Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

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 stop selling health care in senior living marketing in senior living

How to make the most out of your community fitness center

I talked with a lot of folks at the 2017 LeadingAge Expo last week about how they can make the most out of their senior living community fitness center. In case you and I didn't connect at that event, here are 3 tips on how to make the most out of your community fitness center programs.

water aerobics for seniors

Start with the staff

Upgrading what you're offering in your fitness program is a great way to stand out from the competition (if you do it well), but offering a trainer a few hours per week likely isn't enough to truly draw residents into the fitness program. 

If you have no staff - start there. Let's talk about how you can start providing expert staff in a cost effective manner with the greatest impact for your community.

If you have staff - evaluate how effective they are for your residents. There's a nuance here that's worth mentioning: how well-liked the staff are is not the same thing as how effective they are. Your residents deserve both an affable fitness team and effective, fun, engaging programs and services. So when you're thinking about how well your fitness staff are performing, start by addressing how well-received they are, but don't stop there. Ask how they spend their time in service to the residents and how are they measuring the success of the community fitness program. For example, are they providing services, like exercise prescriptions, equipment orientations, and assessments that help residents understand how to exercise safely while working positively toward their goals? Do you have data on how those services are used? 

[Read More: How NIFS managers spend their time in senior living fitness centers]
 

Consider the programming

Fitness programming in the community goes well beyond fee-based personal training and group fitness classes.  Many communities do robust programming exceptionally well.  If your struggling with ideas, here are a few blogs that spotlight NIFS work with our clients in this area:

As a leader in the community, you should be getting data about how effective the programming is, how many residents are participating, and what the fitness staff will do differently next time to achieve their goals.  If you aren't getting that kind of information from your program, it might be time to look at ways you can improve your program. 

Seek opportunities to improve

I talked with a number of community leaders who noted that they have fantastic staff in their fitness center and were thus certain that we wouldn't have services that would benefit their community. The truth is, there are always ways to do better; what we're really talking about here is whether there's an appetite to pursue improvement. 

If you don't want to turnover staff, but you recognize your fitness team is only as good as the silo they're in, consider bringing in a consultant to evaluate the programming. There are most likely areas where your program could improve. Bringing in a consultant with an extensive background in the field and blissful ignorance about your services is a great way to uncover those opportunities that aren't apparent to those who are working in that environment.  

Are you ready to do wellness better? Learn more about wellness consulting.

Topics: fitness programs for seniors senior fitness resident wellness programs LeadingAge LeadingAge 2017 resident engagement senior living status quo

3 things I learned at the 2017 LeadingAge Annual Meeting and Expo

LeadingAge 2017.jpgThis week more than 7,000 professionals working in senior housing and related businesses converged in New Orleans, LA, to share their passions, learn from each other, and return back to their communities inspired to continue doing great work for the older adults they serve. I was honored to be at the LeadingAge annual meeting both as an attendee and as an exhibitor.

Typically when I go to a conference, I learn in two categories:

  • There's the "duh-why didn't I think of that...it's brilliant" way where I'm usually listening intently in a session, scribbling copious notes and the speaker says something that resonates deeply for me.
  • And there's the "thinking about it later" way that usually comes up when I'm reflecting on the day, on the people I met, and the conversations I had.

Below are a few of my takeaways that, not surprisingly, fall into both of those categories.

#1: Status quo does not equal thriving

My first session of the conference was "Nature Meets Nurture: Designing a WELL Building". The content of the presentation was interesting; I had read some about the WELL Building Standard, and the session helped me get a better understanding of how the standard applies at a more practical level. What struck me during this session was when one of the speakers categorized the Standard as moving forward, moving beyond the status quo.

I realized that's true of so much work being done in senior living. Status quo is not the same thing as thriving. Moving forward, doing better, trying new things is not equal to doing what we've always done. Of course, this isn't just true for how we build communities; it's true in the areas where NIFS works as well, including building and executing on a life enrichment or fitness program strategy, and I have already started looking with fresh eyes at how we can help communities move past their status quo to build thriving living environments for their residents.

[Read More: 5 ways wellness consulting helps meet the mission of your community]

#2: There is no single solution

There is no one-size-fits-all solution that works in every community and the volume of providers stationed through the exhibit hall is proof. Even in our work with a family of communities all united under the same brand, our delivery of services is unique per location because the resident and client desires drive the strategy. The LeadingAge expo was a great reminder that communities deserve creative and flexible partners who are willing to adjust their models to meet unique needs.

The flip side of the creative partner coin is the open-minded senior living community.  If you strolled the expo thinking (or saying) you don't need X product/service because you already have it covered, see #1 above.  Maybe rethink that "we already do that notion" and give a second look to the information you gathered form the expo before you put it in the recycling bin.  There just might be a nugget in there to help your community make a move toward thriving.

 #3: Resident engagement is everyone's job

LeadingAge 2017 (2).jpgAs I sat in the Redefining Resident Engagement session with Michelle Holleran and Tim Johnson, I was intrigued by the Holleran model for the four domains of engagement. (Grab the whitepaper here.) My early thoughts were all around how much the domains are the resonsibilty of a communitiy's life enrichment director.  [Full disclosure - that role is kind of a sweet spot for NIFS as we consult with and provide staffing solutions for communities in that role.]  However, the further we got into the session, the more I realized how deep the idea of 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 Life Enrichment 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.  


If you attended the 2017 LeadingAge Annual Meeting and Expo, I'd love to hear your key take aways in the comments below.

Topics: senior living senior living communities senior living wellness programs LeadingAge LeadingAge 2017 resident engagement senior living status quo