Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Get Kids Interested in Staying Active: Sports and Activities

GettyImages-607485814.jpgChildren come in all shapes and sizes and with many unique interests. Keeping a child active is a good way to instill a love for movement. Once kids lose interest in playgrounds, what’s the next thing you can do to help them with staying active and healthy?

There are many options, such as recreational hiking, skateboarding, tennis, walking a pet, and organized sports. For example, if your child loves the outdoors, visiting a park with unpaved paths can be a great motivation to get everyone in the family moving.

Sports and Competition

Is your kid an athlete, or does he or she enjoy competition? Help them focus on a sport that is fun, yet challenging. Pressuring children into a sport they don’t enjoy could potentially lead to them quitting and not wanting to be involved in other sports or competitive activities. Supporting your child through their exploration of activities can help foster a positive relationship with their competitive interests.

Activities for Kids Who Don’t Like Sports

Team sports aren’t an option for all kids, though, and that’s okay. Less traditional ways of being active can also increase health benefits for your child. Doing volunteer work for an animal shelter by being a dog walker can help your child while helping the shelter and their animals. This will get your child moving, and they won’t even realize they are exercising. Volunteering with an organization that cleans up trash around the community or helps build homes can also be ways to get a child interested in different types of activities that get them moving.

Just getting the opportunity to be active can motivate kids to get involved. If they are having fun, they will have greater interest in doing those sports, activities, or competitions on a regular basis.

 How do you get your kids moving in the winter months? 

Comment below and share with us!

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Topics: kids staying active sports motivation

What happened when I stepped (way) out of my comfort zone for #GivingTuesday

GivingTuesday sign-213254-edited.jpeg

Today is #GivingTuesday, and for our NIFS family, we're celebrating NIFS 30th birthday by giving back in our communities. Several weeks ago, I challenged our team, which is spread throughout the country, to consider giving back in ways that were meaningful to them. I offered a few suggestions and then left it to them to come up with what what hit home personally. But I knew I couldn't leave it there; I knew I had to show them that I was in for this giving thing too.

So I thought about the ways I typically give, but none of those usual suspects really struck me.  I guess that's because they're my norm and part of my routine commitment to my community. 

That's when it hit me...FREE HUGS.

You don't know me, so let me say here for the record that I am not anti-hug.  I am however, a little hesitant on hugging strangers.  But before I could back out of my own idea to set up a free hug event, I told a colleague, and then I emailed the team to share that I would be giving free hugs for #GivingTuesday.

I just got back to my desk from that adventure. Despite trying to talk myself out of it twice this morning (I'm not kidding), I grabbed my "free hugs" sign (thank you, Kara Gootee-Robinson), and my coworker, Ashley Smith (and her camera!), and headed out to the IUPUI campus.

My stomach was in knots because I was so afraid that I would be rejected...that no one would want a hug.  Most of us fear rejection, right?  What if I was standing on that corner calling out for free hugs for #GivingTuesday and everyone just looked down at their phones, earbuds in, and tried to ignore the crazy lady on the corner?

Giving Tuesday NIFS Free Hugs

Not only were my fears quickly erased as several good natured souls stepped up for their hug, when my time was up, I walked away feeling great about spreading a little love and goodwill.

For the full hug effect, watch this video.

While hugs are not how I typically give back in my community, it was a great reminder that it doesn't take a lot of time or money to put a smile on someone's face. We also don't have to wait around for the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving to see and respond to needs in the community.  We're all busy...too busy, and if we wait for the right time to start contributing, it will NEVER happen.  There is richness gained in giving to others, and all it takes is a willingness to put yourself out there. 

Topics: Giving Tuesday NIFS Free Hugs

Brain Training in Your Senior Living Community

517993851-1.jpgMany seniors fear cognitive decline more than any other disease associated with aging. The good news is that engaging in activities that support brain health and brain function can reduce seniors’ risk for cognitive decline and dementia. In fact, training your brain is kind of like training your body with regular exercise, and it can really complement your fitness programs with proper planning. Not sure where to start? Here are five steps to create a focus on brain training in your senior living  community.

  • Do your homework – Learn as much as you can about cognitive health, dementia, and brain training. The Alzheimers Association website is a great resource, and a quick search on the AARP website yields lots of great information on brain health for seniors. There are also many wonderful books on these topics, such as Spark! by John Ratey. This book really does a good job of connecting the dots between exercise, physical health, and cognitive health.
  • Involve the residents – Share the things that you’re learning with residents as you learn them. This can be as simple as teaching a quick fact about the brain at the beginning of exercise classes. Use this opportunity to let the residents know that you’re starting to look into bolstering your cognitive health programming in your community. Ask for their input early to help with your program design. Ask what they already do to train their brains, what kinds of mentally engaging things they enjoy doing, and what topics they would like to learn more about or take a class on.
  • Evaluate your programs and make a plan – Take a look at the current activities that you offer in your community. Do you have many mentally challenging, educational, and social opportunities on your calendar? Are there ways you can enhance your current offerings to make them more engaging? Do you have opportunities for individual brain training (i.e. using the Dakim) as well as brain training in a group setting (i.e. brain fitness class)? Determine activities you can enhance or add to your calendar, and make a plan for these changes utilizing resident input from Step two. Also, brainstorm ways that you can include brain training in your group exercise classes. For example, during cardiovascular exercise, you could assign numbers to five different exercises, and cue the exercises using their assigned numbers instead of the exercise names. Then mix it up!
  • Provide education – Hold lectures to educate residents on how the brain works and what they can do to strengthen their brains and reduce their risk for cognitive decline. Be sure to point out all the ways they can participate in brain training activities at your community and let them know what new activities and enhancements are coming their way. You might also want to hold a lecture on memory strategies (or just teach one strategy at a time at the end of your exercise classes). Don’t forget to promote your fitness programs as one of the easiest ways to get started with brain training!
  • Launch your program – Launch your program soon after you hold the educational lectures – consider using a brain health fair or other fun activity to get started. Begin holding your newly planned activities and enhancements on a regular basis and make sure they stand out on your calendar. Then, use a fun challenge that includes incentives for participating in mentally engaging activities and exercise to tie it all together. Once the challenge ends, celebrate residents’ success and communicate with the residents that the new opportunities for brain training will continue even though the challenge has ended.

Editor's note:  Rachel did a fantastic job launching a "Mental Muscle" initiative for the residents in her community.  Download the impact report from the program to get a snapshot of how well the residents received the offering and how wellness program participation was affected.

Get in touch with us to find out more about how NIFS can support brain training and other programming for your residents.

Contact Us > 

Topics: brain fitness senior living

Smart Weight Loss: How to Steer Clear of Fad Diets

 

508669134.jpgThese days it seems there is one new health or weight-loss diet out every week. My clients are constantly saying to me:

  • “Is worth it?”
  • “My friend lost a gazillion pounds on it, so it must work!”
  • “I saw on TV how this diet cures diabetes.”
  • “But Dr. Oz says…”

And before I knew better, I fell into the trap of these diets myself! Back then it was SlimFast and the Richard Simmons plans that were all the rage. Nowadays, we see the Fasting Diet plans, Paleo, Whole30, and Weight Watchers. And while I don’t think all of these plans are horrible or unsafe, I do believe that for the most part you should save your time and money if the diet does any of the following things.

Tells You to Follow Strict Meal Plans

Life is already complicated enough. Limiting food choices or following rigid meal plans can be an overwhelming, unrealistic feat. With any new diet, always ask yourself: "Can I eat this way for the rest of my life?" If the answer is no, the plan is not for you.

Promises Rapid Weight Loss

Slow, steady weight loss is more likely to last than dramatic weight changes. Healthy plans aim for a loss of no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week. If you lose weight quickly, you are 100% more likely to gain it back just as quickly.

Says to Consume Foods in Excess or Cut Them Out Completely

Ditch diets that allow unlimited quantities of any food, such as grapefruit and cabbage soup. It's boring to eat the same thing over and over and hard to stick with monotonous plans. Avoid any diet that eliminates or severely restricts entire food groups, such as carbohydrates. These aren’t necessary or realistic; you can lose weight without these nutrition extremes.

Requires Supplements Like Pills or Powders

Might as well take your money and just throw it in the trash. Not only are these supplements not necessary, they are not proven safe or effective. Ask a trusted professional and learn the consequences for yourself.

Conflicting claims, testimonials, and hype by so-called experts can confuse even the most informed consumers. The bottom line is this: If a fad diet or product sounds too good to be true, it is.

Unsure of where to start or what is right for you?  Grab our free download on the benefits of meeting with a nutrition coach, click below!

Benefits of meeting with a nutrition coach >

Topics: weight loss fad diets nutrition

How to Give Resident Wellness Programs a Fresh Look

517993851.jpgResident wellness programs have been on the rise in senior living as consumers demand more robust and holistic options for living well. Despite the market's increasing infatuation with branding and labeling wellness in the community setting, I think the industry has a lot of room to continue to grow so that we're building programs, services, staffing, and amenities in a way to facilitate residents' desires to live well. Following are some common pitfalls that result in dated or stunted wellness programs, along with ideas for how to evolve past those sticking points.

Your exercise program is not the same thing as your wellness program.

In the consulting work I do, it is so common for communities to point to their exercise classes as the primary example of how they are offering their residents a wellness program. And while I would agree completely that the exercise program is a key to a successful wellness strategy, it's not the only element; and for some communities, it may not even be primary.

You absolutely want the exercise program to serve many of your residents, but it's important to acknowledge that not all of your seniors will participate. The class offerings, individual services, exercise equipment, and related amenities need to be diverse and well communicated. There should also be effective resident outreach to consistently draw in new participants.

Even when communities are executing well with their program, there is often room for improvement within the exercise offerings. Class formats and descriptions can be reviewed, and fitness center services like exercise prescriptions and fitness testing should be evaluated. Even taking a closer look at replacing small, worn-down equipment can offer subtle but positive upgrades to your program.

[Related Content: Four Tips for Improving your Resident Exercise Program]

A full activities calendar is the wrong goal for your wellness program.

I think sometimes folks in the activity director role find themselves in the position of order taking—you’re catering to the vocal minority. And who can fault you for wanting to make your constituents happy? But there are traps and pitfalls for your resident wellness program if your activities and events are built from an order-taking model.

Sometimes one of the challenges with the philosophy on how events and programs are placed on the schedule is actually cultural in the organization. We set the wrong benchmarks for evaluating effectiveness in activities. We focus on how full the calendar is, or leadership communicates that the goal of the activities staff is to make sure the residents are busy, that they have something to do, that we’re making their days pleasant and full.

But if you stepped back and looked objectively at the unique elements on your last six months of activities calendars, is there anything on there that would interest you? Is there anything on those calendars that, if you were new in the environment and were looking to try to make friends, you might venture out of your apartment to attend?

When you do program planning from residents' limitations, you limit your program.

It's easy to get into a rut in senior living where you start to see more limitations from your residents than potential, and when we get trained on what seniors can't do, we unintentionally build programs around those perceived barriers.

We tell ourselves a story about the residents; we say they’re frail, they’re limited, they don’t like to leave the community, they don’t like change. We say we tried that program and the residents won’t do it.

While you may have some residents who are frail, limited, unlikely to try new things, fearful, or begrudging of change, you also have residents who can be described with a whole host of other adjectives like adventurous, bright, eager, optimistic, friendly, kind, enthusiastic, loyal, and patient.

Evolving your activities and exercise programs may require a full-scale change in how you view your residents' desires, passions, and abilities. Stripping old assumptions is never easy, but it could be the first step toward building a better wellness program for the community.

Find out how to evaluate your program

 

Topics: resident wellness programs senior living program planning activities exercise program

How to make the most out of your community fitness center

I talked with a lot of folks at the 2017 LeadingAge Expo last week about how they can make the most out of their senior living community fitness center. In case you and I didn't connect at that event, here are 3 tips on how to make the most out of your community fitness center programs.

water aerobics for seniors

Start with the staff

Upgrading what you're offering in your fitness program is a great way to stand out from the competition (if you do it well), but offering a trainer a few hours per week likely isn't enough to truly draw residents into the fitness program. 

If you have no staff - start there. Let's talk about how you can start providing expert staff in a cost effective manner with the greatest impact for your community.

If you have staff - evaluate how effective they are for your residents. There's a nuance here that's worth mentioning: how well-liked the staff are is not the same thing as how effective they are. Your residents deserve both an affable fitness team and effective, fun, engaging programs and services. So when you're thinking about how well your fitness staff are performing, start by addressing how well-received they are, but don't stop there. Ask how they spend their time in service to the residents and how are they measuring the success of the community fitness program. For example, are they providing services, like exercise prescriptions, equipment orientations, and assessments that help residents understand how to exercise safely while working positively toward their goals? Do you have data on how those services are used? 

[Read More: How NIFS managers spend their time in senior living fitness centers]
 

Consider the programming

Fitness programming in the community goes well beyond fee-based personal training and group fitness classes.  Many communities do robust programming exceptionally well.  If your struggling with ideas, here are a few blogs that spotlight NIFS work with our clients in this area:

As a leader in the community, you should be getting data about how effective the programming is, how many residents are participating, and what the fitness staff will do differently next time to achieve their goals.  If you aren't getting that kind of information from your program, it might be time to look at ways you can improve your program. 

Seek opportunities to improve

I talked with a number of community leaders who noted that they have fantastic staff in their fitness center and were thus certain that we wouldn't have services that would benefit their community. The truth is, there are always ways to do better; what we're really talking about here is whether there's an appetite to pursue improvement. 

If you don't want to turnover staff, but you recognize your fitness team is only as good as the silo they're in, consider bringing in a consultant to evaluate the programming. There are most likely areas where your program could improve. Bringing in a consultant with an extensive background in the field and blissful ignorance about your services is a great way to uncover those opportunities that aren't apparent to those who are working in that environment.  

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

Topics: fitness programs for seniors senior living status quo LeadingAge 2017 LeadingAge resident engagement resident wellness programs senior fitness

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