Truly, one of the things I love about working in senior living is the passion employees have for serving the residents who live in their communities. Despite variation in the physical spaces’ amenities, decor, and size, the culture of caring about the residents is consistent. The people who work in senior living are genuinely committed to getting to know their residents as a means of helping them live exceptionally well.
Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but the other half of my career is spent in corporate
wellness, where the bottom line often drives the conversation. And while I think employers do care about their workforce, that’s not their starting point for investing in any wellness initiative. So when I work with senior living communities on improving their programming and activities for residents, I’m often surprised at what an afterthought their exercise amenities and services are. The clear appetite to provide residents with the very best options for living just doesn’t square with what’s in place for resident exercise at the community.
If this disconnect resonates with you and you’re looking to make a change, consider
improving your resident exercise program with the tips below as ways to live up to your commitment to build active living options for your residents.
1. Provide staffing in your exercise program.
Residents will not (I repeat, will not) use your exercise equipment and spaces without the right leadership in that area of the community. It’s not sufficient to simply offer exercise classes, nor is it adequate service to have a trainer in the gym a few hours per week to offer assistance on the equipment. You can hire your own manager, or you can work with a fitness management company like ours. For more information on how get exercise leadership right in your community, check out some of the blogs we’ve written on the importance of staffing.
- How Fitness Managers Should Be Spending Their Time in Senior Living Fitness Centers
- Three Tips for Hiring an Active Aging or Corporate Fitness Professional
- Why Hiring the Right Trainer for Your Senior Fitness Program Is Vital
Fitness equipment isn’t cheap, but the items used for group classes are far less expensive than the capital equipment in the fitness center. For $5,000, you can buy one new treadmill, or you can buy a classroom worth of new resistance chairs. There are a lot of practical tools that group fitness instructors can use in classes to make them more interesting and more effective for the residents, and they aren’t that expensive. In your next budgeting cycle, make room for a few of these options:
- Small weighted balls: Sets of the 1.1# and 2.2# work well.
- Airex balance pads: Buy enough for each person in balance class to have one.
- BOSU: Buy a few to use in stations on a strength or balance class.
3. Establish a cross-referral system between your fitness center and your therapy group.
If you have qualified staff in your fitness center and there is not already a relationship between that individual and your therapy team, building a bridge between the two is low-hanging fruit on the improving-services tree. Check out this quick read to learn why we believe integration of therapy and fitness is important for resident well-being.
4. Take a hard look at all of your senior wellness initiatives and how fitness folds into that set of programming.
It should be woven in seamlessly among other programs and services designed to engage rather than entertain your residents. If all programming is being carried off in silos, it’s time to take a fresh approach. If participation in programs and services is represented by the same handful of residents, it’s time to re-envision your offerings. If the activities calendar looks pretty much the same as it did last month, last quarter, and last year, it’s time to breathe new life into what you’re offering. Download this quick read for a series of questions you can use to evaluate the quality of your wellness programming.