Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Senior Living: How to create a win when your programs and events flounder

Programs and events don't always turn out like we plan. Sometimes we misjudge interest, and sometimes we misjudge the timing or venue. In other cases, the program is well done, but we don't meet our goals because we didn't set the right target to begin with. We're managing close to 30 client fitness programs in senior living communities, so we're bound to miss the mark on a program here and there. What's important to me is that we learn from our missteps so that the next time we offer an initiative, it's a more complete program.

If you're looking for ways to continuously improve what you're offering to residents, check out our insights on a few programs below. For more on our process of goal setting and evaluating the programs we run, check out this blog.

Membership Drive Month

Membership Drive Flier

The Program and Goals:

Last April, Tim hosted a membership campaign to attract residents who were not members of the fitness center to join. Goals for the initiative were simple, as was the overall structure of the program. 

  • Gain five new members during April
  • Inspire each new member to attend at least one group fitness class during April

The fitness program at this client community is well-established with about 67% of the eligible residents already members of the fitness center. They regularly gain about five to six new members each month, so the focus of this program was a targeted outreach to long-standing residents who had not yet joined the fitness center. Tim believed that if he could get them in the door for orientation by lowering the barriers to joining AND inspire them to attend at least one group fitness class during the month they joined, those new members might be more active/engaged in the long run.

Tim set up "open orientations" for the month to create easier opportunities for non-members to attend. Despite issuing personal membership packet invitations to each of these residents, no one attended those orientation sessions, nor were any of the membership packets returned. While they did pick up five new members in the month, they all came from a pool of newer residents who had moved to the community recently. And of those five who joined, only one attended a class during April.

What we learned:

Sending invitations by community mail to non-members didn't generate a response, so future membership programs need to enlist a different outreach approach at this community. It is worth noting that we had a strong positive response to this very approach at a different client community. So if you operate multiple venues, you may need to adjust your approach per location.

2018 Winter Olympics

The Program and Goals: 

To capitalize on the winter games, Alyssa ran her own version of the Olympics for the residents in her Minnesota community. Her goals were tied directly back to fitness center membership and participation:

  • Increase the number of total visit to 1,500 in February 2018 (the previous year, February visits had reached 1,125)
  • Increase by 10% the number of members who reach the 5+ or 8+ visit per month categories
  • Gain three new members during February 2018

Alyssa was able to achieve the total visits goal (1,705 visits in February 2018) and the membership goal (5 new members gained in February 2018). But she didn't reach the goal focused on frequent visitors (5+ or 8+ visits per month).

What we learned:

While Alyssa was quite successful at using her Olympics program to get a lot of people to use the fitness center, many of the elements of the program did not promote repeat visits. Additionally, many of the events occurred outside of the fitness center. (Click here to read Alyssa's reflection on teaching the residents new skills during her Olympics program.)

She received positive survey feedback from participants.

  • 95% rated the program as excellent
  • 75% noted the program was extremely well organized
  • 85% said the program exceeded their expectations

In reality, the program itself was strong. But the goal focused on increasing frequent fitness center visits was probably the wrong aim. Future offerings like this that aren't specifically targeted to draw members into the fitness center will be created with different program goals in mind.

Want to find out more about how NIFS can provide this kind of smart, strategic programming to your residents? 

How Outsourcing fitness center management can work for your community

Topics: senior fitness senior fitness management fitness for seniors outsourcing fitness managment senior living fitness center

What's Missing From Your Resident Fitness Program and How To Fix It

NIFS | Senior Group Fitness

I hear from a lot of leadership in senior living communities who know that there's more that could be done with their resident exercise program, but they aren't sure how to get their staff to ramp things up. If you find yourself in this situation, check out the list below for common challenges and opportunities to do better for your residents.

Our participation is lower than it should be.

There are a few reasons that participation in your fitness program might run lower than it should.  The first thing to determine is whether you have reliable data about who is participating. When we  start working with a community, we often learn that they may have total (or estimated) counts for group fitness class participation and that's the end of their program data.  

  • Start by tracking participation per resident. You'll have more reliable information about who is participating, how frequently they attend, and what they participate in. You'll also gain knowledge about who isn't coming to the fitness center and/or classes.
  • If your staff can deliver on individual services for residents, add fitness and balance testing along with exercise prescriptions to provide residents who aren't participating with the support they need to feel safe and inspired to begin an exercise program.

[Read More: 4 Strategies to Engage More Residents in Your Exercise Program]

Our group fitness class calendar needs a do-over.

It's common for the group fitness class calendar to get set on autopilot without critical evaluation of what needs to be updated.

  • Start by using the participation data to figure out which classes really deserve a spot on your calendar.
  • The balance classes our staff teach in our client communities are by far the most popular format. If you don't have dedicated balance training classes on the calendar, add them now. It's not enough to have balance training mixed in with a strength class or another blended format.
  • Carefully consider class descriptions; how you word group fitness opportunities for residents can make a big difference in what resonates with a previously inactive audience.

We need to be offering more fun programs.

Creating fun and inspiring programs to invite more participation in the fitness center is one of the best parts of the job! It's really central to how our staff are supporting residents in the client fitness centers we manage. Consider that engaging programs should be more than just fun; they should be built strategically to meet a specific goal. For example, NIFS Fitness Freeze program was a solid solution to combat the traditional fitness center visit decline we see in December each year. Or, think more holistically about Active Aging Week and use National Senior Health and Fitness Day to offer non-traditional options for physical activity.

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If you're committed to keeping your fitness staff in house, then they need some support to start improving what they're offering your residents. Our eBook on how to turn your fitness center from vacant to vibrant is a great next step.

Take your fitness center from vacant to vibrant >

Topics: senior fitness group fitness for seniors fitness for seniors senior wellness programs

A Simple Walking Test to Predict Longevity in Seniors

If you follow our blog, you’ve no doubt figured out that we’re big fans of data. Our staff aren’t statisticians, but they do regularly measure the impact of their programming to better understand what’s working and why. They also do quite a bit of work gathering data with and for the individuals they serve; most commonly that information is gathered through a fitness evaluation.

Testing Senior Fitness

For our senior living clients, the Senior Fitness Test is the traditional tool we use. It includes assessments like a chair stand, a chair sit-and-reach, and a two-minute step test. (If you want a little bit deeper dive on assessments with older adults, read this article.)

It’s a quality series of tests that have been validated in the scientific literature, and the individual tests are safe to use on participants with a broad range of abilities. And it helps our staff set benchmarks with participants on their physical fitness. Sometimes it offers red flags that trigger a referral to therapy, but more often than not, it’s simply a starting point for the participant, and it offers an opportunity to establish fitness goals in connection with a personalized exercise program.

But many communities don’t have the benefit of a trained exercise specialist onsite, like NIFS staff, who can do that follow up with participants. Additionally, some equipment is required to perform the tests. Where budgets are a challenge, the equipment may not make it into the budget.

The Walking Speed Study

As it turns out, there may be another very simple way to look at assessments. Of course, the tests you give depend on what you want to measure, but if you’re looking for a way to measure longevity in your residents, a walking test may be all that’s needed. According to this study, walking speed may be a good predictor of life span across categories of age, race, and height, but it was found to be particularly useful at determining life expectancy for individuals who were functionally independent and who were older than age 75.

The study specifically looked at nine studies between 1986 and 2000 assessing community-dwelling adults age 65 or older. All participants had baseline gait speed data and were followed for 6 to 21 years. In clinical applications from this study, physicians working with older adults on treatment plans could use results of a simple walking-speed test to determine best course of treatment. But there are applications in your community setting as well.

Walking is a simple activity for most of us, but it requires the use of energy and the coordination of multiple systems within the body. Decreased mobility–gait speed–may be an indicator of a decline in those various systems and an overall decline in vitality for the individual. Thus, tracking changes in gait speed over time for your residents could allow your multidisciplinary team of community professionals to intervene as you start to track a decline for a particular resident.

You can download a simple toolkit for measuring gait speed here. With nothing more than a marked-off area, a stopwatch, and some math, you can be on your way to assessing your residents’ longevity.

Five Reasons to Choose NIFS

If you’re looking for more than a simple gait assessment to help your residents improve their fitness level, download our quick read below to see why senior living communities across the U.S. are partnering with NIFS to manage their fitness centers.

 

Topics: walking senior living senior fitness data longevity fitness for seniors