Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Emily Davenport

Recent Posts by Emily Davenport:

Friendship Village Resident Praises the NIFS Fitness Program

IMG_1985NIFS has been partnering with Friendship Village Kalamazoo since 2015, when they opened their beautiful new Wellness Center. We recently heard an uplifting story from FV resident Kim Cummings regarding the impact the health and fitness program has had on his mobility and outlook on life.

Mr. Cummings has been an avid participant since joining the program in 2015, faithfully attending fitness classes two to three times a week and exercising in the Strength & Cardio Studio. NIFS Fitness Manager Alecia Dennis commented, “I love how Kim is always pushing himself to be better and stronger than yesterday. I am thankful that I am able to watch him flourish in all of his fitness endeavors. He truly is an inspiration to me and all of the residents here at Friendship Village!

We know the value our services bring to the residents and communities we serve, but it never gets old (ever) hearing directly from residents like Kim about their journey. Here is Kim’s inspiring story.

I came to Friendship Village regretting my ongoing dependence on a walker and lacking confidence in the Village’s fitness program. After eight months of our actual experience here, my perceptions radically changed. Having become a regular user of the fitness machines, now attending stretch and strength group classes two or three times a week, and now regularly walking our dog on the paved pathways surrounding the Village and its nearby woods, I’ve actually been able to ditch my walker and, though slowly, feel myself gaining additional strength.
I’ve also come to recognize the fitness program’s social function. The group classes, led by our zesty fitness manager, connect me with an ever-larger group of exercisers. None of us is terribly fit, but we all feel good about marching and stretching and pulling together. We just like coming together, grabbing our weights, finding a chair, and chatting with our neighbors. Likewise, when working out on the fitness machines, I find myself connecting with the individual exercising beside me. The machines are fun to work out on—they give one a sense of accomplishment and progress, but they also provide a great opportunity to introduce oneself to others.
A lover of the outdoors, I’ve also come to appreciate the Village’s accessible and attractive walking paths. I’ve particularly enjoyed my recent walks in the Village Woods (where, even in the winter, the paths are kept clear). I love getting to know the many different plantings and benches dedicated to past residents and to see the ongoing work of the Woods volunteers. Last week I spied a flock of migrating robins passing through the Woods and feasting on the crabapples planted along the side. Walking in the Woods reconnects me with nature and with the rich collective heritage of this Village community.
Freed from my walker and gaining strength, I feel that the fitness program and other aspects of Village life have added to my independence, enabling me to get around more easily. At the same time, it helps me get socially connected with other residents and stay connected with nature. I couldn’t ask for more.
Are you ready to do wellness better? Learn more about wellness consulting.
Topics: senior wellness active aging senior living fitness center nifs fitness center management testimonials senior wellness consulting

How Do NIFS Business Partners and Contacts Benefit Our Clients?

Corporate_Fitness_Center-1-2Clients regularly ask me whether we have any recommendations or contacts for certain exercise equipment, or if we have any successful models in place for collaborating with rehab departments or cafeteria vendors. The bulk of our contacts in the world of fitness are with current clients where we have our professional staff on the ground managing their fitness program, or with consulting clients where we are providing support and resources to enhance their existing program. However, we also have a large network of industry contacts that we partner with, allowing us to (1) provide the quality service we do to our clients and (2) support other businesses outside of a client setting.

Once clients experience the ease of replacing their cardio equipment or launching a multi-vendor wellness initiative with our support, they recognize the added value that expertise brings to the partnership they have with NIFS. I love seeing clients supported on both sides—with our passionate staff on the ground in their fitness center serving their members, as well as with our administrative support helping guide their leadership team’s decision-making on broader facility and program needs.

Read on to learn about the relationships we build and the scope of our reach in supporting clients in 14 states across the US.

  • Equipment vendors: From balance and fall-prevention equipment, to group fitness supplies, to the latest trends in strength-training equipment, we have vendor partners across the US who help us find equipment solutions to meet our clients’ needs. For our senior living clients, we know which manufacturers have equipment that meets the unique needs of an active older adult population. For our corporate clients, we have partners who outfit facilities across the US with the latest and greatest equipment to create a welcoming and inspiring space for your employees. Not to mention, the relationships we have with equipment manufacturers provides us with national buying power, which we can pass along to our clients.
  • Architect and design firms: Particularly in a senior living setting where strong emphasis on quality, high-end fitness amenities for the aging population is on the rise, forward-thinking architects and designers reach out to us for consulting support on how to create a truly functional space that will best support a strong program when renovations or new construction are complete. These firms benefit from our end-user perspective, and we often pick up on some new ideas to file away in our bank of resources for future projects with clients.
  • Client vendors: At the site level, our staff regularly partners with other health and wellness vendors on campus to effectively bridge programs and services for their members. We work closely with rehab providers, cafeteria vendors, registered dietitians, employee health services, and many more. Some of these providers have a similar reach as we do in their profession across the US, and others are local providers, but we build strong connections with all to best serve our clients.

While the fitness industry can be full of fads, an ability to build strong relationships is a trend that will never go out of style and is essential for the success of any fitness program. We pride ourselves on the relationships we build with our clients, members, and vendor partners and love bridging new connections for clients to enhance their programs.

Interested in more information on the value we bring our clients? Read this quick read on 5 Reasons to Hire NIFS to Manage Your Fitness Center.

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Topics: senior fitness management nifs fitness center management equipment corporate fitness management vendors networking senior wellness consulting corporate wellness consulting

NIFS Consulting: Helping Your Fitness Program Go from Good to GREAT!

Fitness management services are the foundation of our business, but did you know we also offer an array of consulting services to support communities who do not staff with us? While it isn’t quite the same as having our qualified staff on the ground daily at your community, many clients have found a consulting partnership with NIFS to be advantageous in connecting their own staff, amenities, and more with an industry expert who can provide them with the direction and resources to elevate the programs they are providing their residents.

5 Consulting Opportunities with the NIFS Experts

Here are some ways that you can collaborate with NIFS to improve your fitness and wellness offerings:

  1. Facility layout and design: As operators of fitness centers across the country, we know how to make spaces flow for improved member experience and overall function. We also have national buying power with top equipment manufacturers to bring your facility the right equipment for your users. Whether it’s a fitness center or pool, we can help you identify the right pieces of exercise equipment to incorporate into a creative and expertly designed space.
  2. Staff hiring and training: 20181024_080931-1From group fitness instructors, to personal trainers, to fitness managers, finding the right people is at the heart of what we do, and our interview and vetting process helps us find the best of the best. If you are looking for support in recognizing fitness qualifications and making the right hire for your community, NIFS can lead your interview process. We can also aid in the training process once you make your hire to get your new team member on the right path and connected to NIFS resources and programming materials.
  3. Wellness program design: Let us help you identify fresh opportunities to create purpose and intention in the lifestyle cultivated for your residents. We know how to break down the silos and bring together enrichment, health services, fitness, rehab, food and beverage, spiritual services, and more for seamless programming that is both seen and felt by your residents. Conceptually, many communities struggle with getting these key stakeholders in resident well-being collaborating with a unified vision, and we can help you bridge this into reality.
  4. Data collection and evaluation: It’s difficult to determine how effective your programs and services are and how many people you are reaching consistently if you don’t have data to evaluate. We can help your fitness staff develop an efficient system for tracking participation data, identify key benchmarks to measure and evaluate over time, as well craft SMART goals to continually strive toward program enhancements.
  5. Group fitness program design: Residents love their group fitness classes, but are you certain that your community has an array of classes to address the main components of fitness throughout the week for varying intensity levels? We have a niche for developing robust group fitness programs as well as best practices on how to market the classes, how to attract new faces, and how to keep the classes fresh so that this resident favorite at your community reaches more individuals and remains strong.

Even if your organization does not avail itself of the full range of fitness management services that NIFS offers, you can still consider consulting with us on specific pieces of the puzzle to strengthen your fitness and wellness offerings. Not sure what to expect when utilizing our consulting services?  Check out our quick read below for more information.

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Topics: nifs fitness management nifs fitness management staffing data collection fitness center design fitness center staffing program management senior wellness consulting

Additional Resources for Enhancing Your Fitness Program

In parts I and II of this blog series, I discussed why it’s important to cultivate a robust health and fitness program for residents in AL and memory-care environments and how to tap into your existing personnel to make that happen. In this final blog of the series, I’m going to cover a few additional resources for enhancing your fitness program.

  • FullSizeR.jpg Consider how you can have a more inclusive environment in your IL fitness amenities: Can you establish criteria or resident support tools to invite AL or memory-care residents to use the existing exercise equipment in the fitness center or partake in group exercise classes with IL residents?
  • Develop a fitness space: Whether it is sectioning off a small corner of an existing activity or lounge space or building out an entire room for fitness equipment, having a dedicated fitness space or studio can be a great option for residents of all ability levels.
  • Dedicate a variety of exercise equipment options: It’s time to put down the pool noodles and the beach balls. There are a number of small fitness equipment pieces on the market that can create new challenges and variety in group exercise classes.
  • Consider qualified staff: The demand for quality fitness offerings for older adults has steadily increased in the past decade. Fortunately, there also more qualified fitness staff on the market who have experience catering to the unique needs of older adults. Working with a staffing partner like NIFS or hiring your own fitness professional to support your residents’ health and fitness needs even in a part-time capacity can be a significant enhancement to your program.

Through the course of this blog series, I’ve highlighted a variety of opportunities to enhance your fitness offerings for AL and memory-care residents.  While having qualified fitness staff can be a difference maker, there is quite a bit that existing activities staff can do to improve exercise offerings. With that being said, you already have a full plate of responsibilities to serve your residents and pausing to develop a strategy for doing fitness better might be a challenge. If you’re ready to improve your fitness program for residents in assisted living and memory care environments, find out more about how we can help you.

Learn what it's like to work with NIFS

Topics: memory care assisted living NIFS Workshop exercise through the continuums

Creating Strong Exercise Programs in Assisted Living and Memory Care

ThinkstockPhotos-116356163.jpgActivities Directors in assisted living and memory care environments are busy.  They have a lot of balls in the air, not the least of which is some type of movement-based programming for their residents. Unfortunately, that specific element of their enrichment programming often takes a back seat to other priorities.

In a previous blog, I offered questions for leadership in assisted living and memory care environments to help them give new attention to what fitness options might be missing for their residents in other areas of the community.  As we carry those questions forward and consider how to provide more comprehensive exercise classes and services, it’s easy halt progress because you’re overwhelmed by limits.  After all, resources, like staffing, are often in short supply; and when you don’t have the people to pull off an excellent program, it becomes daunting to even consider a change. 

But don't let those concerns stop you from doing better for your residents. You may have the resources you need and the focus is really on re-imagining how to best serve the residents.

3 Resources at your Fingertips: People, People, & People

  1. Passionate & Creative Activities Professionals: Activities staff are typically responsible for providing daily exercise classes, and because activities teams often have a lot of energy and creativity, we have found success with Train-the-Trainer programs where the NIFS fitness staff on campus provide tools and resources to activities personnel to create more variety and tailored exercise offerings to residents.
  2. Qualified Fitness Staff: Many Life Plan communities have group fitness instructors, personal trainers, or exercise physiologists supporting the health and fitness program for independent living (IL) residents on campus but they are limited in reach residents who live in other levels of care. IL is where many residents begin to adopt a physically active lifestyle. With proper planning, clear expectations, and strong communication, the existing fitness staff can bridge programming and resources so that they span the campus.
  3. Supportive Clinical Staff: In communities without an IL component or where no regular fitness staff are present, therapy and nursing staff can play a more central role in supporting the day to day physical activity needs of residents. This can be key in residents maintaining the positive outcomes they gain as part of a spell in direct therapy services.

The passionate, caring, and dedicated staff in your senior living community might be your best untapped or underutilized resource in further serving the health and fitness needs of residents regardless of where they live. The great thing about these individuals I highlighted above is they likely already know many if not all of your residents, where individuals have struggled or what motivates them.  

If you'd like more assistance in building robust exercise services for residents in assisted living and/or memory care environments, connect with us to find out how we can help.

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Topics: senior living communities senior fitness Exercise through the contnuums NIFS Workshop

3 Questions to Ask About Fitness in Assisted Living and Memory Care

ThinkstockPhotos-509493160.jpgWhile we've seen significant progress in what exercise can look like for residents in independent living (IL), for many communities, there remains something of a disconnect in making sure residents throughout the continuum of care have access to the same or similarly robust services and amenities. The IL residents at a community often have a fitness center, pool, robust group fitness calendar, and individualized services available to them and in many cases as they transition to AL or other areas of care on campus the drastic decline in available options shifts them from a professionally managed health and fitness program to chair-based exercise classes lead by an activities professional. This is not an equitable approach.

[Read More: 3 must-have services in your senior living community fitness center]

For our clients though, this hasn't been the case because our staff are pushing on the leading edge of what expanded fitness programming for residents in assisted living (AL), and memory-care environments can look like. If you’re ready to take a closer look at the exercise program you provide for residents in licensed areas, these three questions are a great place to start:

How do you answer questions about options for exercise in higher levels of care?

Whether you work in a standalone AL or memory-care community or in a Life Plan (CCRC) environment, prospects and families inevitably ask about the physical activity options that are available beyond billable rehab services. They understand the importance of keeping the mind and body in motion as part of a daily lifestyle. Does your community have a good answer for these questions that demonstrates robust options that are purposeful and executed by trained staff specially for residents who need a higher level of care?

How do you support residents after they finish therapy?

In licensed areas, residents often have rehab services readily available to them and that might seem like an easy "exercise" solution. However, billable therapy has limits. How do you support residents when they are discharged after 6-8 weeks of therapy and eliminate the revolving door of improved function leading to a discharge from therapy services followed by a decline due to lack of physical activity options which leads them back in therapy again?

How do you facilitate resident moves to higher levels of care in a way that provides them with consistent access to exercise options?

If you operate a Life Plan community with a robust fitness program for your IL residents, how do the residents’ options compare in terms of amenities, programs and services, and qualified staffing as residents move through the continuum? Having a continuation of offerings can be a great comfort as residents transition from one part of the community to another and it’s a valuable demonstration that the lifestyle they buy into in IL truly carries with them with whatever level of care they might need on campus.

Your answers to those questions may leave you with program and service gaps to fill.  In our 12+ years working in senior living, we’ve developed best practices in exercise with residents in assisted living and memory care for:

  • Group fitness class offerings beyond basic chair exercise classes taught by the activities staff
  • Individualized services including personal training and fitness and balance assessments
  • Dedicated exercise equipment and spaces
  • Enriching wellness-based programming opportunities

Want to learn more about how you can build more comprehensive exercise services for your residents?

Find out more about a free consulting session with NIFS >

Topics: senior living senior fitness assisted living NIFS Workshop CCRC Programs and Services exercise through the continuums

Increasing Participation in Senior Living Fitness Programs (Part 2)

FitnessFreezeLogoIn part 1 of this blog, I wrote about a program we offered that helped us address an area of opportunity for resident participation in our senior living fitness programs. One of the core messages from that blog was how important tracking participation data is, over time, for sustaining a truly successful program. There is so much more to a robust fitness program in senior living than hosting classes, offering assessments, and teaching residents how to use the equipment.

Tracking participation data in your fitness services is crucial for any new or long-established program. In new programs, you need to simply start by keeping an eye on growth in membership and making sure participation steadily increases as you launch the offerings. In this blog, I’ll touch on some key numbers and trends you should be watching. 

An established fitness program you might consider “good” can become GREAT by tracking and strategically using participation data for continuous improvement. There is not an end date at which you cut off these practices no matter how old your program is. In addition to talking about data practices for new fitness programs, I’ll offer tips below from NIFS data trends over the past couple of years to show how you can use these practices to fine-tune an established fitness program.

FFparticipantKickstart Your New Community Fitness Program

New members: Part 1 of this series covered NIFS Fitness Freeze and how the membership drive component recruited new participants to join the fitness center. NIFS has a new client in Lakewood, New Jersey, that began staffing with us in August 2014. Since our launch, we witnessed an initial surge in residents enrolling, and then the normal steady trickle of participants in the months thereafter. And then we ran the Fitness Freeze and it generated a record-setting surge in new members in a month to finish off the year. If you are tracking your new members from month to month, you can keep an eye on when membership or participation starts to trickle off or plateau and run a targeted campaign to rebuild your momentum. 

Participation frequency: We have another client in Mystic, Connecticut, that launched with us in May 2014. In addition to tracking their steadily increasing membership rates, we’re also following the percentage of residents who visit the fitness center 8+ times in a month. For this relatively new client, that percentage is steadily climbing as the membership percentage increases. This tells us that more residents are joining, and more importantly, they are adopting a consistent routine once they become members. 

Fine-Tune Your Established Fitness Program

Group fitness participation: We have a client in Stone Mountain, Georgia, that has had a fitness program and staffing since they opened their doors in 2004. NIFS started managing their fitness program in October 2011. Over the past couple of years, we’ve had a lot of success with participation growth in group fitness classes, and because our data offered proof of that growth, we were able to garner budgetary support for more instructors. In 2014, we added 11 new classes per month to the schedule, and the average number of participants per class each month stayed the same. In short, we brought the residents more classes, and they took full advantage!

Personal training participation: Another client in Phoenix, Arizona, is showing steady growth in their personal training program. In 2013, there were 302 personal training sessions conducted, and in 2014 there were 707 personal training sessions conducted. We’ve added personal training as a program option in their health center, and we are currently hiring another personal trainer to help keep up with the demand for that growing service.

Membership rates: Lastly, three different communities that have been up and running with us for over five years all showed an increase of at least 4% or more in membership in 2014 compared to 2013, with little change in occupancy at those communities. Steady programming efforts targeted to spark different resident interests over time can help your membership continue to grow. Diversity in program offerings is what really drives that continual increase in membership, especially at our well-established communities. 

There are countless ways that you can track and evaluate participation data in your fitness program, and half the battle is just getting started. Determine what you want to track, how you need to track it, and then how you can effectively report that data over time so that it is usable and easy to evaluate. We aren’t statisticians with intricate spreadsheets spending hours crunching data each month. We do, however, have sound reporting methods so that our staff can gather this valuable data to continually build and evolve best-in-class fitness programs at the senior living communities we serve.

Find out more about a free consulting session with NIFS >

Topics: senior fitness management participation data collection nifs best practices senior living fitness center program planning

Increasing Participation in Senior Living Fitness Programs (Part 1)

I’ve written in the past about how consistent tracking of participation data in your community fitness center can help improve and evolve your senior living fitness program over time. Here is a two-part follow up series on what you are missing if you aren’t tracking data from your program. These observations are built entirely on NIFS’ experience doing this work for our senior living client communities.

Prevent the Participation Dip During the Holidays

Did your community fitness program experience a dip in participation during the busy holiday season? You’re in good company—we used to see that as well. 

NIFS Fitness Freeze

But in 2014, we were able to reverse the trend thanks to a custom program designed to motivate residents to move more when exercise often takes the backseat to holiday parties and family gatherings. 

It all starts with collecting the right data. For example, we knew from our 2013 reporting that there was a marked decline in participation from November to December in exercise program participation. We saw this as an opportunity to do better, so we built a program called Fitness Freeze to prevent that specific dip in participation we see over those two months. Following the program, we evaluated the effectiveness of the program design against our desired outcomes. Here’s what we found:

Total visits: An 11% increase in total visits to the fitness center and group exercise classes from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.

New members: An 8% increase in new members signing up to participate in the fitness center from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.

Appointment volume: A 26% increase in the number of appointments conducted from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.

We know that residents are already busy and preoccupied in December, so we wanted to make the program as simple as possible for them to be successful. Here are just a few of the design elements that contributed to Fitness Freeze’s success:

No elaborate tracking logs or point system: Residents don’t need one more thing on their “to-do” list, so keep it simple! Residents had to sign-in as they normally do to the fitness center and we took care of the rest. Our goal was to help residents be consistent in visits, even if their workout time was shorter than normal. If a resident exercised for at least 10 minutes, three times a week, they earned a snowflake that hung in the fitness center with their name on it.

NIFS Fitness Freeze

Make it visual: The individual snowflakes were a great way to decorate the fitness center with some seasonal cheer and residents LOVED being able to show off to visiting family and friends how many snowflakes they earned. It was eye catching, provided an easy avenue for discussion, and offered a constant reminder to the participants to stay on track. 

Recruit, recruit, recruit: As resident talk about the snowflakes on display in the fitness center spread throughout the community, residents who weren’t fitness center members yet learned that they could earn a snowflake just by joining in December. It created a fun and easy way for residents who might be on the fence about joining to take the final step and feel included among the ranks of our regulars. 

The Fitness Freeze was born out of our constant efforts to do better, which include a strong focus on data as well as routine evaluation of program effectiveness. Once we identified holiday-time as an opportunity for improvement, we built a tool to address that challenge. It’s a tangible and practical example of a targeted campaign to boost the participation in a given month. 

Watch for part 2 of this blog to learn about the value of evaluating data trends in brand-new fitness programs as well as in well-established programs from year to year.

Checkout more great programming from NIFS Fitness Management with our Best Practice Series.

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Topics: senior fitness management participation data collection senior living fitness center program planning

3 Ways  Fitness Participation Data Improves Senior Living Communites

group_of_seniors

If you can't answer these questions about your community fitness program, it's time to consider doing something more with the data you're gathering to create a more effective offering for your residents:

  1. Do you know how many classes you offered last month and which residents attended compared to the preceding month?
  2. Do you know how many appointments were conducted in the fitness center last year compared to this year?
  3. Does your tracking for fitness center or class attendance allow you to see individual participation trends by resident?

In many communities with which we work, there is often some type of sign in practice in place, but typically little to nothing is done with that information once the resident signs his name on the way into the fitness center. Consistent participation tracking is even less common in the group fitness classes; it's more common to simply estimate headcounts.

Tracking resident participation in all of your offerings is central to highlighting the value of your fitness program and continuing to evolve what you are doing.  Read on to discover three key ways participation data can help you provide more effective programming in your senior living community fitness center.

1. Create Visit Goals for the Residents

By keeping record of how many total visits you have to your fitness center, pool, and group fitness offerings, you can determine the ebbs and flows in participation through the year. As the busy holiday season approaches and exercise routines get pushed to the back burner, set a community goal for your residents to accumulate more visits in December of this year as opposed to last year. We’ve seen firsthand how residents LOVE to rally together as a team for goals like this. Providing them with weekly updates on their standings has helped us reach visit goals and prevented lulls in participation. You won’t know what a reasonable goal is, however, if you don’t have historical data to evaluate.

[Related Content: Increasing Participation in Senior Living Fitness Programs]

2. Reach Out to Individuals

Your tracking system should allow you to see how many times any given resident participates in part(s) of the program. If someone comes to a particular exercise class six times a month and the fitness center nine times a month, you should have that information at your fingertips through proper tracking procedures. Then you can recognize their efforts through recognition programs such as a monthly “Fit 15” listing. Similarly, if you have a resident who joined the program but stopped coming, you’ll have that important information at your fingertips. Personally contacting a resident and letting them know that their participation is missed and inviting them back to an old favorite or a fresh new opportunity can be a great tool for improving exercise adherence.

Let's be clear: We’re talking about tracking attendance by resident; that’s the only way this will work. Taking simple headcounts for total visits in your program will not allow you to consistently evaluate the specific members who make up your participation and create those avenues for personal connection and recognition.

3. Demonstrate Value

Having participation data that shows you monthly totals for your different offerings will allow you to evaluate what is effective, what is gaining or losing momentum, and what might be ready for a change. By sticking with a group fitness class on the calendar that has only two or three consistent participants, you might be limiting resources that could go toward a fresh new offering that would cater to the needs and interests of more individuals. Residents will be much more able to embrace change when you can show them the data and well-thought-out intentions behind it.

Similarly, if you feel your program cannot expand further without additional resources, let the data demonstrate the value in your current offerings. If an exercise class is busting at the seams, have a few months worth of data to show the growth and articulate the need for another class on the schedule. If your fitness center participation is increasing, use the monthly visit and appointment data to demonstrate the need for additional staffing support or more equipment.

[Related Content: Benefits of Tracking Participation Data]

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Don’t shy away from data. It can support important decisions about the future of your fitness program. Start small with a simple list of all the residents in the community and invite them to start checking in. From there, you can build basic spreadsheets to create a tracking tool that will help you determine what parts of your community’s fitness program need the most attention. Or, reach out to us for NIFS consulting services - we'll provide you with the tools to get off the ground quickly with improvements to your fitness program that boost your senior living community.  

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Topics: active aging fitness programs for seniors participation senior living fitness center

How One Senior Living Community Got Focused on Brain Fitness

senior_puzzleMost senior living communities have a variety of group fitness classes on their calendars focused on balance, muscular strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health, and the clients we work with are no different. But we’ve landed on a program tied in with our group fitness classes for seniors that has become wildly popular with the residents. It turns out, it’s been a great way to draw more participants into the exercise program, too.

The Popularity of Brain Activities

At one of our client’s communities we have many of the typical activities to stimulate the mind: card games, lectures, forums, resident committees, etc. And at one point we offered a “Memory” workshop series. This was so popular that we added a word of the day and the TriBond® game to our daily information board in the fitness center, along with including puzzles in our newsletter.

Over time, we noticed that more and more people started coming to the fitness center to learn the word of the day, to get the TriBond® puzzle, and to ask questions about the puzzle in the newsletter. It was obvious that our residents were craving ways to challenge their minds, and we were eager to respond in ways that would help them keep their minds strong or increase their abilities.

So we added a brain fitness class to our group fitness schedule, and that class is thriving each week! In the weekly offering, our residents have a wonderful time challenging their minds. They learn new games like Sudoku, and play old games like Memory™. They also engage in history trivia questions and challenges. One of our residents recently named all 44 presidents, in order, off the top of her head!

How to Start Brain Fitness Classes at Your CCRC

We’ve started offering this type of class at our other senior living client sites with similar popularity. Here’s some advice on how you can get it started in your community:

  • Hold an event such as a brain fitness fair for your residents to see how fun and important it is to continue to work on the mind.
  • During the event, pay attention to what the residents like and don’t like. This will help you build a class structure that works for them.
  • Do not always make the class what they like. In order to strengthen the mind we need to challenge it. Typically the things that we do not like are the things that we find challenging.
  • Begin putting puzzles in your weekly or monthly newsletters.
  • ADVERTISE EVERYWHERE!

Brain Class Structure

For the structure of the class, consider the following ideas:

  • Begin with a task that can be done while waiting for everyone to come in and sign in. (Example: Write your name with your non-dominant hand or with both hands at the same time.)
  • Have classical music playing in the background. Some studies show this increases the brainwaves that stimulate thought process.
  • Come prepared with four to five activities. Make it a variety of word games, long-term memory/short term memory, and deductive reasoning. Here are some sites that might provide some ideas: MazestoPrint.com, Activityconnection.com, BrainBashers.com, and ThinkablePuzzles.com.
  • Leave time for discussion in small groups and then time with you for answers.
  • Have the answers for all activities to share with the participants. (The residents will be angry if you don’t!)
  • If you do not finish all activities, consider giving “homework.”

Learn more about physical exercises that help improve cognition here.

Let us know how your brain fitness program works in your setting! We’d love to keep sharing these kinds of ideas to improve the health of the residents we work with. 

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Topics: CCRC active aging senior living communities brain health cognitive function resident wellness programs memory