Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

How Our Staff Celebrate Independence Day

We’re fitness people, so you might think our holiday traditions are packed full of fun runs and other healthy traditions. Do we avoid grilling due to the cancer risks associated with charring meat? Maybe we pass on the ribs, corn on the cob smothered in butter and potato salad? If you answered yes to these questions, you guessed wrong. We engage in the delightful indulgence of all the traditional staples, whether they are calorie laden or not. Some do shoot for moderation and head towards healthier choices but most seem to just enjoy all the offerings of the day regardless of the calorie count.

Do we actually still get a workout in on the 4th of July? Well, this is a little different. It may not be the standard workout but many of our staff enjoy the day by engaging in activities with family and friends. 

We Like Sweet TreatsNIFS | Milkshake

  • Corey in Pennsylvania indulges in a mountainous heap of sugar and dairy called the Star Spangled King Sized; Cookies and Cream Milk Shake, topped with a star shaped brownie and pop rock filled cupcake.
  • Bethany’s choice each year is a simple trifle layered with delicious berries, instant vanilla pudding and whipped topping.
  • Keith in Indiana has a deep seeded taste for watermelon, (see what I did there?) so anything with that fruit is up his alley. Check out the Watermelon Salsa below that he’ll be making this year. Looks pretty tasty to me!
    • 3 cups chopped watermelon
    • 2 jalapenos finely chopped – seeds removed (use one if you like it more mild)
    • 3-4 tablespoons chopped onion
    • Add a splash of lime juice, serve with your favorite corn chips.

We Go To Cool Places

  • Bethany had a once in a lifetime chance to see the 4th of July fireworks in Washington DC years ago that still ranks as her favorite fireworks display of all time.
  • Kara heads to Tennessee with her family to enjoy long days on the lake that close with an eagerness to do it all over again the next day.

Activity Is Usually IncludedNIFS | paddleboarding

  • Lisa in Indiana has a tradition of starting the day at the lake in South Haven, Michigan, taking an easy jog with her dad to enjoy the cool breeze off the lake.
  • Christy keeps it simple by enjoying a simple ride to her local park on the 4th of July.
  • Dan in Indiana also mixes activity into his day with his family such as volleyball, lawn games, and wake boarding.
  • Joy makes her way across the lake with her son for some paddle boarding and then back to the campsite for the evening.
  • Reggie in Georgia goes all out and participates in the 10K Peachtree Road Race every year. (Way to outdo the rest of us Reggie.)

We Do Tradition

  • Lindsey is ready to run with the baton and take on the family party at her house this year after 20 years of it being hosted at her parents’ house. There they will celebrate with up to 50 people by enjoying a fish fry, badminton, croquet and corn-hole. She’s get our hostess with the mostest award.  
  • Cathy’s brother-in-law in Florida is on the local fireworks crew so their family gets an up close experience every year.
  • Plenty of our staff enjoy the traditional parade as well. I think we all love to see the marching bands, festively decorated floats, horses and most of all our military marching with pride.
  • My daughter and I place small flags on the headstones of those who served in our military and then go to any fireworks show in Denver and spend time with friends and family.

On behalf of the NIFS organization and our staff, we salute our men and women who serve our country and give us the opportunity to enjoy our daily freedoms. We offer our most sincere THANK YOU and are extremely grateful for your service.

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Topics: independence day activities celebrate independence day

Does Your Senior Living Community Wellness Program Foster Ageism?

Several months ago, I listened to an interview on NPR with Ron Christie. He talked about working with President George W. Bush, who pressed the idea of combating the soft bigotry of low expectations when it came to the achievement gap for kids in schools. Turns out, the soft bigotry of low expectations is alive and well in all sorts of domains in this country, including how we view the abilities of older adults.

“If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however, if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

NIFS | Playing FrisbeeOne of the challenges that wellness program leaders in senior living communities must overcome is making sweeping assumptions about the abilities of their audience. And it's no easy task. I am in communities across the country on a regular basis where I'm routinely surprised by the stories I hear from residents about how enthusiastically they're living their lives right now. Shame on me. After more than a decade of doing this work, I am still amazed at how vibrant my elders can be. That amazement, though positive and delighting, is rooted in my ageist assumptions that older adults somehow cannot or should not live with the same enthusiasm that I choose for myself. It is representative of the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Whether or not you can see these ageist assumptions in your own beliefs, you can see it very tangibly in the activity calendars, which are the visible display of how residents are invited to live well in your community. It shows up on senior living activity calendars in these (and other) ways:

  • Unique activities? Does your calendar have fewer than 5% of activities each month that are truly unique to the month, quarter, or year? If you're not sure, try this: pull up three months of calendars and cross off every item that is routine, including standing card games, meetings, birthday celebrations, group fitness classes, etc. See what's left and consider how empty your calendar might be if it highlighted only the unique events.
  • Passive vs. active? Does your calendar have a substantial percentage of the programming designed to be passive (sit-and-listen) rather than activating residents' minds and bodies? How many events are truly resident-led where the staff are only providing assistance with room reservation and possible event communication? Which programs can you point to that facilitate meaningful social interaction for your residents?
  • Serving just the vocal minority? Are your calendar events built largely on the vocal minority requests, where the activity director serves as an order-taker instead of pulling from a broader base of residents, community connections, etc.?

[Read More: 3 Keys To Improving Resident Engagement In Wellness]

Those are not the hallmarks of programming that communicate the capability, energy, and desires of the seniors we serve. Those are very much representative of offerings for those who are retiring from life. They tend to be narrow in scope, limiting in new experiences, and focused on probably 20–30% of your population. They demonstrate our lowered expectations for what will inspire seniors to engage.

Fortunately, it seems the senior living industry as a whole is moving toward educating on ageist stereotyping and uncovering systemic challenges that make it hard to overcome the generalized belief that increasing age means decreasing value to society. LeadingAge offered this "beginning conversation" in the magazine late in 2016, and the International Council on Active Aging has been beating the drum against ageism as well.

At the community level, using a fresh lens to see what's possible from an activities standpoint is a good start. That means dropping (as best you can) any perceptions you have about the audience you serve. You can take a stab at revealing your assumptions by giving a colleague your elevator speech about what you do.

  • Do you include assumptions about what programs residents will and will not participate in?
  • Do you have an underlying assumption of frailty in your residents?
  • Does your message speak to how resistant your residents are to change?

If your focus is on keeping residents busy and entertaining them, you may be building your enrichment program on ageist stereotypes. Perhaps it's time to do better. Check out these concrete ideas for truly honoring the passions and interests of your lively and very much alive residentsOr, if you're ready to get busy evaluating what you have as a starting point for making improvements, check out our quick read on how to evaluate the quality of your wellness program.

Find out how to evaluate your program

Topics: senior wellness activities active aging ageism senior living senior living community

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

My Favorite Workout: Trying New Exercises or Activities

ThinkstockPhotos-165103697.jpgSomeone recently asked me, “What is your favorite workout?” I thought about my answer for a little bit. I do like to run, and I usually run about three days a week, but is that my favorite workout? No, my favorite workout is always when I’m trying new exercises or activities!

Try a New Exercise or Activity

The workouts that I enjoy the most are the workouts that I haven’t tried before, or don’t get to do very often. Whether it’s a new obstacle course race, running a newfound path, hiking a new trail, indoor rock climbing, stand-up paddle boarding, a taking a new Barre class, or just changing up a high-intensity interval workout, new workouts and exercises can be challenging and fun.

I’m like most people, I think, and doing the same workout day-in and day-out can get old. Like I said, I still run about three days a week, but I also try to mix it up with new workouts on a regular basis. I recently went to an indoor trampoline park with my kids. I had so much fun! I also had no idea how sore I would be the next day, simply because I was having too much fun to realize how much of a workout I was really getting.

The Benefits of Trying Something New

Besides being fun, switching up your workouts and trying something new can have lots of other benefits. Changing your workouts regularly can help break through the dreaded weight-loss plateau. It can also help prevent overuse injuries and build new muscles that you don’t use during your typical workouts.

Continuously trying new workouts can help build your confidence and keep your brain healthy. When you learn something new, it can help you feel empowered, more confident and ready to learn other new skills. And, learning new skills helps keep your neurons firing and your brain sharp, and helps to prevent memory loss.

New Workouts to Try

Here are just a few ideas:

  • Group fitness classes—Vinyasa Yoga, Zumba, PiYo, Boot Camp, Barre, etc.
  • Sign up for a 5K or a 10K, or challenge yourself to a half or full marathon.
  • Ballroom dancing classes
  • Indoor rock climbing
  • Martial arts
  • Water sports—skiing, paddleboarding, kayaking, whitewater rafting, etc.
  • Ziplining
  • Outdoor obstacle courses

What are some activities that you have recently tried or would like to try?

Get your employees moving more!  Grab this free download for 7 ways you can add exercise to the workplace.  

FREE DOWNLOAD: 7 Ways to Add Exercise to the Workplace >

 

Topics: workout exercises activities

Senior Living Community Has a Blast Raising Money for Alzheimer’s

pbrown.jpgOne of our clients put the Alzheimer’s walk on center stage this year, and the residents responded with gusto! Paul, NIFS fitness center manager at Meadow Ridge, knew he wanted to create programming around the area walk from a fitness perspective, but he was also interested in building a synergistic event that involved both employees and residents, many of whom have been personally touched by a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.

It was their first time raising money for a cause, and they weren’t sure what to expect in the way of participation. But with thoughtful planning and a team effort, this year’s event was a success. Here’s a rundown of how they executed a $4,900 fundraiser for Alzheimer’s disease research on their very first try.

Paul initially set out with a personal brainstorming session to consider options and overall structure of what he wanted to offer. With that outline in hand, he met with both the administrator and the executive director. By the end of that meeting, they had a variety of fund-raising ideas on the table. Most importantly, he had the support of the resident health services director and the activities director to pull off the plan throughout the month of September.

Building Excitement

Paul started with a letter to the residents about what was coming. He mentioned the community’s support of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in their area, and provided some basic facts about the impact of the disease. He provided a teaser in the letter to pique their interest and encourage them to watch for another communication outlining how they could get involved.

He followed that letter with another print communication announcing himself as the captain for the Meadow Ridge walking team, and invited residents to participate in either a walk at Meadow Ridge or the three-mile designated Walk to End Alzheimer’s in their area. He also outlined information about how to make a donation and included an envelope complete with a receipt for tax use and a return label on the front. All they had to do was write the check, seal the envelope, and return it to the receptionist.

Two days after the second letter went out, they hosted a root beer float day. That was a brand new activity for Meadow Ridge, and it successfully inspired recollections of childhood for participants. At the float-making station, they had reminders about making donations using their envelopes, and they also had a donation jar. They quickly raised almost $300 in cash at that 90-minute event. 

ThinkstockPhotos-537612271.jpgFund-raising Events

The next week the community offered two different fund-raising events. The first was a resident-only bingo party where the cost to play was $5 per game. Of course, great prizes were offered to those who won each game. They also held a 50/50 raffle with employees. This event raised $206 in total, where $103 went to the winner and $103 was donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.

The last week included a raffle for 30 different prizes for home services like gardening and housekeeping. There were also dinner-for-two prizes and opportunities to win a personal assistant for a day. The grand prize was dinner for three residents with the community owner. Some of the prizes were internal services offered by Meadow Ridge staff, while others were from outside vendors who wanted to participate in this important event.

A Big Success

In the end, they had participation from about one-third of the residents, and a team of 79 residents and employees joined in on the walks for a total of 64 miles. And to top off all of the enthusiasm around this fund-raising, the Alzheimer’s Association recognized the community for their creative efforts.

The whole thing was such a hit, they are already dreaming of what they can accomplish next year!

Related: How One Senior Living Community Got Focused on Brain Fitness

Our staff put their creative ideas into their programming to help increase resident participation, click below to see how you can improve your programs.

 Improve your programs >

Topics: walking senior wellness senior living Alzheimer's Disease activities

Senior Living Activities: Changing the Name or Changing the Notion

I read a blog recently on the Eden Alternative website about the power of language, in which the author quoted Alan A. Watts: “the menu is not the meal.” She was outlining her thoughts about words like “elder,” and “care partner,” and “home”—an important discussion! But the blog also got me thinking (as a good blog should) about lifestyle programming in communities. 

What If the Activities Director Was Called Something Else?

In the last five years, the senior living industry has started to make a title shift away from Activities Director and toward alternatives like Lifestyle Director, Life Enrichment Director, and Program and Events Director. Yet, this subtle shift in position naming, though necessary, is insufficient to make a true paradigm shift in how we support the elders who choose to reside in a senior living community. Changing the name is not the same as changing the notion.

I think the senior living industry as a whole is feeling a nudge (maybe it’s a push) toward doing better for our clientele. Consider the CCRC NameStorm from LeadingAge. The goal was to build a new potential name for Continuing Care Retirement Communities that would resonate with current and future buyers for this kind of product.

The idea about changing your activities department to your life enrichment department is the same: build something that resonates with your market. Still, as the Alan A. Watts quote hits home perfectly, simply changing the name is not enough. You can’t just create new name badges, update the job title on the position descriptions, order new business cards, and call it done. It’s not enough to simply change the name; we have to also (or at least) change the notion, the idea, of what activities can become in senior living. 

In fact, I would posit that you could actually keep the “activities department” if the staff are genuinely focused on building a better lifestyle for each resident. If they understand the personal passions, interests, desires, limitations, and fears of the members and provided “activities” that truly engaged those desires, the name “activities department” works just fine. 

But if your life enrichment department is still focused on filling the calendar to simply entertain residents, they are functioning the same way they were when you called them “Activities.” When they’re taking orders from a vocal minority of residents to drive largely homogeneous activities each month, they’re doing what they’ve always done, regardless of the name change.

Three Ways to Turn Activities into Life Enrichment

senior_group_ThinkstockPhotos-528133531

So how do we start to make that shift, away from the same old filling-the-calendar senior living activities to facilitating life-enriching opportunities that allow the residents to live the lives they want to live? Here are three ways to start looking beneath the surface of your calendar to cultivate meaningful experiences for your participants.

  1. Get to know your customer. How well do you really know the members of your community? Sure, you know names, and there are “regulars” you know better than most. But how well do you know where they came from and what makes them tick? Can you get information from the sales staff discovery process to start building a profile on each member? What questions do you need answered about each resident that could be folded into the discovery process so that newly moved-in members don’t feel like they’re being poked and prodded to provide you with answers? How can you use the intel you get to start building experiences for each resident?
  2. Get creative with your budget. Budgets are what they are, and changing the name of your department isn’t going to suddenly give you unlimited funds. Yet, if you’re listening to your residents, and understanding how they want to live your in community, you may find that helping them accomplish just that does not require additional FTEs or operating funds. Sometimes pairing folks with common interests can allow an organic opportunity to form without costing the community a thing. For example, suppose, through discovery, you learn that you have four residents who love to play chess and who are passionate about teaching others to play. Once you connect those four members and help them determine times to establish a “club,” or ways to connect with a local after-school program to teach the game they love, you’re on your way to fulfilling a social, intellectual, and vocational pursuit for your members. 
  3. Get familiar with the numbers. If you’re in the business of filling calendars, there’s no reason to gather data. You can see from the calendar that it’s full. But if you are focused on building purposeful programming that allows participants to live more full lives, I suggest you start to get a handle on whether your efforts are making an impact. For example, many of your residents may still be working. How does your 10am group fitness class resonate for them? Does it fit their schedules? I’ve heard a lot of directors say that no one will do activities (except the theatre or related events) after 4pm, so they don’t program anything after 4pm. Do you know that because of what happened historically, or do you know that because you know your members and you know the data?

If you agree with these ideas conceptually but you aren't sure how to move forward with them in your organization, let's connect.  We offer a free 30 minute consultation, no obligation.  I'd love to talk about what you see in the future for your community and then work with you on some actionable steps to get there.  

Find out more about a free consulting session with NIFS >

Topics: CCRC senior wellness programs data collection senior living communities program planning activities enrichment