Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Increasing Participation in Senior Living Fitness Programs (Part 2)

FitnessFreezeLogoIn part 1 of this blog, I wrote about a program we offered that helped us address an area of opportunity for resident participation in our senior living fitness programs. One of the core messages from that blog was how important tracking participation data is, over time, for sustaining a truly successful program. There is so much more to a robust fitness program in senior living than hosting classes, offering assessments, and teaching residents how to use the equipment.

Tracking participation data in your fitness services is crucial for any new or long-established program. In new programs, you need to simply start by keeping an eye on growth in membership and making sure participation steadily increases as you launch the offerings. In this blog, I’ll touch on some key numbers and trends you should be watching. 

An established fitness program you might consider “good” can become GREAT by tracking and strategically using participation data for continuous improvement. There is not an end date at which you cut off these practices no matter how old your program is. In addition to talking about data practices for new fitness programs, I’ll offer tips below from NIFS data trends over the past couple of years to show how you can use these practices to fine-tune an established fitness program.

FFparticipantKickstart Your New Community Fitness Program

New members: Part 1 of this series covered NIFS Fitness Freeze and how the membership drive component recruited new participants to join the fitness center. NIFS has a new client in Lakewood, New Jersey, that began staffing with us in August 2014. Since our launch, we witnessed an initial surge in residents enrolling, and then the normal steady trickle of participants in the months thereafter. And then we ran the Fitness Freeze and it generated a record-setting surge in new members in a month to finish off the year. If you are tracking your new members from month to month, you can keep an eye on when membership or participation starts to trickle off or plateau and run a targeted campaign to rebuild your momentum. 

Participation frequency: We have another client in Mystic, Connecticut, that launched with us in May 2014. In addition to tracking their steadily increasing membership rates, we’re also following the percentage of residents who visit the fitness center 8+ times in a month. For this relatively new client, that percentage is steadily climbing as the membership percentage increases. This tells us that more residents are joining, and more importantly, they are adopting a consistent routine once they become members. 

Fine-Tune Your Established Fitness Program

Group fitness participation: We have a client in Stone Mountain, Georgia, that has had a fitness program and staffing since they opened their doors in 2004. NIFS started managing their fitness program in October 2011. Over the past couple of years, we’ve had a lot of success with participation growth in group fitness classes, and because our data offered proof of that growth, we were able to garner budgetary support for more instructors. In 2014, we added 11 new classes per month to the schedule, and the average number of participants per class each month stayed the same. In short, we brought the residents more classes, and they took full advantage!

Personal training participation: Another client in Phoenix, Arizona, is showing steady growth in their personal training program. In 2013, there were 302 personal training sessions conducted, and in 2014 there were 707 personal training sessions conducted. We’ve added personal training as a program option in their health center, and we are currently hiring another personal trainer to help keep up with the demand for that growing service.

Membership rates: Lastly, three different communities that have been up and running with us for over five years all showed an increase of at least 4% or more in membership in 2014 compared to 2013, with little change in occupancy at those communities. Steady programming efforts targeted to spark different resident interests over time can help your membership continue to grow. Diversity in program offerings is what really drives that continual increase in membership, especially at our well-established communities. 

There are countless ways that you can track and evaluate participation data in your fitness program, and half the battle is just getting started. Determine what you want to track, how you need to track it, and then how you can effectively report that data over time so that it is usable and easy to evaluate. We aren’t statisticians with intricate spreadsheets spending hours crunching data each month. We do, however, have sound reporting methods so that our staff can gather this valuable data to continually build and evolve best-in-class fitness programs at the senior living communities we serve.

Find out more about a free consulting session with NIFS >

Topics: senior fitness management participation data collection nifs best practices senior living fitness center program planning

Increasing Participation in Senior Living Fitness Programs (Part 1)

I’ve written in the past about how consistent tracking of participation data in your community fitness center can help improve and evolve your senior living fitness program over time. Here is a two-part follow up series on what you are missing if you aren’t tracking data from your program. These observations are built entirely on NIFS’ experience doing this work for our senior living client communities.

Prevent the Participation Dip During the Holidays

Did your community fitness program experience a dip in participation during the busy holiday season? You’re in good company—we used to see that as well. 

NIFS Fitness Freeze

But in 2014, we were able to reverse the trend thanks to a custom program designed to motivate residents to move more when exercise often takes the backseat to holiday parties and family gatherings. 

It all starts with collecting the right data. For example, we knew from our 2013 reporting that there was a marked decline in participation from November to December in exercise program participation. We saw this as an opportunity to do better, so we built a program called Fitness Freeze to prevent that specific dip in participation we see over those two months. Following the program, we evaluated the effectiveness of the program design against our desired outcomes. Here’s what we found:

Total visits: An 11% increase in total visits to the fitness center and group exercise classes from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.

New members: An 8% increase in new members signing up to participate in the fitness center from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.

Appointment volume: A 26% increase in the number of appointments conducted from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.

We know that residents are already busy and preoccupied in December, so we wanted to make the program as simple as possible for them to be successful. Here are just a few of the design elements that contributed to Fitness Freeze’s success:

No elaborate tracking logs or point system: Residents don’t need one more thing on their “to-do” list, so keep it simple! Residents had to sign-in as they normally do to the fitness center and we took care of the rest. Our goal was to help residents be consistent in visits, even if their workout time was shorter than normal. If a resident exercised for at least 10 minutes, three times a week, they earned a snowflake that hung in the fitness center with their name on it.

NIFS Fitness Freeze

Make it visual: The individual snowflakes were a great way to decorate the fitness center with some seasonal cheer and residents LOVED being able to show off to visiting family and friends how many snowflakes they earned. It was eye catching, provided an easy avenue for discussion, and offered a constant reminder to the participants to stay on track. 

Recruit, recruit, recruit: As resident talk about the snowflakes on display in the fitness center spread throughout the community, residents who weren’t fitness center members yet learned that they could earn a snowflake just by joining in December. It created a fun and easy way for residents who might be on the fence about joining to take the final step and feel included among the ranks of our regulars. 

The Fitness Freeze was born out of our constant efforts to do better, which include a strong focus on data as well as routine evaluation of program effectiveness. Once we identified holiday-time as an opportunity for improvement, we built a tool to address that challenge. It’s a tangible and practical example of a targeted campaign to boost the participation in a given month. 

Watch for part 2 of this blog to learn about the value of evaluating data trends in brand-new fitness programs as well as in well-established programs from year to year.

Checkout more great programming from NIFS Fitness Management with our Best Practice Series.

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Topics: senior fitness management participation data collection senior living fitness center program planning

Senior Living: Using Wellness Programs to Combat “Someday Syndrome”

social seniorsThere’s a lot of talk about what some in senior living call “someday syndrome.” It’s the phenomenon by which adults who have a lot to gain by moving to a retirement community for one reason or another put off the move, indicating they’ll make that change someday.

There are industry articles, LinkedIn discussion groups, and product/service provider blogs about this phenomenon. I’ve heard it in my own parents’ discussion about moving out of their house and into a community. They’re ready…sort of. Well, not really quite yet, but they’re taking steps to be ready. I think they’re like so many of their generation. They have very good reasons to put off leaving their house. What they’re missing are compelling reasons to make that difficult change and move into a senior living community.

In 2008 and for a few years afterward, there was a delay by older consumers largely because of the housing crisis connected with the great recession. But more recently, as the housing market has slowly made a turn for the better, someday syndrome remains. My parents and many of their contemporaries are waiting because they simply don’t see themselves, their lives, anywhere but in their current home.

The Power of Storytelling

In one of Steve Moran’s blogs, “Is Good good enough?,” he talks about recent trips to two better-than-average communities. And although he records being politely and promptly greeted as well as appropriately “sold” during his visit, he felt no connection to either location. He was given good marketing collateral and told quite a bit about both communities, but there was nothing in that messaging to provide unique, compelling, relatable, or personal connections. In short, if he were a prospect, he had no heartstring tug, no strong pull to move to either community.

In the end, Steve comes around to the idea of telling stories as a way to distinguish your community from those around you, and I think he’s right. The stories about residents, their family members, their lives at your community, and how the staff facilitate the very best for them are the essence of who you are.

The good news here is that you already have stories; if you’ve been in business a while, you quite possibly have tons of them. But the hard work lies ahead in figuring out how to use them to communicate your culture, your way of life, as a tool for inviting prospects to join your community family. One of the places you should be looking for stories is within your wellness program.

What a Life Plan Community Can Offer Prospective Residents

If we look at broad brushstrokes of what a life plan can offer to prospects, there are two big categories: safety/security and lifestyle. Both categories are clear distinguishers in terms of providing more/better than what a prospect is able to achieve in her own home. The continuum of care with qualified and passionate clinicians, along with related services (therapy, podiatry, etc) all within the four walls of your community is simply not achievable for an individual who remains at home. And if your organization is on the cutting edge of opportunities for education, service, growth, and camaraderie in your wellness programming, you no doubt have robust programming that no one individual could so easily experience living in her home.

If you are a healthy individual in your 70s or 80s and you’re considering moving out of your home into a retirement community, which of those two messages is likely to pull you through someday syndrome and toward relocating in a community setting: how you’ll be cared for when you’re sick or dying, or how you can experience new opportunities and enrich your wellbeing as you live at the community?

Let me offer a word of caution here. The idea of using lifestyle to combat “someday syndrome” only works when your lifestyle programming is truly compelling, diverse, individually oriented, and life affirming. If you calendar is full of various card games, bingo, the occasional trip, the occasional lecture, the same old group fitness classes, and the monthly podiatrist visit, there’s no lifestyle to sell and you won’t be different from the competition. Make no mistake: just because the calendar is full does not mean the events are expanding the horizons of your residents.

How to Sell Lifestyle

After years of working with our senior living clients, here’s what we’ve learned about selling lifestyle:

  • Selling lifestyle is easy when you have the right programming and people in place that can elevate resident stories of successful living.
  • Selling lifestyle is easy when your programming has data to back up participation and engagement rates.
  • Selling lifestyle is easy when your marketing and sales staff understand the language they need to use and have specific stories to make a connection with a prospect.

If you’ve been nodding your head and you believe it’s time to elevate your community lifestyle both to serve your residents better and to create a true market differentiation for what you’re selling, check out this blog.

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

Topics: senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center senior living engagement active living senior living community marketing

Why Nobody’s Using Your New Resident Fitness Center (Part 3 of 3)

seniors meetingYour marketing and sales team may be missing the mark when selling fitness to residents.

I started this blog series talking about the importance of following all the way through on your capital investment for your resident fitness program. In part two of the series, I covered some basics on the importance of quality leadership as central to your community’s exercise strategy.

In this third part of the series, we’ll look at how your marketing and sales team can better tap into your fitness program as a sales tool. After all, once you nail the strategy and the staffing for your program, it only makes sense to make sure your marketing team can communicate your updated and comprehensive services to prospective residents.

Promoting Senior Lifestyle Benefits in Marketing Collateral

How does your community talk about wellness to prospects? How do you promote resident lifestyle in your collateral? If you haven’t given much thought to this, it’s definitely time to start. You’d have to be under a pretty big rock to have missed the continued rise to prominence that wellness is making in senior living.

And it’s because of that elevated importance that breezing through or ignoring your resident wellness amenities and services is no longer an option. Skipping over wellness in your collateral and marketing events is a huge mistake.

Promoting the Senior Wellness Program Effectively During Facility Tours

When I consult with communities, it’s really (frighteningly) common to talk with the marketing and sales staff and learn that they’re offering something like this during a tour:

“Now we’re walking past our pool and coming up next will be our exercise room. We have personal trainers and a lot of different types of group fitness classes available for you to try all week long.”

It’s like running through a checklist of “stuff” you’re throwing at a prospect. Dining, check. Exercise, check. Crafts, check. No stories, nothing a prospect can sink her teeth into and really consider how her life would be if she had access to those opportunities.

Typically, when the tour sounds like that, there is also a lack of marketing collateral about wellness, and there generally aren’t events for prospects that communicate how your community helps residents live well.

Sometimes the glossing over is because of a lack of confidence about the community’s amenities or services. Here’s the thing: you do not have to offer jaw-droppingly beautiful amenities in order to execute well on a message of well-living at your community. But you do need to have solid services with the right staff people behind that programming in order to market the lifestyle at your community effectively.

The right people plus the right program gets you the right stories you need to help prospects relate to what it will be like to live in your community. And that’s what you ultimately want, right? Happy residents are the ones who feel connected, who engage in more living, and who contribute to their own lives and the lives of those around them through the opportunities you offer.

If you’re looking for a place to start on more effective communication and marketing opportunities around resident wellness, look no further than some simple numbers.

Data Matters, and Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Differently

There are a number of areas in your wellness program where you can gather data, and I’m a big advocate for data because it’s crucial to determining success as well as to telling the story about what wellness is at a community. You can make a big impact in marketing messaging simply by spotlighting how many residents participate in your fitness programming. But you can’t capitalize on that number or message if you don’t actually have the data.

Consider a resident story that might look something like this:

“At ABC Community, our residents believe that moving your body is one of many ways to live well. In fact, they’re such big believers that 83% of them participate in our fitness programs on a regular basis. When Mrs. Jones moved here in 2007, she wasn’t much for exercise. In fact, she’d never been to a class, or walked on a treadmill. But after she met with our fitness manager and had her personalized program created, she started moving and hasn’t stopped.” 

My hunch is that the pretend story I outlined would resonate with a lot of prospects who have never exercised, are a little afraid of it, and are entirely unsure how to get started. Unless you have a story to which the prospect can relate, the sales staff mentions “fitness center” and “trainer,” and the prospect automatically writes that off as a nice perk but one she’ll never use. And just like that, you’ve missed a chance to help the prospect see how living at your senior living community is not only different (she already knows that and it’s part of what’s keeping her from moving), but actually better than where she’s living now. Mrs. Jones—the resident in the testimonial—sounds like that prospect, probably looks like her, and she’s been able to live exceptionally well since she moved into your community. It’s compelling and reassuring, and it’s all backed by a wellness strategy that captures the data and the stories for use at the right times.

Now, getting that data and those stories is not rocket science, but it does require that you have the right personnel behind the wellness programming to facilitate a more strategic approach to resident lifestyle. You need health-oriented professionals (do not read that as “clinicians”) who have a head for numbers and a heart for people. If you need a refresher on the quality leadership part of this puzzle, return to part 2 in this series.

 

Whitepaper: Creating a Wellness Culture

 

Topics: senior center solutions senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center senior living community marketing senior living fitness center data wellness consulting

Why Nobody's Using Your New Resident Fitness Center (Part 2 of 3)

training seniors resized 600Your residents need quality leadership in order to engage in the fitness services.

There is a lot of movement in recent years for senior living communities to include expansive, thoughtfully designed fitness spaces in their new community development or refurbishment plans. Surveys have indicated that wellness is a priority for prospects, and we don’t really see that going away as the boomers look toward their next life and how they want to live that next chapter. (I know you’ve heard this a gajillion times, but they are coming, and no amount of burying your head in the sand will change that. Get ready or get out of the business of anticipating their needs and knocking their socks off.)

So if you read part 1 in this blog series, you read about how your investment in wellness cannot stop with capital dollars. In this section we’re focused on why your residents need quality leadership in order to engage in the fitness services.

What Quality Fitness Leadership Is Not

Let me start perhaps with a list of exclusion—a list of what quality leadership is not. It is not limited to a traditional 1990s model of group fitness classes and a very part-time, questionably qualified attendant. It is not a personal trainer service (fee-based or free). It is not a silo-style environment where fitness is an island operating independently of what’s happening with activities, or resident services, or dining or other continuums of the community.

If any of that sounds familiar, I have a bad news/good news message for you.

  • Bad news: You’re stuck in a decades-old model. It may be working for you, but it’s worth asking whether it’s truly delivering on your brand promise. I would submit to you, at the very least, that if you’re working within a dated model, you’re lacking the capacity to truly be forward thinking. If your fitness services were built to be really strategic and forward thinking, you wouldn’t still be partying like it’s 1999.
  • Good news: You have fantastic opportunities to do more for your residents through your fitness program.

Quality Fitness Leadership Includes Core Skills and Soft Skills

Quality fitness leadership for your residents isn’t rocket science, but it does require some core skills that are learned through an accredited university curriculum, as well as soft skills that articulate a true passion for serving the residents in your community.

No doubt, you have more than enough practice at ferreting out the soft skills piece; after all, finding people who want to make a career out of serving our elders is your business. But understanding the technical competencies required in a qualified fitness center manager for your senior living community may be a little trickier. And then once you’ve found that qualified individual, you need to be prepared to take a strategic approach to on-boarding them in your community, which includes preparing both existing staff and residents for the new personnel.

The Keys to Hiring the Right Fitness Center Manager

There are a few keys about hiring that I think are helpful to communities venturing out in this process on their own. I’ve listed them quite briefly here:

  • Make sure you get familiar with the candidate’s credentials. Carefully evaluate certifications they list; not all fitness certifications are created (or earned) equally.
  • Require the candidate to demonstrate the skills required for the job. If you need them to teach group exercise classes for your residents, have the candidate provide a demo. If you need someone who can administer a senior fitness test, talk through that testing with the candidate or host a mock test as part of the interview.
  • Ensure the candidate can program for your audience. Evaluate their capacity to create print materials that fit with your brand, as well as the skills to execute a program from start to finish.

I’m here to tell you that those capable and passionate professionals do exist. We’ve written extensively about how to hire and how to successfully onboard fitness and wellness professionals. If reading isn’t your thing, consider watching our webinar on building better wellness staff in our Build Vitality webinar series. To discuss in greater detail, drop me an email and we can take a closer look at what you need as well as options on how to get there. Subscribe to our blog now to make sure you can catch part 3 of this blog series: What marketing needs in order to really sell your new amenity to prospective residents.

Topics: senior center solutions senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center engagement senior living community senior living fitness center hiring tips

Why Nobody's Using Your New Resident Fitness Center (Part 1 of 3)

empty fitness centerFrom the wellness consulting and fitness management work we’ve done with our clients over the last several years, we’ve seen our share of essentially empty fitness centers and pools in senior living communities.

It’s sad.

So often, community leadership invests substantial capital dollars for dedicated fitness spaces including rooms that hold the exercise equipment, rooms devoted to group exercise classes, and additional (and typically significant) spaces for aquatics amenities. The result after construction is that the spaces are beautiful—even stunning.

But these same swanky spaces, unfortunately, often aren’t functional. Sometimes they contain the wrong equipment or a dysfunctional design. Most commonly, the biggest roadblock to a thriving fitness program is that these spaces weren’t considered under any type of strategic plan, so programming of the space is largely ineffective for the residents and typically disjointed from the rest of the community.

The result is a beautiful new space that sits unused.

If you’re wondering why you poured so much money into this non-revenue generating space that appears to provide no additional benefit to the residents, or how to avoid this phenomenon, stick with me on this blog series, where I’ll write about the following:

  • Your capital investment isn’t the end of your commitment.
  • Your residents need quality leadership in order to engage in the fitness services.
  • Your marketing and sales team may be missing the mark when selling fitness to residents.

Part 1: Your Capital Investment Isn’t the End of Your Commitment

It’s a big deal: You spent a lot of time with your developers on crafting a new space (or overhauling an existing one) that will match your community’s appearance, and that you hope will be a welcome addition (or change) for your residents. It’s not cheap, either, but you’ve done your due diligence, secured the funds, and designed the heck out of the space(s).

The capital investment may be so substantial that it feels like enough.

Alas, your time and your money are, in fact, not enough. There are important details to consider regarding the design of the space—details that can make or break the overall function of the amenities. Read our blog on key things to avoid when you’re building a fitness center in senior living to find out more about common pitfalls when designing a new fitness space for senior living.

But you can’t stop with the physical space. This isn’t an “if you build it, they will come” type of project. You will need to cultivate a strategic plan for effective use of the space after it’s open for use.

Maybe that strategy is the job of the activities director.

Or maybe…the community needs a whole new approach to resident wellness that puts a wellness director at the top of the activities food chain. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Wellness is a way of life, not an activity, and it should be cultivated accordingly. Do the activities drive the wellness program in your community, or does the wellness culture dictate the activities? Answering that question according to the organization you are striving to be will help you figure out the hierarchy question.

Regardless of who is in charge of it, the strategy for effective use of the fitness center is really central to ensuring that this new space contributes positively to residents’ vitality. Questions for cultivating the strategy should include the following:

  • What is the goal, mission statement, or focus of wellness in the community, and in what ways do you expect that your fitness program will contribute to that end?
  • What investment needs to be made in staffing for the fitness center? (The answer to this question varies by community, but I can just about guarantee you that fee-based personal trainers and group fitness instructors are not enough.)
  • How will you know you’re achieving success in your programs? Will you mark it with simple participation goals, or will you be reviewing health outcomes, satisfaction, or other outcomes in your programming?
  • If you’re changing your activities/wellness hierarchy, how will you communicate those changes to the community and how will you reinforce your emphasis on this culture shift? Will that information need to be communicated to the residents? If so, how will you do that?
  • What operating decisions need to be scrutinized in light of your new emphasis on resident wellness? Does it make sense for your organization to make this strategic shift by including wellness for your employees at the same time?

To be sure, these questions, when thoughtfully addressed, will likely lead to more questions. Be patient; cultivating a strategy takes time and often requires continuous tweaking. It is a journey well worth taking, both for the benefit of your business and for fulfilling you commitment to facilitate a vibrant lifestyle for your residents.

In part 2 of this blog series, I’ll write about the importance of the right leadership in your fitness program. Make sure you have subscribed to our blog so you don’t miss a beat on this series and other hot topics we’re covering.

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Topics: senior center solutions senior fitness management CCRC fitness center engagement senior living community marketing fitness center for seniors nifs fitness center management

Two Key Things Your Wellness Program May Be Missing

staff working with residentAt NIFS, we work in both corporate and senior living settings supporting client wellness strategies. After having done that work in diverse environments for various audiences over the last 25 years, we’ve learned a thing or two about what really works when you’re trying to promote living well.

Below are two key elements your wellness program may be missing.

1: The People

We’ve hired hundreds of qualified wellness professionals to work with our many clients over the last two decades. And we’ve made some hiring mistakes. But we’ve learned from those situations and cultivated a more comprehensive interview and an effective onboarding process.

[Related Content: Tips for Hiring Your Own Fitness Professional]

Hire well and you’ll be well on your way to cultivating significant and meaningful opportunities for well-living for your employees or residents. If you don’t hire well for wellness, your strategy, programs, or initiatives are destined for mediocrity at best.

If you don’t know what skills and abilities you need for your wellness strategy, consider outsourcing your staffing to a partner. Let them be your expert so that you can spend your time and energy running your business.

2: The Program

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: wellness is not rocket science. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t require strategic thinking and thoughtful planning. Wellness services should be part of a larger vision that is focused on creating engaging opportunities for well-living.

There is no shortage of valuable resources available for program ideas online. Join a few LinkedIn groups and you’ll soon begin to see engaging ideas and thoughtful discussion that can help take your programming to the next level. Or subscribe to our blog for digestable on-the-ground tips for wellness practitioners as well as high level strategy solutions for wellness leaders.

And let’s talk a little bit about data. How are you gathering it? What are you doing with the data you have? Burying your head in the sand on data is not an answer. I’ve written before on how to gather data that you can actually use in your wellness program. You really can’t afford to continue the work without making legitimate attempts to measure what you’re managing. Otherwise, how will you ever know if your efforts are making the desired impact?

Looking for Best Practice Ideas?

Since we’re all about sharing the love and getting best practices out there for you to run with, I am very excited to announce our upcoming Best Practice Series that will launch in February 2014. There are two tracks:

Why not jumpstart your creativity with a little something that's worked in a similar environment for a similar audience.  (Who doesn't want their job to be a little easier?!)  

Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness program senior wellness programs senior fitness management corporate fitness managment corporate wellness staffing

Wellness in Senior Living: Kit vs. Culture

senior woman stretchingUnless you live under a really, really big rock, you have no doubt heard about the importance of robust wellness opportunities as central to a successful senior living community. There have been some fabulous profiles lately on organizations that are doing an amazing job of connecting their residents and others in the surrounding areas to opportunities to live well. Two recent examples highlighted by LeadingAge are these:

What strikes me about both of these offerings is that they are wellness initiatives. I don’t know that the communities packaged them that way, but in fact, they are a model of innovative wellness programming at its very best.

The other element I find compelling about these offerings is that they’re culturally driven. That is to say that this type of creativity can only come from an organization that believes that living well is truly central to its brand.

When your senior living communities investigate what’s possible under the umbrella of resident wellness, it’s important to consider what it is you truly want to build. Is wellbeing something that leadership wants to cultivate, explore, and weave into the very fabric of the community? Or is the community focus elsewhere for now, such that wellness is more of a task that needs to be crossed off the long list?

Looking for the Wellness Kit?

If wellness for your community is about crossing something off the to-do list, then you might be looking for a kit solution. There are organizations that can help you, when you buy into their model, to plant monthly wellness initiatives at your community. Your activities director can typically fold them into the monthly calendar, and you can begin to dip your toe into the wellness water to get a sense of how your residents will receive programming and activities built around traditional wellness pillars like nutrition, physical activity, and so on.

But that's not how we do it. We're not about the monthly theme, unless it's right for your residents, and we're not about the pre-packaged materials, unless they've proven their value.

Wellness Culture Means Cultivating a Lifestyle in Senior Living

At the end of the day, a wellness culture is where we need to be headed. When we adopt a healthy culture as the way of life we’re building for residents, then we start to grasp what’s really possible.

But here’s the thing: culture is person-driven, not program-driven. There are not enough programs in the world to build a culture. Wellness is a way of life, not an activity, and it should be cultivated accordingly. Here are a few considerations if you’re contemplating the challenging and rewarding work that is wellness culture building in a retirement community:

  • Determining a hierarchy: Building a wellness culture means giving consideration to hierarchy for wellness and activities (or leisure services, or life enrichment, or whatever your organization calls the events coordinator at your community). I would challenge you to think about whether activities actually rolls up under wellness instead of wellness being a branch of activities. If you buy into the idea that wellness is a way of life rather than an activity, then challenging the status quo that activities is at the top of the programmatic/community calendar food chain warrants significant thought.
  • Hiring a wellness director: Building a wellness culture requires a dedicated and competent professional blazing the trail. I’ve written about hiring a fitness professional for your community. The principles in that blog apply to hiring a wellness director as well.
  • Thinking progressively and strategically: Building a wellness culture means thinking differently about how you program, and it requires a commitment to moving beyond the bocce tournament you’ve always done. It also requires you to strategically think through what program data you need, and how you’ll use the data to inform your next culture-building steps.

Make no mistake, building a culture is no easy task and you don’t ever really arrive. You just keep learning, building, and growing. You keep evolving to meet and anticipate the needs of your audience. You keep striving for the experience of a life well lived, for breadth and depth of lifestyle choices that provide meaning for each individual.

If this sounds daunting, it is. The wellness kit idea is much simpler to understand and to execute. But the real richness lies in the proverbial road less traveled. Partner organizations, including ours, can help you map out a path to get started.

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

 

Topics: nifs fitness management senior center solutions senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center health culture fitness center for seniors

Benefits of Tracking Participation Data in Community Fitness Programs

senior living fitnessYou're senior living community is missing out on some important benefits if you don't have detailed data from your fitness program.  Read on to find out what you stand to gain by getting smarter about gathering and using data from resident participation in the fitness center and group exercise classes as well as evaluating resident participation in fitness center appointments and services.

Before we jump into benefits for the community, the fitness program, and the residents, we should note that the most common obstacle for communities digging into data is having a dedicated point person who can regularly support this effort on an ongoing basis.  While tracking this data is not rocket science, it has to become part of the fabric of your fitness program in order to be effective.  Certainly, a full system for this type of effort is part of what we bring to the clients we serve.   

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Benefits to the Community

Although it can be a challenge to determine the return on investment your fitness program is lending to your community, regularly tracking participation levels and establishing target goals for the program can provide solid stories that your marketing department can use to attract prospects. As you embark on setting up a data collections system with your fitness center staff, pull in your marketing team to find out what they think might be most helpful for their campaigns to reach out to prospective residents.  

For example, marketing can share with prospects and their families that XX% of the resident population are active participants in the fitness program or that XX number of residents regularly attend your community balance class. This hard data puts a backbone behind the legitimacy of your program for marketing to work with beyond the more common and generic messaging like this: “We have a lot of residents who come to our fitness center and balance class is their favorite!”

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Benefits for Fitness Staff

Ready…aim…fire! Without regular participation data to evaluate when deciding on your next fitness program, you may as well step up to pull the trigger and go straight from “ready” to “fire” without an opportunity to aim. The aim should involve looking at ebbs and flows in visits to the fitness center or participation levels in classes and creating targeted programs to increase the number and frequency of participants. Without the opportunity to aim, it will be more difficult to anticipate your residents’ needs.

Even worse, don’t keep a poorly attended program running just because you’ve always offered it. I guarantee you have at least one class on your monthly calendar in which participation has trickled off in recent months or even years. You may be saying to yourself, “Yes, but those three participants still really enjoy the class.” While that may be true, you may be neglecting a dozen more residents who have a desire for a different class while you are pouring resources into a sinking ship. Allow participation data to be a free resource to advance your community fitness program by allowing your staff to aim toward meaningful goals and hopefully more effective programs.

Benefits for Residents

The greatest benefit of all from tracking participation is how it can better serve the residents of your community! Everything that was stated in the previous section on benefiting the staff will of course carry over to benefit the residents through more meaningful program options. By tracking participation data, your fitness staff will be able to further evaluate who is coming to different classes or visiting the fitness center and how often they are doing so…and conversely, who is not! This is truly where relationships are made between the fitness staff and residents!

For example, the fitness staff will have the ability to note whether a three time per week balance class participant suddenly isn’t coming. A follow-up phone call to a resident noting their absence and welcoming them back makes a huge impact in resident adherence and satisfaction. Furthermore, targeted membership campaigns can be tailored to attract residents not currently participating in the program. Without the data to regularly report who is coming to what and when, these outreach efforts to residents would not be possible in a strategic and effective manner.

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We can help your community get started developing these data practices through NIFS consulting services.  Click the link below to find out more about this cost effective and impactful offering.

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Topics: senior fitness management CCRC fitness center ROI participation data collection

Active Aging: How to do wellness staffing right

The wellness staff you provide for residents in your senior living community can, quite simply, make or break your resident wellness strategy.  Hire only for qualifications, and you may miss the mark on a personality that works for the residents.  Hire with a primary focus on personality ("we can teach the hard skills, but you can't correct for personality") and you may never really get your services off the ground.

Recently, I wrote a blog about our hiring tips.  We're a staffing organization, so we do a lot of hiring to support senior living community wellness programs.  We also provide wellness consulting for retirement communities.  What I've seen from both ends of our work is that hiring incorrectly can significantly shortchange your active aging initiatives.  Fortunately, the converse is also true - hire well and your community can edge out its competition by providing a vibrant resident lifestyle.

In our Build Vitality series, we recently covered this very topic.  In the short, 25 minute program, you'll learn how to:

  • Determine the qualifications for the job.
  • Establish a job description.
  • Effectively post the job opening.
  • Develop a more in-depth interview process.
Watch the Build Better Wellness Staff Webinar

If you want to cut to the chase and access all four of our Build Vitality webinars, click here.

Topics: active aging senior wellness programs senior fitness management wellness brand for senior living