting started considering the brand you want to develop for wellness at your senior living setting, it is sometimes helpful to think about the end point.  Consider what you want to communicate and how that should look.  Once you are able to define that end-picture, you can start working backwards on what needs to be developed, designed, created, and transformed.
  • Identify and leverage existing successesThink about what is a huge success at your community?  What do your residents buzz about over and over again?  What kinds of events, programs, or services get the greatest participation?  Those offerings may provide you with a jumping off point for considering your wellness brand.  Giving thought to the stakeholders in your community who need to be at the table for these discussions also is part of this consideration.
  • Use the wellness dimension model to look for programming holes:  Start by writing down all the dimensions (physical, emotional, social, environmental, intellectual, vocational, spiritual) and list out all the programs you’ve run in the last six to 12 months.  Then put the programs into the wellness dimension buckets where they belong. (Most initiatives will fall into more than one dimension.)  This simple mapping technique should help you identify where you may have some gaps in services.  It should also show you low-hanging fruit opportunities for early success in your branding efforts.

To learn about two more strategies as well as some tactics for executing on your wellness brand, view our “Build a Better Wellness Brand” webinar using the button below.  If you want to cut to the chase and access all four of our Build Vitality webinars, click here.

Watch the Brand Webinar

Topics: active aging senior center solutions senior wellness programs CCRC fitness center wellness brand for senior living

4 Keys to Getting Wellness Program Data You Can Actually Use, Part 2

set goalsPart 2: Your Program Is Set Up... Now What?

In the first part of this blog, we talked about key strategies to set your program up for success. Remember “begin at the beginning” and “map out the ‘how’”? If you’re still intent on getting data you can actually use from your wellness program, keep reading to learn what do to now that you’re ready to run the initiative.

#3: Stick to the Plan

This seems so obvious, so I won’t spend much time on it. Here’s the thing: you spend a lot of time mapping out the goals and the objectives to achieve those goals, and then you design your program around that outline. For heaven’s sake, stick to the plan. Implement the program as close to the original design as possible. If you get into the offering and you find a fatal flaw in the plan, change what you must, but in order for your evaluation to be true, educational, and actionable, you need to stick to the plan.

#4: Evaluate and Report

Drum roll, please. We’re about to get to the goods, so stick with me here. So, you set up your goals, you map out how you will accomplish the goals, you craft your program accordingly, you bravely stick with the plan, and then when it’s all over, you evaluate how you did.

We think about your post-program evaluation in two ways:

  1. Overall effectiveness of the program: We calculate how we communicated the program, how many people we reached, how accurately we ran the initiative, how many people completed the program, etc. All of that gets folded together into a program-impact score. The numbers that feed into the impact score and the score itself allow for year-over-year (or program-over-program) comparisons for effectiveness over time.
  2. Achievement of our goals: If we set up the goals correctly so that they were measureable, and we ran the program knowing the data we needed, we should be able to figure out whether we reached our goals.

In addition to crunching some basic numbers, our staff members are responsible for reporting their program results to their supervisor, who then works with the manager on developing strategies for future program improvements. The supervisor also makes sure that best practice information is shared among other staff so that important lessons learned can be used by everyone. After all, if you hit on some brilliant technique for communicating with the audience you need to reach, shouldn’t the entire community working with that audience benefit from your success?

We’ve been following The Wellness Challenge program as an example throughout these two blogs. So let me wrap up with some of the juicy data Reggie, the manager responsible for this initiative, was able to gather based on pre- and post-program evaluation.

Straight from Reggie’s report, here are his proposed changes for the next The Wellness Challenge offering, as well as his quick summary of his goals:

Goal Report:

  • Goal 1: Have at least 80 participants with approximately 1/4 of them being staff. Did not fully meet: Had only 72 participants, but 29% were employees.
  • Goal 2: Increase class participation totals by 15% and increase fitness center visits by 250 per month throughout the challenge. Goal met: Increased class size by 65% over prior 2 months and increased FC visits by 435 compared to prior 2 months.
  • Goal 3: Increase fitness center membership by 10 members (5 residents and 5 staff) during the challenge. Did not meet: Increased staff membership by 3 and resident membership by 2.

For next year to improve overall program impact:

  • Make the teams smaller.
  • Give 1 point/minute walked.
  • Establish a volunteer limit.
  • Hold an orientation/team meet-and-greet before the challenge starts.
  • Reconsider food point system to possibly include fruit.
  • Reconsider prizes. Try giving away less money.

So Reggie learned he’s got some work to do if he folds those same unmet goals into next year’s offering. He’ll need to revamp his strategies. He’s already well on his way to crafting that plan because he has this complete outline on which to build an improved The Wellness Challenge.

How Are You Evaluating Your Programs?

Certainly there’s more than one way to skin this evaluation cat. How are you doing it? What are you learning? Program evaluation is only one element of a first-rate wellness strategy. Communicating a strong wellness brand, having quality physical spaces for where your initiatives can occur, and cultivating amazing wellness staff are all central to a fabulous program.

Improve your programs >

 

 

Topics: NIFS senior wellness programs senior fitness management program evaluation data