Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

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.

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Topics: senior living walking tips walking starting a walking program motivation active aging 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: caregiving caregiver senior living 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 activities active aging ageism senior living senior living community

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: senior living staffing wellness programs corporate wellness 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: brain fitness senior living

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: resident wellness programs senior living 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: LeadingAge LeadingAge 2017 senior living senior living communities senior living wellness programs 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: fall prevention senior fitness senior living balance training

Improve Your Senior Living Exercise Program: Focus on Chronic Disease

ThinkstockPhotos-585600458.jpgThe benefits of regular activity for individuals throughout their lifespan is clear through the many (many, many) studies that outline how much movement is enough and which elements of health are improved with activity. However, despite the research, people in the U.S. still simply don't get enough activity to sustain health benefits, and the rate of inactivity in the older adult population is even more startling.

Sedentary behavior as we age can be linked to chronic diseases like arthritis and heart disease. Although these conditions are common in older adults—and in many cases, regular exercise can help individuals manage those health issues—seniors often feel limited by their chronic illnesses. If you're having trouble growing participation in your community exercise program, you might be missing this important audience. Improve your senior living exercise program and focus on chronic disease to address these health concerns.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Help Residents Manage Chronic Illness with Exercise

  • Arthritis: Exercise is one of the most crucial options for arthritis management. Regular activity helps lubricate the joints and can help reduce overall pain and stiffness that is often present among individuals with arthritis. Moreover, obesity is a risk factor for the disease, and increasing physical activity levels can help better manage the debilitating symptoms of arthritis.

[Related Content: Pick your arthritis battles: how exercise can help]

  • Heart disease: Heart disease is one of the biggest causes of death in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that about one in every four deaths is attributed to heart disease. More people exercising later in life can help reduce the number of individuals with heart disease through the management of blood pressure and blood glucose, and decreasing LDL cholesterol.
  • Metabolic Dysfunction (type II diabetes and obesity): Type II diabetes and obesity are two closely related diseases in which the body is in metabolic dysfunction. Exercise can help maintain proper body weight and help regulate blood glucose and insulin levels to make the body more efficient.
  • Cancer: Exercise has been shown to help lower overall cancer risk among a variety of different forms of cancer. Studies have shown a 30 to 40 percent reduction in breast cancer risk among women who perform moderate to regular exercise.
  • Hypertension: Exercise can help lower systolic blood pressure significantly through moderate-intensity physical activity. Try breaking up exercise into three bouts throughout the day lasting for at least 10 minutes each to receive blood pressure–lowering effects.
  • Depression: Exercise can have a beneficial effect on personal mood. Studies suggest that group exercise classes can help reduce symptoms of depression by 30 percent or more in exercising older adults. The modest improvement in depressive symptoms can help maintain an overall greater vitality later in life and help prevent negative feelings or thoughts that are common with aging.
  • Dementia: Dementia is a disabling condition affecting many older adults. With a wide range of mental disorders categorized as dementia, there is a great need to understand how to prevent the condition. Exercise is one prevention strategy that can help slow the mental decline. One study showed a 37 percent reduced risk and a 66 percent reduction in risk of dementia when older adults performed moderate-intensity exercise, suggesting every adult ought to exercise to help lower the risk of mental decline and to help prevent mental disability later in life.
  • Insomnia: Certain medications and life events can prevent the body from proper sleep. Higher levels of physical activity can help tire the body enough to place it in a position for restful and lasting sleep. Avoid strenuous exercise two hours before bed to obtain these benefits, and aim to meet the daily activity recommendations.

Need help ramping up community exercise programs to reach a broader audience? Find out more about NIFS consulting service where we bring our expertise to your community.

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Topics: chronic disease senior living dementia depression arthritis heart disease diabetes cancer hypertension sleep exercise program CCRC Programs and Services

3 Questions to Ask About Fitness in Assisted Living and Memory Care

ThinkstockPhotos-509493160.jpgWhile we've seen significant progress in what exercise can look like for residents in independent living (IL), for many communities, there remains something of a disconnect in making sure residents throughout the continuum of care have access to the same or similarly robust services and amenities. The IL residents at a community often have a fitness center, pool, robust group fitness calendar, and individualized services available to them and in many cases as they transition to AL or other areas of care on campus the drastic decline in available options shifts them from a professionally managed health and fitness program to chair-based exercise classes lead by an activities professional. This is not an equitable approach.

[Read More: 3 must-have services in your senior living community fitness center]

For our clients though, this hasn't been the case because our staff are pushing on the leading edge of what expanded fitness programming for residents in assisted living (AL), and memory-care environments can look like. If you’re ready to take a closer look at the exercise program you provide for residents in licensed areas, these three questions are a great place to start:

How do you answer questions about options for exercise in higher levels of care?

Whether you work in a standalone AL or memory-care community or in a Life Plan (CCRC) environment, prospects and families inevitably ask about the physical activity options that are available beyond billable rehab services. They understand the importance of keeping the mind and body in motion as part of a daily lifestyle. Does your community have a good answer for these questions that demonstrates robust options that are purposeful and executed by trained staff specially for residents who need a higher level of care?

How do you support residents after they finish therapy?

In licensed areas, residents often have rehab services readily available to them and that might seem like an easy "exercise" solution. However, billable therapy has limits. How do you support residents when they are discharged after 6-8 weeks of therapy and eliminate the revolving door of improved function leading to a discharge from therapy services followed by a decline due to lack of physical activity options which leads them back in therapy again?

How do you facilitate resident moves to higher levels of care in a way that provides them with consistent access to exercise options?

If you operate a Life Plan community with a robust fitness program for your IL residents, how do the residents’ options compare in terms of amenities, programs and services, and qualified staffing as residents move through the continuum? Having a continuation of offerings can be a great comfort as residents transition from one part of the community to another and it’s a valuable demonstration that the lifestyle they buy into in IL truly carries with them with whatever level of care they might need on campus.

Your answers to those questions may leave you with program and service gaps to fill.  In our 12+ years working in senior living, we’ve developed best practices in exercise with residents in assisted living and memory care for:

  • Group fitness class offerings beyond basic chair exercise classes taught by the activities staff
  • Individualized services including personal training and fitness and balance assessments
  • Dedicated exercise equipment and spaces
  • Enriching wellness-based programming opportunities

Want to learn more about how you can build more comprehensive exercise services for your residents?

Find out more about a free consulting session with NIFS >

Topics: assisted living senior fitness NIFS Workshop CCRC Programs and Services senior living exercise through the continuums