Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Senior Living Lifestyle: Identify Your Wellness Champion

This series features insights on developing a robust wellness-based lifestyle at your community. Some content will cover practical tips and some will identify barriers to achieving success meant to spark conversation within your community. In part 1, I talked about defining wellness and the importance of how you use that word in branding. Read on for part 2.

Staff who work in senior living communities are some of the most compassionate, dedicated, and often creative people you will meet. Their plates are full, their to-do lists are long, and it can be a heavy lift to bring down the silos between departments, which is necessary to truly cultivate balanced lifestyle offerings for residents.

The problem is not that the staff are resistant to meeting with other stakeholders in resident well-being, having more dialogue, or planning differently. (Notice here I said planning differentlynot planning more. That is the key to this approach.) It’s that there is often a missing link in bringing these different people, talents, and departments together in a sustainable fashion.

Identify a Wellness Champion

ThisGettyImages-985893328 (1) is where it is critical that communities identify their wellness champion. This person can act as a catalyst in eliminating the silos and bringing everyone together to work from a unified vision of how lifestyle offerings and services are delivered to residents.

In NIFS’ case, where our staff members are regularly referring residents to therapy and the Registered Dietitian, or collaborating with activities or dining staff, shifting our onsite Fitness Manager’s focus to a Wellness Coordinator role has been a great fit in many client settings. It’s often a natural progression because residents and other departments are already accustomed to our staff bringing people together and fostering collaboration.

Our degreed and certified staff act as educators with community staff, and they also learn how to best tap into the personal passions and interests of the team members to improve buy-in to the process. After all, they’ve already been working with many of these stakeholders for some time on other programs. Now they are simply bringing everyone to the table with improved consistency and more structure.

Here are three tips when considering how to identify your wellness champion:

  • Your champion should talk the talk and walk the walk if they are going to advocate for the message of wellness and collaboration for your community. Ask yourself, “Who would be a good spokesperson at our community to message our wellness program to prospective residents?”
  • Your champion should have strong communication and interpersonal skills to foster collaboration among your wellness team. They should be able to determine how to tap into the personal passions and talents of those on the team to leverage strengths and improve buy-in.
  • Your champion should be well organized and have strong attention to detail. After all, they are the individual responsible for keeping the team organized, establishing timelines for special events, tracking completion of tasks, and more. The champion is once again that catalyst bringing everyone together and being responsible for maintaining cohesion among the team, so they must be organized.

Help from NIFS Consulting Services

Does your community need support identifying who your wellness champion is or how to shift roles and responsibilities to support this type of position? NIFS consulting services can help you answer those questions and many more to support a collaborative approach to wellness planning.

Find out more about NIFS Consulting Services >

Topics: nifs staff lifestyle philosophy in senior living nifs wellness consulting wellness-based lifestyle wellness branding wellness coordinator nifs consulting services

Fitness Staff Collaboration: NIFS Helps with Professional Development

IMG_2504Variety is the spice of life, and that’s what we’ll have in town this week at our annual managers’ meeting. Each year we fly our management team to our headquarters in Indianapolis for professional development, collaboration, and networking. Our passionate team arrives from across the U.S. from different client settings and with varying personal interests and backgrounds. Their one commonality is their passion for serving their members, and we love the dialogue and collaboration that unfold when everyone gets together.

3 Benefits of Collaboration for Fitness Staff

This connection and access to a wealth of resources is one of the strongest value elements we bring to our clients. They receive our onsite fitness staff managing their program and building relationships with members, plus the expertise of a national organization doing this work across the U.S. How does this routine collaboration truly elevate a fitness program?

  • They don’t feel like they are on an island. As a fitness professional in a corporate or senior living setting, it can feel like you are isolated without resources or like-minded individuals who have similar goals and job duties. NIFS has routine meetings, workshops, and events like our annual meeting in Indianapolis to bring new ideas, resources, and inspiration to your fitness program, keeping things fresh and exciting for your members as well as your fitness staff.
  • They can benefit from vetted programs and promotions. Sometimes it can be hard to execute a vision for a program or determine how to best reach a group of individuals because you aren’t quite sure how to get started or you are concerned about unanticipated road bumps along the way. NIFS managers regularly connect on a variety of platforms to discuss new ideas and ask for feedback among their peers. This provides members at our client sites with more finely tuned and professional programming.
  • They are connected to the latest trends. Fitness is a trendy industry, whether you are working with children, the general population, or seniors. By having staff from the four corners of the U.S. and a little bit of everywhere in between, this broad reach keeps our team connected to not only what is trending but how to educate and market new programming to members in our client settings.

3 Tips to Garner Collaboration for Fitness Staff

So what do you do if you aren’t connected to an organization like NIFS to help keep your staff connected?

  • Professional development: Provide funding to send your staff to workshops to help them stay plugged into the industry. Without an organizational connection they might still miss opportunities to learn how others are effectively implementing that type of programming in your setting, but it can certainly lead to some fresh ideas and keep staff inspired.
  • Create a network: Do you have neighboring communities or businesses with staffed fitness centers with which you could encourage collaboration? Perhaps there’s a network of senior living communities in your town where the fitness staff could get together once a quarter for idea sharing. Perhaps your group fitness instructors, trainers, and fitness manager at your corporate site could meet once a quarter to discuss what they are hearing from members, share ideas to attract new participants, etc. Your network can be in-house with existing personnel or branching out, but creating space for discussion among like-minded individuals can be advantageous.
  • Identify a strong contact: Whether or not someone at your setting is in-tune with the fitness industry, make sure your fitness staff has someone who has a good listening ear and an understanding of your fitness program’s goals. Fitness staff can feel less isolated in their decision-making when they have a partner at the site level who understands the work they are doing, and when they have someone in their corner for brainstorming or discussing member needs.

This collaboration is where the magic happens in taking a fitness program from good to great!

Find out more about NIFS Fitness Center Staffing

Topics: senior living fitness center fitness trends nifs fitness center management corporate fitness management onsite fitness center fitness center staffing nifs staff networking professional development

Creating Purpose for Residents in Senior Living

MMFC_Becca with member-1Fitness management is the cornerstone of our business. Recently we have seen an uptick in clients requesting our support in developing broader wellness programming for their residents through the continuums of care. Sometimes the need arises due to challenges with community personnel who don’t have the tools and resources to cultivate the desired lifestyle for residents. Sometimes it’s because they don’t have a point person to pull everyone together out of their silos across the continuums. Sometimes it’s both! Sound familiar?

How Well Is Your Community Collaborating on Purposeful Programs?

Ask yourself a few questions about how well your community is collaborating and building programs with purpose and intention:

  • Do activities staff collaborate regularly on program and service options across departments and disciplines such as dining, fitness, health services, the chaplain, and the social worker?
  • Do activities staff across all continuums of care collaborate regularly on programs and services and work toward common goals together?
  • Is your calendar full of activities to keep your residents busy (for example, cards, movies, speakers, shopping trips, and so on), or is your calendar crafted with activities that create purpose for residents?

A Visit with a Senior Living Client in New Jersey

I provided a solution to these answers during a recent visit with a senior living client in New Jersey. We have been providing our traditional fitness management services to this client for the past four years. The approach we discussed was shifting our degreed and certified staff into a Wellness Director role, who maintains fitness duties in the fitness center while also facilitating a strong collaborative approach with activities personnel in independent living and health care.

This particular client has come to expect creative and diverse program offerings from our Fitness Manager. Events offered last month for Active Aging Week included Yoga Poses and Doggy Noses (yep, that’s yoga with dogs folks), a Blood Drive, and Movies & Smoothies. Past events included their Polar Plunge, Mind Moves, and Healthy Habit Bingo. As the client recognizes the experiences we create for residents that promote engagement and movement versus sit-and-listen events, they begin to lean on us to support them more broadly outside the realm of fitness. We are also seeing a strong desire for the standard of programming cultivated within independent living to carry consistently through assisted living and health care environments. But we are aware of the struggle communities have to bring that to fruition.

NIFS Staff Members Make the Difference

Our strength lies in the people we hire—in their ability to build exceptional relationships with the residents who participate in their programs and also with the staff at the community with whom they collaborate regularly. Their background as health and fitness professionals empowers them with program solutions to support whole-person well-being. The tools and resources they have behind them from NIFS create the space for strategic planning with key stakeholders in resident well-being.

We essentially become a champion for your community by fueling ideas, breaking down the silos, and getting everyone working from the same playbook on a new standard of program and service offerings. If you are interested in hearing more about NIFS's support of broader wellness programming within your senior living communities, contact me or read on.

Find out more about a free consulting session with NIFS >

 

Topics: senior fitness management functional movement resident engagement senior living activities activities calendar senior living nifs staff

Fabulous Farmers’ Markets: Nutrition and Healthy Summer Fun

One of my favorite things to do during summer in Indiana is to visit the various farmers’ markets around town. As a dietitian I am a sucker for the fresh fruits and veggies, but I also love the homemade desserts, candles, pasta, kettle corn, fresh flowers, and other wonderful items you can find.

The Top 5 Reasons to Shop at Your Local Market

Hfarmers-market-1ere are my top 5 reasons why visiting your local farmer’s market is a must.

  1. Support the local community. Since the produce is grown and purchased locally, the money remains in the community and stimulates the local economy. Also, when you shop at the farmers’ market you are cutting out the middle man, and the product is generally less expensive than if you purchased it in the grocery store.
  2. Eat foods that are in season. Farmers’ market produce is picked ripe and sold soon after picking. Supermarket produce, on the other hand, can take up to two weeks to travel from the farm to the store, even when it is in season. The produce tastes richer and more flavorful and the nutrients are better retained. This handout for Indiana allows you to see which produce is in season so you can plan ahead for meals and shopping on your next outing. If you don’t live in Indiana, check with your local government websites to see if they have a similar calendar.
  3. It’s good for you. The average American eats 4.4 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The current recommendations are 9 servings per day. Picking up multiple servings of fruits and veggies and incorporating them into recipes, meals, and snacks is a great way to get closer to the 9-serving-per-day-goal. This will guarantee you are meeting your recommended vitamin and mineral nutrition requirements, increasing your daily fiber intake, and acquiring cancer-fighting antioxidants. Locally grown produce is also lower in pesticides and chemicals.
  4. You can talk to the farmers who grew the food you are about to eat. You can meet the farmers who grew your food, ask when it was picked, how it was grown, and ways to prepare it. When else do you get the opportunity to learn so much about what you are putting in your mouth?
  5. There is certain to be one that fits your location and schedule. I love being able to go to the local farmers’ market close to work on my lunch break mid-week to grab items to get me through the rest of the week. Saturday mornings it’s off to the farmers’ market closer to my house to purchase goodies for the weekend and first part of the next week. To find out farmers’ markets close to you, check out the Farmers Market Directory on the USDA website.

An Inexpensive Place for Healthy Eating

Whether you are picking up items for tonight’s dinner or for the whole week, the local farmers’ market is an inexpensive, healthy alternative to the grocery store. Try to get there early to get the best variety and options. Not all vendors accept credit cards, so be sure to have cash on hand. Finally, bring along your own reusable grocery bag to put all of your goodies in so it is easier to carry home your fresh, delicious finds.

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Topics: nutrition diet and nutrition well-being nifs staff

Why Spending Time Outdoors Is Good for Physical and Mental Wellness

GettyImages-1138813719 (1)If you’re looking to improve the overall happiness and well-being of your residents—and even yourself—try taking your offerings outside of the fitness center and straight into nature!

Many of our NIFS fitness staff members schedule outdoor activities as a key component of their wellness programming, when and where weather permits. Some of the most popular open-air activities we have offered include walking groups, hiking trips, snowshoeing, yoga classes, mindfulness and meditation events, recreational sports, gardening, and outdoor socials. Exercise-related health benefits are already widely acknowledged, but did you know that the additional advantages of immersing oneself in nature may far surpass exercise alone?

Let the Sun Shine In!

Sunlight can help boost your Vitamin D levels, which is essential in calcium absorption to keep bones healthy and strong. Those who aren’t getting enough Vitamin D are much more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, heart disease, depression, weight gain, Alzheimer’s, and a whole catalog of cancers. In addition, getting sufficient sunlight can aid in preventing type-2 diabetes and some autoimmune disorders.

Get Active

Physical activity typically increases as we spend more time in natural environments, and the two together help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls how the body responds when at rest. Not only does this provide a relaxing, calm feeling, but it also reduces resting blood pressure, strengthens immunity, and can help decrease the risk of developing chronic disease.

Just Being Outside Is Beneficial for Mental Health and Wellness

Not in the mood for a “workout”? That’s okay, too! You can still fight mental fatigue, tension, and stress by simply being in nature. A study conducted at the University of Michigan found that spending as little as 20 minutes either sitting or walking in nature was enough to significantly reduce levels of cortisol, a hormone commonly used as a stress marker. The greatest rate of reduction in cortisol levels was observed in those who spent between 20 and 30 minutes in green spaces.

Anxiety and depression, too, have been proven to be lessened by spending time in nature’s powerful restorative environments—so powerful, in fact, that researchers at Stanford University call time spent in nature a mental health prescription.

Mental health disorders can contribute to poor sleep, and poor sleep can equally contribute to mental health disorders. Not only can time spent in nature improve overall mental health, leading to better sleep, but it can also play a fundamental role in improving sleep patterns, leading to better mental health. Sleep patterns are intrinsically regulated by circadian rhythms—this is commonly referred to as the body’s internal clock—which is directly tied to the sun’s schedule. Spending too much time in the absence of natural light, or in the presence of artificial light, can alter a person’s circadian rhythm and disrupt sleep patterns. Lucky for us, this balance is easily restored by getting back to nature and spending time outside.

Are you taking advantage of all that nature has to offer and sharing it with everyone you know?

NIFS staff love helping create Active Adventures with the communities where we help do wellness better.  Click below to see if outsourcing and having a vendor partner with you is a right fit!

Is outsourcing fitness center management right for your community?

Topics: disease prevention senior wellness programs bone density emotional wellness depression vitamins anxiety nifs staff nature outdoor exercise