Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Exercise Tips for Seniors: Staying Active While Staying Safe

GettyImages-1135376317 (1)While practicing social distancing remains a priority for everyone, finding ways to stay physically active should also remain a priority. This is particularly true for older adults who may find themselves feeling increasingly isolated and vulnerable to remain safe. Exercise has long proven to provide numerous health benefits both for your physical well-being as well as your emotional well-being including:

  • Improved blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels
  • Improved immune system response
  • Improved blood circulation and joint comfort
  • Improved mood, sleep, and happiness levels
  • Decreased feelings of depression, anxiety and stress

The National Institute on Aging has an even lengthier list of benefits if you need more convincing. Truly there is no magic pill or treatment that can provide the combined physical and emotional benefits as exercise. Yet in these uncertain times, it may feel difficult to come by safe and effective exercise options while access to fitness centers, pools and recreation outlets are restricted. Lucky for all of us, that’s the other great thing about exercise in how adaptable it can be. If you feel like throwing in the towel until you can get back to your favorite class or routine, give this some thought:

  • Shorter bouts of activity are just as beneficial! You gain the same health benefits exercising at a moderate intensity for three, 10 minute bouts as you do exercising for 30 minutes straight. If you are stuck at home, consider adding in these shorter bouts of activity throughout the day to decrease boredom and maintain conditioning.
  • It doesn’t require expensive equipment to get in a good workout. By adjusting your number of sets and repetitions and performing a variety of body weight movements, you can still challenge your muscles and overall endurance very effectively.
  • If you’ve been doing the same routine or class for quite some time changing things up with a new at-home workout might be just the thing your body needs for a new challenge. Over time our bodies adapt to the demands we place on it so if you aren’t trying new exercises, increasing the resistance you are working against, etc., your body isn’t getting the same benefits. Utilize this time to experiment with new exercise options to challenge your body and your mind as you learn a new routine.

Now you might be asking, how do I get started? Where do I find exercise resources? How do I know if I’m doing them safely and effectively?

  • Contact your gym or fitness center and see if they have trainers providing virtual fitness coaching. NIFS is proud to continue supporting the residents in the senior living communities we serve with a variety of home-based exercise options to keep our participants moving and your gym might have resources to share as well.
  • Get resourceful with items you already have at home to replace the small equipment you use in your normal routine. Canned goods or water bottles can replace hand weights, a bath towel over carpet can replace a floor mat, a chair back can replace a handrail for balance work, etc.
  • Explore online resources for “senior fitness” or “senior exercise” on Google, YouTube and Amazon. There may be videos for purchase and free trials you can experiment with in your endeavors at home.

Most importantly, focus on your mindset while you are exercising. Recognize that some movement is better than none each day and always listen to your body. Exercise should never be painful so if you try something new and it doesn’t feel quite right, try something else. Consider this chapter in our lives as an opportunity to try new things, keep your body moving, and play it safe. It isn’t a time to push yourself well beyond your comfort zone and limits. Also consider nourishing your body with proper nutrition. It too has a strong impact on mood, energy, and sleep quality.

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Topics: body composition active aging senior living staying active exercise and aging

Create Your Own Legacy: A Keepsake for Senior Living Families

Welcome to February, the month when most of us are feeling like we are moving oh so slow through the remainder of the winter months. We have come off the high of gift giving and receiving, enjoying time with family and friends, and even the excitement of the New Year. We are still reflecting on the past year or even the holidays, wishing we could bottle up that time we had with family and friends.

GettyImages-1047684930 (1)When it comes to programming options in senior living, NIFS understands that communities strive to create a memorable experience for residents and their families all year long, which is why we are excited to bring clients the NIFS Legacy program. This is a simple one, but with a memorable result. We are inviting each resident to participate by handwriting answers to simple life questions and to have their photo taken to create a nostalgic piece that will then be transformed into a keepsake for the resident to share with their family.

Building Connections

While NIFS staff are known for providing traditional fitness programming, we also find it engaging to offer opportunities like this program. Interacting with residents each day in our social atmosphere allows us to build relationships and connections that go beyond fitness alone. We often have the privilege of getting to know the residents’ family members through holiday visits, summer vacations, or the weekly check-in. So being a part of a project that will provide a memorable keepsake is icing on the cake for us, knowing how much their son, daughter, niece, or nephew will enjoy it!

Well-Being is More Than Healthy Eating and Exercise

We’ve written before how well-being extends beyond exercising and eating right. With the NIFS Legacy program, residents and staff collaborate to discuss and capture memories and turn them into a special memento that residents can share with their family and friends. Not only does this opportunity foster a connection, but it also helps fulfill a more well-rounded wellness program at the communities we serve. It hits home on the holistic approach to supporting resident well-being by offering an outlet for emotional and spiritual wellness, acknowledging the meaning and purpose of their life and creating new memories with their loved ones.

The meaning of legacy is to “put a stamp on the future,” and we know that our residents have contributed a great amount of time, knowledge, and love to such a thoughtful keepsake. By sharing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, they will be contributing to the future.

A Partnership Between NIFS and Your Senior Living Community

NIFS partners with premier senior living providers across the US to bring their residents best-in-class fitness and wellness programming. The NIFS Legacy program is a great example of how our qualified fitness professionals have the skills and resources to artfully marry creative programming with relationship building to offer programs of intention and purpose for residents. Click here to learn more about how the NIFS team integrates with communities to help you achieve your wellness goals.

We are excited to invite residents to create their own legacy with handwritten answers to simple life questions alongside a photo that will inspire their family and peers. Throughout the month of February, residents will have an opportunity to visit the community wellness center to create this wonderful keepsake.

Is outsourcing fitness center management right for your community?

This blog was written by Lindsay Knox, Assistant Director Active Aging Services, National Institute for Fitness and Sport.

 

Topics: senior wellness senior living memory family emotional wellness well-being

How One Resident Walked 100 Miles in One Month


NIFS | Senior Resident

An interview with Ida Lee of Wyndemere Senior Living, Wheaton, Illinois.

In June of 2018, residents at Wyndemere Senior Living in Wheaton, Illinois were challenged to participate in a fitness program called, Exercise Across America. For every mile exercised, residents received 100 miles on distance on a map, towards their favorite location. By month’s end, one resident had blown past the others by walking 109 miles (10,900 map-miles towards her Los Angeles, California destination). Ida Lee walked nearly four miles a day to achieve this goal and according to Ida, June was a “bad” month as she had additional commitments that took away from her exercise time. The closest runner-up accumulated 78 miles. 

Ida Lee, age 79, has always preferred walking for exercise. She began walking longer distances in January 2018, after realizing she had extra time in her day. She also discovered that the Health app in her iPhone would track both her steps and walking distance. Recalling an exercise program that her sister did a few years ago, Ida decided in February 2018, to make walking 10,000 steps her daily goal. 

What are the three biggest benefits you’ve seen since you started walking?

Answer:  It gives me a sense of accomplishment. Walking 10,000 steps takes at least one hour and 40 minutes so it keeps me busy. It also helps stabilize my weight because I have a healthy appetite.

Do you have any tricks or secrets that help you get you going on those rough days?

Answer:  If I am really busy I don’t worry if I don’t meet the goal.  On hot days, I walk early in the morning and late in the evening.  Also, keep your phone in your pocket or in a small purse with a shoulder strap.

What do you do in rainy weather or during the winter?

Answer:  In winter, if the sidewalks are too icy, I walk the halls in our large building. Outside, I wear layers of warm clothes in winter and a raincoat on rainy days. I usually have my two Cocker Spaniels as walking companions so an umbrella is too much bother.

What tips can you recommend to others to get the most out of a walking program?

Answer: Don’t try to walk 10,000 steps all at once. Take several short walks of 30 minutes or less.  I average 100 steps per minute.

What are the biggest challenges you have with trying to get a walk in every day?

Answer:  In January 2018, I began to suffer from episodes of vertigo that lasted from 20 minutes to several hours. Most of the time, I have been able to reach my walking goal on these days.  Days when I’ve scheduled too many sit down meetings are a challenge, also.  Weekends without plans often lead to a “couch potato” problem.

What keeps you motivated to keep on going? Why do you continue to do it?

Answer: I feel so good at the end of the day if I’ve reached my goal. When I add up my total miles for a month and I’ve reached or exceeded 100 miles, I really feel I’ve accomplished something.

Ida plans to continue walking 100 miles per month as long as her body allows. “I think my two artificial knees will last a long time, especially if I keep my weight under control” says Ida.  She hopes to walk a 5K in Waukesha, Wisconsin next year.  “The last time I tried it, I injured my hip because I hadn’t trained before the walk.” Even if Ida forgoes the 5K, she will still be keeping busy.  In addition to walking, each week she attends two chair yoga classes, two balance classes, and occasional aquatic exercise classes.  Wyndemere may have to rename that fitness program Exercise Around the World just to keep up with Ida.

Interested in offering wellness for your residents?  Click below to find out about our consulting services.

Find out more about a free consulting session with NIFS >

Topics: walking active aging motivation senior living walking tips starting a walking program fitness routine

The Balancing Act of Caregiving and Taking Care of Yourself

NIFS | Active Aging with familyIf you tend to be in a certain age category, you’ve most likely thought about caregiving for a loved one. Whether that be for your parents, siblings, children, other relatives or even friends, it can take on a life of its own. Caregiving is no easy task, so fully thinking through how this may play out in your life is a good idea (even if it is overwhelming). By planning ahead and being realistic about the situations in your life, you stand a better chance of decreasing the upfront stresses when you step into a caregiver role.

Better to have a plan and be prepared for it to go awry! You can expect to endure some stress along this journey, given the list of schedule changes, transportation challenges, medical decisions, housing choices and other decisions you will have to deal with. In the midst of providing care for a loved one, it’s really easy to lose sight of caring for yourself. But it’s another important element to include in your plan; if you don’t consider it, you may be surprised at the toll it can take on your own health.

Below are some ideas that may keep you on a healthy track so you can be your best when serving as a caregiver for the loved ones in your life.

Keep your own life a priority

Many caregivers get so consumed with all they need to do for those that they are supporting that they forget to keep their own life in order. There will be times when you’ll need to drop what you’re doing to be of assistance try not to make that a regular habit. Gauge the situation carefully and if it’s an emergency, the decision is clear. If it’s not, then you need to carefully decide if it needs your immediate attention. Can it wait? Is someone else medically able to offer assistance? Do they need this right NOW? Consider these questions before you put your life on the back burner every time something comes up. Do it in the beginning too so it doesn’t become a habit to take on these situations before taking care of yourself or putting your own life needs by the wayside.

Organize a schedule

If you’ve never been a caregiver, it’s going to take some practice building a sustainable routine. If you have kids, it may be similar to tracking the after school activities, birthday parties, and school events. Build your caregiving schedule into your week so there’s some consistency. This could include grocery store runs, pharmacy stops, meetings with advisors and just spending some quality time with your loved one. By building a consistent schedule, you’ll feel more organized and less likely to have this new set of responsibilities throw you off track.

Build boundaries

Boundaries will be important as well, not only with your loved ones but with yourself. Remember that you’ll need to continue doing the things that you love and enjoy; you are the only one who can take care of you. So, if you start to feel that caregiving is encroaching on your everyday enjoyment due to the demands, it may be time to create some boundaries. This may include limiting phone calls at certain times of the day, answering emails or texts when time allows, and not allowing disruptions to your everyday life when possible. Of course there will always be emergencies but don’t let every form of communication become one of them.

Incorporate lives

As a caregiving you’ll find that you may feel guilty due to the lack of time you can spend with your loved one as you try to juggle life. To prevent this, see if you can incorporate some activities with them and your normal schedule. This might include a walk with your loved one at the park on Sunday with the entire family. Pack a picnic and you have the opportunity to get some exercise for yourself, and to spend time with them and your own family. Seek outings that offer everyone some enjoyment.

Being a caregiver won’t be easy but you can build a routine that works for you and them with some careful thought. Start out on the right foot so you don’t build something that may fall apart or leave you feeling out of your element and exhausted. The goal is a win/win situation where everyone feels cared for, loved and fulfilled.

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Topics: senior living caregiving caregiver how to be a caregiver caregiving stress caring for loved ones

Does Your Senior Living Community Wellness Program Foster Ageism?

Several months ago, I listened to an interview on NPR with Ron Christie. He talked about working with President George W. Bush, who pressed the idea of combating the soft bigotry of low expectations when it came to the achievement gap for kids in schools. Turns out, the soft bigotry of low expectations is alive and well in all sorts of domains in this country, including how we view the abilities of older adults.

“If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however, if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

NIFS | Playing FrisbeeOne of the challenges that wellness program leaders in senior living communities must overcome is making sweeping assumptions about the abilities of their audience. And it's no easy task. I am in communities across the country on a regular basis where I'm routinely surprised by the stories I hear from residents about how enthusiastically they're living their lives right now. Shame on me. After more than a decade of doing this work, I am still amazed at how vibrant my elders can be. That amazement, though positive and delighting, is rooted in my ageist assumptions that older adults somehow cannot or should not live with the same enthusiasm that I choose for myself. It is representative of the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Whether or not you can see these ageist assumptions in your own beliefs, you can see it very tangibly in the activity calendars, which are the visible display of how residents are invited to live well in your community. It shows up on senior living activity calendars in these (and other) ways:

  • Unique activities? Does your calendar have fewer than 5% of activities each month that are truly unique to the month, quarter, or year? If you're not sure, try this: pull up three months of calendars and cross off every item that is routine, including standing card games, meetings, birthday celebrations, group fitness classes, etc. See what's left and consider how empty your calendar might be if it highlighted only the unique events.
  • Passive vs. active? Does your calendar have a substantial percentage of the programming designed to be passive (sit-and-listen) rather than activating residents' minds and bodies? How many events are truly resident-led where the staff are only providing assistance with room reservation and possible event communication? Which programs can you point to that facilitate meaningful social interaction for your residents?
  • Serving just the vocal minority? Are your calendar events built largely on the vocal minority requests, where the activity director serves as an order-taker instead of pulling from a broader base of residents, community connections, etc.?

[Read More: 3 Keys To Improving Resident Engagement In Wellness]

Those are not the hallmarks of programming that communicate the capability, energy, and desires of the seniors we serve. Those are very much representative of offerings for those who are retiring from life. They tend to be narrow in scope, limiting in new experiences, and focused on probably 20–30% of your population. They demonstrate our lowered expectations for what will inspire seniors to engage.

Fortunately, it seems the senior living industry as a whole is moving toward educating on ageist stereotyping and uncovering systemic challenges that make it hard to overcome the generalized belief that increasing age means decreasing value to society. LeadingAge offered this "beginning conversation" in the magazine late in 2016, and the International Council on Active Aging has been beating the drum against ageism as well.

At the community level, using a fresh lens to see what's possible from an activities standpoint is a good start. That means dropping (as best you can) any perceptions you have about the audience you serve. You can take a stab at revealing your assumptions by giving a colleague your elevator speech about what you do.

  • Do you include assumptions about what programs residents will and will not participate in?
  • Do you have an underlying assumption of frailty in your residents?
  • Does your message speak to how resistant your residents are to change?

If your focus is on keeping residents busy and entertaining them, you may be building your enrichment program on ageist stereotypes. Perhaps it's time to do better. Check out these concrete ideas for truly honoring the passions and interests of your lively and very much alive residentsOr, if you're ready to get busy evaluating what you have as a starting point for making improvements, check out our quick read on how to evaluate the quality of your wellness program.

Find out how to evaluate your program

Topics: senior wellness active aging senior living senior living community activities ageism

Using Wellness to Decrease Employee Turnover in Senior Living

NIFS | Employee Turnover | Employee WellnessTurnover in senior living is notoriously high for a number of reasons. One of the tools leadership can use to increase tenure for employees in community settings is offering balanced and thoughtful wellness programs. What follows are suggestions for how to elevate wellness in your corporate strategy so that your workforce understands you care about them beyond the day-to-day work they provide to keep the community running.

Employee wellness is about much more than a walking program.

How you position wellness in the organization can determine whether it sinks or swims. Physical health is only part of the picture. That's not to say you shouldn't offer a walking program. It can be a very simple way to help employees be more aware of how much they're moving during the day. But keep in mind that much of your community's staff members are on their feet most of the day serving the residents; a walking program for them may feel like "one more thing to do" in an already busy, service-oriented day. And giving everyone a wearable fitness tracker doesn't always communicate a "we care about you" message, either. The CNA scraping by on $12.50 an hour might rather have a small raise than a fancy wristband.

[Read More: Why Employee Purpose Could Be the Heart of Corporate Wellness]

Consider the health challenges across your workforce.

Your administrative/leadership team will have different obstacles in achieving good health compared to what you might see for your physical plant staff and nursing aides, and the community's approach to wellness needs and what it will take to address that range. The wearable/walking program I mentioned above is a good example of a well-intentioned offering that often falls flat for hourly staff. But, if you provide compensated exercise time for employees, you might be onto something in terms of a message that truly says, "We want to make it easy for you to live well."

Be careful if you intend to use biometric screenings and health risk assessments as the pillars of your wellness program. They have become hallmarks of a good "outcomes-based" wellness program in recent years, but that title may be misplaced. If you're just getting started on a wellness program for your community employees, it could be tempting to latch onto such screening tools as the place to begin. But there are challenges with these offerings that should not be glossed over.

Also keep in mind how important social determinants of health are for your workforce. The health habits that your crew practice at work are only part of the picture of how well they live. Where employees live can have a profound effect on their well-being. Access to healthy foods, reliable and convenient transportation, safe living environments, cultural norms and other issues have a strong influence for all of us on how they engage with healthy choices, and your workplace wellness program may be butting heads with those strong social factors. Maintaining realistic expectations about the ways your workforce can engage at work will help set your program on the right path.

Align your wellness strategy with the rest of your business strategy.

If your organization is already built on a model of caring for employees, infusing a message that you want to help employees live well should resonate positively. But if employees feel that the culture is punitive and as if their every move is being watched, "wellness" is quite likely going to sound like one more management hack designed purely to cut costs. Here are some suggestions for improving retention through a supportive relationship-based approach. You'll need to get the overarching company culture in place first before you add in a wellness component if you want your message about employee health to resonate with the staff.

Where to look next.

If you're more confused than ever about how to get an employee-centered wellness program off the ground for your workforce, you're not alone. The variable shifts, the wide range in roles (many of which are quite physical in nature), and the simultaneously gratifying and exhausting nature of the work you do, complicate how to both establish and deliver a wellness message and programming. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:

  1. If you don't know what makes your employees tick, start by getting to know them a little better. They may have interests they could share with colleagues that would buoy the whole department or organization.
  2. Connect with employees working in a variety of settings across the community to find out what would help them feel supported to live well. You probably won't be able to execute on all of the ideas, but you will likely get suggestions you couldn't have imagined on your own.
  3. Start small and with the right messaging. (Hint: You can craft the right messaging when you have information from tip #1.) Always lead with words and actions that communicate a desire to help employees live well. If you say it in words and your actions don't align, employees won't engage.
  4. Learn from other similarly situated organizations. There are communities out there doing this work with their employees, and they can help you avoid some of the pitfalls they've already climbed out of.

It's not easy work, but don't let that stop you. Doing well for your employees helps them do right by your residents, and that's a community where everyone benefits. Need a little more information to get your wellness program started in the right direction? Check out the blog below.

Blog: doing corporate wellness for employees

Topics: corporate wellness senior living staffing wellness programs employee turnover

Brain Training in Your Senior Living Community

517993851-1.jpgMany seniors fear cognitive decline more than any other disease associated with aging. The good news is that engaging in activities that support brain health and brain function can reduce seniors’ risk for cognitive decline and dementia. In fact, training your brain is kind of like training your body with regular exercise, and it can really complement your fitness programs with proper planning. Not sure where to start? Here are five steps to create a focus on brain training in your senior living  community.

  • Do your homework – Learn as much as you can about cognitive health, dementia, and brain training. The Alzheimers Association website is a great resource, and a quick search on the AARP website yields lots of great information on brain health for seniors. There are also many wonderful books on these topics, such as Spark! by John Ratey. This book really does a good job of connecting the dots between exercise, physical health, and cognitive health.
  • Involve the residents – Share the things that you’re learning with residents as you learn them. This can be as simple as teaching a quick fact about the brain at the beginning of exercise classes. Use this opportunity to let the residents know that you’re starting to look into bolstering your cognitive health programming in your community. Ask for their input early to help with your program design. Ask what they already do to train their brains, what kinds of mentally engaging things they enjoy doing, and what topics they would like to learn more about or take a class on.
  • Evaluate your programs and make a plan – Take a look at the current activities that you offer in your community. Do you have many mentally challenging, educational, and social opportunities on your calendar? Are there ways you can enhance your current offerings to make them more engaging? Do you have opportunities for individual brain training (i.e. using the Dakim) as well as brain training in a group setting (i.e. brain fitness class)? Determine activities you can enhance or add to your calendar, and make a plan for these changes utilizing resident input from Step two. Also, brainstorm ways that you can include brain training in your group exercise classes. For example, during cardiovascular exercise, you could assign numbers to five different exercises, and cue the exercises using their assigned numbers instead of the exercise names. Then mix it up!
  • Provide education – Hold lectures to educate residents on how the brain works and what they can do to strengthen their brains and reduce their risk for cognitive decline. Be sure to point out all the ways they can participate in brain training activities at your community and let them know what new activities and enhancements are coming their way. You might also want to hold a lecture on memory strategies (or just teach one strategy at a time at the end of your exercise classes). Don’t forget to promote your fitness programs as one of the easiest ways to get started with brain training!
  • Launch your program – Launch your program soon after you hold the educational lectures – consider using a brain health fair or other fun activity to get started. Begin holding your newly planned activities and enhancements on a regular basis and make sure they stand out on your calendar. Then, use a fun challenge that includes incentives for participating in mentally engaging activities and exercise to tie it all together. Once the challenge ends, celebrate residents’ success and communicate with the residents that the new opportunities for brain training will continue even though the challenge has ended.

Editor's note:  Rachel did a fantastic job launching a "Mental Muscle" initiative for the residents in her community.  Download the impact report from the program to get a snapshot of how well the residents received the offering and how wellness program participation was affected.

Get in touch with us to find out more about how NIFS can support brain training and other programming for your residents.

Contact Us > 

Topics: senior living brain fitness

How to Give Resident Wellness Programs a Fresh Look

517993851.jpgResident wellness programs have been on the rise in senior living as consumers demand more robust and holistic options for living well. Despite the market's increasing infatuation with branding and labeling wellness in the community setting, I think the industry has a lot of room to continue to grow so that we're building programs, services, staffing, and amenities in a way to facilitate residents' desires to live well. Following are some common pitfalls that result in dated or stunted wellness programs, along with ideas for how to evolve past those sticking points.

Your exercise program is not the same thing as your wellness program.

In the consulting work I do, it is so common for communities to point to their exercise classes as the primary example of how they are offering their residents a wellness program. And while I would agree completely that the exercise program is a key to a successful wellness strategy, it's not the only element; and for some communities, it may not even be primary.

You absolutely want the exercise program to serve many of your residents, but it's important to acknowledge that not all of your seniors will participate. The class offerings, individual services, exercise equipment, and related amenities need to be diverse and well communicated. There should also be effective resident outreach to consistently draw in new participants.

Even when communities are executing well with their program, there is often room for improvement within the exercise offerings. Class formats and descriptions can be reviewed, and fitness center services like exercise prescriptions and fitness testing should be evaluated. Even taking a closer look at replacing small, worn-down equipment can offer subtle but positive upgrades to your program.

[Related Content: Four Tips for Improving your Resident Exercise Program]

A full activities calendar is the wrong goal for your wellness program.

I think sometimes folks in the activity director role find themselves in the position of order taking—you’re catering to the vocal minority. And who can fault you for wanting to make your constituents happy? But there are traps and pitfalls for your resident wellness program if your activities and events are built from an order-taking model.

Sometimes one of the challenges with the philosophy on how events and programs are placed on the schedule is actually cultural in the organization. We set the wrong benchmarks for evaluating effectiveness in activities. We focus on how full the calendar is, or leadership communicates that the goal of the activities staff is to make sure the residents are busy, that they have something to do, that we’re making their days pleasant and full.

But if you stepped back and looked objectively at the unique elements on your last six months of activities calendars, is there anything on there that would interest you? Is there anything on those calendars that, if you were new in the environment and were looking to try to make friends, you might venture out of your apartment to attend?

When you do program planning from residents' limitations, you limit your program.

It's easy to get into a rut in senior living where you start to see more limitations from your residents than potential, and when we get trained on what seniors can't do, we unintentionally build programs around those perceived barriers.

We tell ourselves a story about the residents; we say they’re frail, they’re limited, they don’t like to leave the community, they don’t like change. We say we tried that program and the residents won’t do it.

While you may have some residents who are frail, limited, unlikely to try new things, fearful, or begrudging of change, you also have residents who can be described with a whole host of other adjectives like adventurous, bright, eager, optimistic, friendly, kind, enthusiastic, loyal, and patient.

Evolving your activities and exercise programs may require a full-scale change in how you view your residents' desires, passions, and abilities. Stripping old assumptions is never easy, but it could be the first step toward building a better wellness program for the community.

Find out how to evaluate your program

 

Topics: senior living resident wellness programs program planning activities exercise program

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

Weight-shifting exercises are key to fall prevention for residents

ThinkstockPhotos-590277470.jpgThe numbers are clear: about one-third of adults, ages 65 years and older, will sustain a fall this year. And the statistics that relate to the cost of falls are equally concerning. Because falls are a substantial risk in senior living communities, we focus a lot of attention on asking why residents fall and what can we do to prevent them. The results from a recent study provides us with some answers.


Study Shows What Causes Senior Falls

A 2014 observational study determined how and why falls occur in the aging population by actually videotaping falls in two long-term-care facilities between 2007 and 2010. The video cameras were placed in the common areas such as the dining rooms, hallways, and lounges. When a fall occurred it was reviewed with a focus on the actual cause of imbalance and the activity at the time of falling. The study captured 227 falls from 130 individuals. The researchers concluded that the most common cause of falls (41 percent) was incorrect weight shifting: basically, how an individual moves or transfers from one position to another.

Specifically, researchers noted that the majority of falls they recorded occurred in a position change from standing to walking. You see, staying balanced is about more than maintaining steady footing when in motion. The results of this study show that how we start moving can be much more crucial to staying in balance.

Read Now: Basics for Effective Fall Prevention

Weight-Shifting Exercises are Key to Fall Prevention

If the researchers are right, then we need to make sure our senior living fitness programs incorporate weight-shifting exercises for participants. Not only do these activities teach residents about how to understand their center of gravity, but they also help with coordination and provide opportunities for modest strength and endurance gains in the lower body muscles. When taught carefully, implementing weight-shifting exercise into a balance program can provide intentional focus on more precise movement which helps overall motor control.

Ideally, your community's fitness program is run by a qualified fitness professional who can provide a range of fitness services for seniors including customized exercises in group and individual settings for each resident's needs.

Is outsourcing fitness center management right for your community?

Fitness professionals can administer balance-training and weight-shifting exercises through one-on-one personal training sessions, group exercise classes, or with simple recommendations of exercises for a resident to include in her typical morning stretches. Trained staff can also provide field testing to help residents understand how they score on balance and other fitness tests so that they can work toward improvement with their tailored exercise regimen.

In case you don't have qualified staff on board, here are some examples of simple weight-shifting exercises for active older adults that can be taught by anyone in your community:

  • Side Sways: While seated in a chair or standing, place the feet slightly wider than hip width apart. Leading with the upper body, lean the body gently to the right while keeping both feet in contact with the floor. Repeat 10 to 15 times in both directions. Watch a demo of the exercise.
  • Forward Steps: Standing with the feet together near a chair back or counter top to hold onto, take an exaggerated step forward with the right foot. Then take the necessary amount of steps to recover to a normal standing position. Repeat 8 to 10 times and then perform on the left leg. Watch a demo of the exercise.

For more great content like this, download our whitepaper on balance and subscribe to our blog:

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Topics: senior living senior fitness fall prevention balance training