Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Knowing what makes your residents tick could improve programs

Your community is, or should be built on resident satisfaction. Your residents are your priority, but they are also your revenue. Without them, your community increases the chances of failing. It’s important to understand this when building programming at your senior living community.

Every community is different. Every resident has a specific want or need. Our job as Wellness Managers is to hone in on what those needs and wants are and to address them. How do you do this? Here are five ways to assess your wellness programs so they are continuously successful and you are meeting the demands of your residents.

NIFS | A closer look

#1 - Get to know your resident population

It takes some time to understand what your residents really enjoy. It’s also important to note that not all residents are the same. Where some may enjoy the social interaction and class environment, others enjoy solitary fitness or wellness programs. It’s important to identify these differences and make sure that wellness programs have variety and cover many different personalities and preferences.

#2 - Listen to ALL resident feedback and take action

This can be tough, but is necessary to grow and develop a program that residents enjoy. If a resident comes to you and says, “I don’t think this program is successful and this is why…,” it’s important to take a deep breath, and LISTEN. As hard as it may be to sit back as it feel like someone is tearing your hard work into shreds, they are providing valuable information to improve your programming. Be open to the positive and negative feedback so you can make the necessary changes for improvement.

#3 - Evaluate your wellness programs

Evaluating wellness programs is the key to success. There are many different ways to do this. The best way is to keep track of your data and evaluate it. How many residents participated in your event/program/specialty classes? Did it show an increase in overall participation for the month in which you ran the program? Did you make a survey and distribute it to residents that participated? These are all valuable ways of gathering information to see if wellness programs are a hit or a miss.

#4 - Make sure programs are evolving over time

Your programs should evolve with your residents. If you have been running the same wellness programs for five years and haven’t changed them at all, it becomes routine, less exciting for some, and participation may decrease. Give residents something new and fun to enjoy. I am not telling you to completely re-invent the wheel, but to simply add/take away/replace some aspect of your program to make it more enticing and fresh. You’ll be amazed by what small and simple modifications can do for the community and programs.

#5 - Ask for help

It’s okay to ask community leaders, colleagues and staff members for information and help to reignite or invent a completely new program. Team work is one of the best ways for a community to put on a great event. Don’t be afraid to ask for help throughout your planning.

Being proactive in assessing fitness and wellness programs will not only keep you informed about the impact you are making for your community, it will also show that you genuinely care about the goals you are trying to achieve. Your community will recognize that not only are you putting in the effort to make a program, but you are also putting in the groundwork to make that program successful, enjoyable, and have a positive impact for residents.

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Topics: senior living wellness programs active aging program evaluation programming improving senior fitness resident engagement resident wellness programs senior fitness management nifs fitness managment

Boost Your Workout with Motivating Music

NIFS | Group Fitness GroovePop in those earbuds and get moving. Exercise and music go hand-in-hand for many gym-goers. Listening to music is a great way to make your work out more enjoyable. There’s nothing like cranking up an upbeat, energetic, song that adds a little pep to your step. An excellent motivator, music helps you to keep up with the pace of your workout, and inspiring lyrics keep you moving. Those specific beats and lyrics can encourage you work harder and push you to complete your workout. Keeping up with the beat provided by music can prevent you from slacking and help you power through to reach your goals. 


Music can also be a good kind of distraction. It can help distract you from the so called “pain” or “burn” of the workout. The music can help to take your mind off the exercise that is being performed and might even challenge you to complete just “one more” repetition or finish that last mile! Those catchy tunes can make working out more bearable rather than it being quiet and listening to yourself breathe. Listening to music allows you focus more on your workout and definitely makes it a little more fun!

Have you ever had a song come on and instantly you feel your mood improve? Music can elevate your mood and get you excited about working out too. It can give you that extra boost to make you more energetic and it might even get you “in the zone.”  Music can drown out external distractions so you can concentrate on the exercise.  It also might push you to keep moving until the end of the song. Music can put you in a positive mindset providing motivation and making your workout more enjoyable.

Select songs with that perfect beat. Put together a playlist that will keep your muscles pumping and your body moving or check out some of the latest music apps specifically made to jazz up your workout. Or, skip the playlist and check out this list of 5 music apps that you can install for some motivating tunes. Just like your workout, remember to periodically change your playlist. This can make your workout be more challenging and less predictable. The more enjoyable your music is the easier your workout might just be. So, crank up that music (just not too loud) and start moving to the beat of your favorite tunes!

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Topics: workout music music motivation workout motivation playlist fitness goals

How One Resident Walked 100 Miles in One Month


NIFS | Senior Resident

An interview with Ida Lee of Wyndemere Senior Living, Wheaton, Illinois.

In June of 2018, residents at Wyndemere Senior Living in Wheaton, Illinois were challenged to participate in a fitness program called, Exercise Across America. For every mile exercised, residents received 100 miles on distance on a map, towards their favorite location. By month’s end, one resident had blown past the others by walking 109 miles (10,900 map-miles towards her Los Angeles, California destination). Ida Lee walked nearly four miles a day to achieve this goal and according to Ida, June was a “bad” month as she had additional commitments that took away from her exercise time. The closest runner-up accumulated 78 miles. 

Ida Lee, age 79, has always preferred walking for exercise. She began walking longer distances in January 2018, after realizing she had extra time in her day. She also discovered that the Health app in her iPhone would track both her steps and walking distance. Recalling an exercise program that her sister did a few years ago, Ida decided in February 2018, to make walking 10,000 steps her daily goal. 

What are the three biggest benefits you’ve seen since you started walking?

Answer:  It gives me a sense of accomplishment. Walking 10,000 steps takes at least one hour and 40 minutes so it keeps me busy. It also helps stabilize my weight because I have a healthy appetite.

Do you have any tricks or secrets that help you get you going on those rough days?

Answer:  If I am really busy I don’t worry if I don’t meet the goal.  On hot days, I walk early in the morning and late in the evening.  Also, keep your phone in your pocket or in a small purse with a shoulder strap.

What do you do in rainy weather or during the winter?

Answer:  In winter, if the sidewalks are too icy, I walk the halls in our large building. Outside, I wear layers of warm clothes in winter and a raincoat on rainy days. I usually have my two Cocker Spaniels as walking companions so an umbrella is too much bother.

What tips can you recommend to others to get the most out of a walking program?

Answer: Don’t try to walk 10,000 steps all at once. Take several short walks of 30 minutes or less.  I average 100 steps per minute.

What are the biggest challenges you have with trying to get a walk in every day?

Answer:  In January 2018, I began to suffer from episodes of vertigo that lasted from 20 minutes to several hours. Most of the time, I have been able to reach my walking goal on these days.  Days when I’ve scheduled too many sit down meetings are a challenge, also.  Weekends without plans often lead to a “couch potato” problem.

What keeps you motivated to keep on going? Why do you continue to do it?

Answer: I feel so good at the end of the day if I’ve reached my goal. When I add up my total miles for a month and I’ve reached or exceeded 100 miles, I really feel I’ve accomplished something.

Ida plans to continue walking 100 miles per month as long as her body allows. “I think my two artificial knees will last a long time, especially if I keep my weight under control” says Ida.  She hopes to walk a 5K in Waukesha, Wisconsin next year.  “The last time I tried it, I injured my hip because I hadn’t trained before the walk.” Even if Ida forgoes the 5K, she will still be keeping busy.  In addition to walking, each week she attends two chair yoga classes, two balance classes, and occasional aquatic exercise classes.  Wyndemere may have to rename that fitness program Exercise Around the World just to keep up with Ida.

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Topics: senior living walking tips walking starting a walking program motivation active aging fitness routine

Whole Grains as Part of a Balanced Diet

NIFS | Whole Grains Whole grains have been advertised as being part of balanced diet for as long as I can remember. Specifically, bread and cereal companies are careful to emphasize their importance as a quality source for whole grains in their marketing messages. So, why are they so special and why are they essential for a balanced diet? I will get to that in a second, but first, let’s start with what is considered a “whole grain.”

The processing that a grain goes through is what determines whether or not it can be considered whole. When a grain is processed it is stripped of most of its outer shell and other nutrient dense components, leaving just the starchy inner layer that does not have  significant nutritional value other than acting as a carbohydrate.

The anatomy of a whole grain has three important components to it, which include the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. All of these different parts have unique health benefits to them and they all need to be present for the grain to be considered whole. The outer layer of the grain is the called the bran and it is chewy and fibrous. It contains a large amount of fiber and other nutrients such as antioxidants, iron, zinc, and B vitamins. The next part of the grain is the germ, which is the base for growth for each whole grain kernel. Antioxidants, healthy fats, and B vitamins can all be found inside the germ. The last part of the grain is the endosperm. The endosperm is the soft and chewy middle part of the grain that is left over after the germ and bran have been stripped away through the refining process. This only has a small amount of minerals and B vitamins and mainly acts as a source of carbohydrates.

Grains that have all three components (bran, germ, and endosperm) can be considered a whole grain. If it’s missing one or more components, then it is considered a refined grain. An easy example would be brown rice and white rice. Brown rice is a whole grain because it is still covered by the bran and has the germ intact, making it more fibrous and tougher to chew. White rice is a refined grain because it has had the bran and germ removed leaving just endosperm which is soft and easy to chew. 

Now that you know more about whole grains and how they are classified, let’s look at some of the health benefits of grains and why they are an essential part of a balanced diet. One of the major benefits of whole grains is their ability to reduce your chances of developing cardiovascular disease. The fiber in whole grains is essential for preventing cardiovascular disease, because fiber has been shown to lower triglycerides, cholesterol; it can also help regulate insulin levels. All of these different effects help to lower the chance of developing cardiovascular disease.

Whole grains can also be protective against type 2 diabetes; because whole grains are low on the Glycemic Index they do not cause your body to release a surge of insulin when eaten, rather they cause a steady release of insulin. The nutrients and fiber in the whole grains also help with insulin sensitivity which greatly help to reduce blood sugar spikes. 

Health Bonus: Whole grains can also help with digestive health. All of the fiber and other nutrients in grains can help with healthy bowel movements and reduce the chances of constipation.

With all of these health benefits and disease fighting properties, whole grains should become a staple in your diet. Start to reduce your intake of refined grains and start looking for grains that labeled as being whole, such as: whole wheat bread, brown rice, and quinoa. Your body will thank you!

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Topics: nutrition diet and nutrition whole grains balanced diet

Senior Living: Putting the Fun Back in Your Fitness Program

When planning exercise and physical activity programs for our active older adults, it’s sometimes easy to get lost in the nuts and bolts of programming, and as a result, we can forget to ask one important question about our programs.  “Are the residents having fun?”  We know how important fun and play is for all ages, but it’s especially crucial for senior living residents that commonly struggle with anxiety, loneliness, and depression.

Finding ways to create a fun environment is especially important when developing exercise programs because for most people exercising isn’t inherently a “fun” endeavor. This is even more the case for the average active aging resident who might have limited exposure to exercise, and when they think of exercise all they picture is what they see on reality TV shows. So, how can we can make our programming more enjoyable for all residents?

Playing sports

We don’t always think about sports when it comes to senior living, but sports play is a great way to add fun into your current programming, and to provide your residents a chance to relieve past glories, or have an experience they’d never expected to have. The best part is that every sport can be modified to fit your residents and their abilities. This past spring we introduced Chair Volleyball to the residents at North Oaks, and it was an instant hit. They had so much fun, that they played for almost an hour and didn’t realize it. Most encouraging was that the majority of the group had never played volleyball in their lives, and now had a brand new experience they could return to for social interaction and movement. 

NIFS | seniors seated fitness

Adding a social aspect to group fitness classes

This is the simplest, cheapest, and easiest thing you can do today. Instead of just walking through the door, teaching, and leaving; strive to make your classes more interactive. This could be as simple as having participants count repetitions when lifting weights with you. Earlier in my career I started classes off by telling a silly joke, and it became a hit. From that point on, I allowed participants to provide the jokes every day. It was simple, a lot of fun, a great opportunity for important social interaction, and was something to look forward to before each class. 

[Read More: How One Community Got Focused on Brain Fitness]

Striking up random silliness

Here is where you have a tremendous opportunity to be creative and take advantage of the personalities of each residents.  It can be as simple as playing music with different themes in the fitness center, in a group classes, or having a day where the participants wear funny hats and dress in the same color. The potential ideas are limitless and can really help create an environment where the residents are active members of your programs and not just passive participants. 

 Obviously, what every person considers to be fun will be different, but that provides an incredible opportunity to try new things and think outside of the box. Finding ways to increase the “fun level” of your programming can sometimes be a challenge, but there are plenty of easy, lost cost ways to increase the value of programs for residents.  What are some ideas that you have tried in your facility to make your programs more fun? If you’re thinking about this for the first time,  it’s time to have some fun and get creative!

How we improved an already successful fitness program

Topics: senior fitness active aging adding fun to senior fitness improving senior fitness