Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Water Volleyball Tournament Is the Definition of Active Aging Week 2018

Active Aging Week is always an exciting time for the NIFS Active Aging team. Our team members work hard to create opportunities for the residents ranging from sports, recreation, and trivia to meditation, education, and beyond with the goal of celebrating a positive view of aging. NIFS staff members across the country went above and beyond this year to encourage residents to step outside of their comfort zones and celebrate actively aging all week.

This spirit was most certainly demonstrated by the water volleyball tournament that took place between our senior living sites in Chicago, IL, and Lincolnwood, IL this year. I had the opportunity to speak with both Ruth, the NIFS Fitness Manager at Lincolnwood, and Leah, the NIFS Fitness Manager at Chicago, to see how the day went. Check it out!

NIFS | Seniors playing water volleyball

Q: What inspired the idea of a water volleyball tournament between Lincolnwood and Chicago?

Ruth: I really wanted to put together more activities between our Illinois sites, and water volleyball seemed like a great way to get our residents together and get to know the other community. Leah did a great job of getting her residents to practice and actually come with their A game this year. I really would like to host chair volleyball tournaments to include Wyndemere as well since they don’t have a pool.

Leah: Last year, Lincolnwood came to the Chicago site to play water volleyball. We assembled a team for the event without ever practicing. The Lincolnwood players told the Chicago players that they “skunked us,” and that didn’t sit so well with our competitive residents. A rematch with Lincolnwood was one of the first requests I received when I started in Chicago last March. From there it was just a matter of timing, and we thought tying it into Active Aging Week was a great idea!

Q: So, let’s get the obvious question out of the way…who won?

Leah: I’m proud to say we brought the Poinsettia Trophy home this year. We had several residents who had played last year say they would only play this year if we practiced first. I put four practice times on the schedule, and the players enjoyed it so much they requested two additional practices. They were taking no chances this year and their hard work showed…we “skunked” them!

Ruth: Yeah, yeah they beat us...this year! We have an ongoing water volleyball group here at Lincolnwood that meets on Saturday mornings. They have a team resident leader, and honestly they were overly confident this year and really didn’t play to their full potential. Nonetheless, we loved having the Chicago team here and enjoyed the time together since we do a lunch afterwards as well.

Q: What do you think the residents enjoyed the most about the tournament?

Leah: Play is one of the best things you can do for your mind, body, and soul; and unfortunately, it seems like we lose sight of that as we age. This tournament gave our residents the opportunity to reconnect with their younger selves, become part of a supportive team, play, and have fun! Our team is a competitive bunch. They were jumping, leaping, and diving for the ball. One resident told me after the tournament that being on this team was the best workout and the most fun she had had in years.

Ruth: Definitely promoting water volleyball is a way to reach out to our residents as another form of exercise beyond the standard fitness classes. They love the competition aspect and really enjoy developing as players, regardless of their age! Many of them played volleyball throughout their life.

Q: Were there any surprises? Anything that stands out from the day?

Leah: My residents were shocked and not too happy to find the beach ball at Lincolnwood was quite a lot bigger and heavier than the ball we have at Chicago. It really threw the team off during the first game (which is the only game we lost at the tournament). It was fun to see them adjust their style of playing.

Ruth: We actually were equally surprised last year when we had to play with a smaller-version volleyball; perhaps we need to come up with an in-between ball. I think the biggest surprise for us was how prepared the Chicago players were, their setups were definitely practiced.

Leah: There were many highlights of the day, but the thing that stood out to me most was the game-winning point of the final game. There was so much tension in the air as our resident made the final serve. When the ball dropped to the water and scored the final point, the Chicago residents just erupted with a cheer. On our way home the team asked if we could continue to play once a week and open it up to all senior living residents. It is now on our schedule every Wednesday at 1 pm!

Ruth: The good news is that our players surprised me by not being upset over the loss; they embraced the camaraderie among both communities. They also appreciated the positive comments regarding the pool size and the luncheon, but they are excited about next year and heading back to playing at The Clare.

Q: Do you have any advice for fitness staff who want to host a similar tournament in their community?

Leah: I definitely recommend having a few practices before playing an actual game and communicating with the other facility about towels and water. The site in Chicago provides towels at the pool, but Lincolnwood does not, so I was thankful Ruth let me know that in advance so we were prepared.

I’d be sure to clarify the rules with the players before the game.

Ruth was kind enough to coordinate a buffet lunch after the tournament so all of the players got to enjoy a lunch together. Timing wise, we allowed 30 minutes between arriving at Lincolnwood and starting the game, and 30 minutes between the last game and lunch. We could have done 20 minutes between each instead because our residents transitioned more quickly than expected. In addition to the Poinsettia Trophy, Ruth also prepared a laminated certificate for the winning team, which we framed and will hang in our pool area. The residents are extremely proud of the certificate and have brought their grandkids in to show them.

Ruth: Ditto on the above. Have those rules laid out in advance so all the players understand before the tournament and set up practices months to weeks before the actual game! It really is just a fun way to bring communities together and showcase NIFS’s work in providing programs that continue to encourage a “healthy lifestyle” for both the mind and body to equal active aging!

Thanks for sharing, Ruth and Leah!

To learn more about partnering with NIFS to manage your senior living community, click the link below. 

Partner with NIFS to improve your senior living community

Topics: active aging week, competition adding fun to senior fitness activities calendar senior living exercise and aging senior living activities water

Why promoting wellness is the right marketing choice for senior living

The biggest threat for occupancy in senior living appears to be the family home. And as technology advances, it gets easier for older adults to remain in the comfort of their familiar surroundings. After all, it is an enormous undertaking to move from your long time family home to a new place. The physical burden of the move (and downsizing) coupled with a strong and heavy psychological undercurrent to acknowledging that this will be your last move makes it extremely challenging.

Until there is a strong enough push (or pull) for older adults to leave their home, marketing and sales staff are left in a difficult battle with inertia, because the truth is, most of us don't make changes (in any area of life) unless the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of making the change. So you have two choices, you can wait for the push of a health crisis that forces older adults to leave their homes, or you can activate a pull message that shows the community as a place where active, engaged living is very much the norm.

[Read More: Using Wellness To Combat Someday Syndrome]

Your wellness program (life enrichment program, activities program...) is the tangible representation of how life is lived in your community and it is the best way to show prospects all the ways they can connect with opportunities FAR beyond what they could cultivate for themselves at home. Here are three opportunities to make the most of your community lifestyle in a pull message with prospective residents.

#1: Fix your fitness center.

Fitness, your fitness center, exercise classes, etc. are only one component of your overall lifestyle program. But, this aspect of living at your community is arguably one of the most visible and recognizable elements (maybe a close second behind dining). If your program consists of a gym with some equipment, classes on the calendar, and possibly fee-based personal training, then you're no different than the gym the prospect already belongs to. Nor are you likely much different from your nearest senior living competition. There is no pull in your services to stimulate the idea of change for a future resident.

Here are some blogs to help you rethink your exercise offerings:

#2: Change your calendar.

There's a good chance your calendar looks old and it's just as likely that your enrichment team is NIFS | Residents learn how to paddleboardblissfully unaware that there's room for growth in what and how they plan. If you're in a community leadership role, it may have been a while since you took a close look at the activities and events that are planned for your residents. So, maybe you're not sure if your calendar needs more life. The simple exercise below will shed some light on whether your programming represents an area of opportunity. 

  • Print the last 3 months of calendars.
  • Cross off all events that are repeats within the month: exercise classes, card games, happy hour, book club, birthday lunches, weekly shopping trips, worship services, etc.
  • If you don't see at least five to six unique events per month (and that's shooting low), then it's time to rethink how programs and events are planned in the community.

Check out this blog for a fresh perspective on putting purposeful living at the center of life enrichment programming.

[Read More: Top 5 reasons your residents don't engage in wellness]

#3: Adjust your thinking about resident engagement.

I'm intrigued by the Holleran Consulting model for the four domains of resident engagement. (Grab the whitepaper here). My early thoughts were all around how much the domains are the responsibility of a community's life enrichment director. However, the more I digested the content, the more I realized how deep the idea of resident 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 activities 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.  

How you build those pathways for residents to choose the ways they want to engage is the story you sell to prospects when they ask what it's like to live in your community. And, it takes more than your fitness manager and/or your life enrichment director to pull this off. It requires a strategic approach to building a community full of life and then creating a thoughtful approach to sharing that living experience with those who aren't even aware of what they're missing while they reside in their own home. 

Simply put: You court a more vibrant consumer when you offer a message that speaks to the ways they engage with life. Stop selling health care and start focusing on how residents can live well in your community.

Find out more about a free consulting session with NIFS >

Topics: resident engagement improve your fitness center activities calendar senior living marketing in senior living stop selling health care in senior living