Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

5 Ways to Include Pets at Your Senior Living Community

NIFS  | Senior with petMany senior living communities across the country are starting to recommend bringing your furry friend from your current residence to your community residence. Pets provide a sense of purpose, calmness, companionship, and security for older adults. Check out this post from Aging in Place about how having a pet can improve the aging process.

 

So what are the best ways to include pets at your senior living community? There’s no doubt that an include pets in day-to-day community life.having a pet companion not only improves quality of life for seniors, but also provides residents with opportunities to stay active and interact socially with others. Here are some ways that you can include your pet in day-to-day community life. 

Outdoor Community Dog Park

Senior living communities have invested in making specific spaces for your furry pal to get regular exercise and be safe to roam in a fenced-in area. These common areas are great for residents to socialize and interact with their pets while feeling secure that their companion won’t run off.

A few of our Active Aging sites have community dog parks and regularly host events and programs to ensure socialization and fun with pets. Tracy, a NIFS Active Aging Manager in Mystic, Connecticut, started a program once a week called YAP it UP. Residents meet at the community dog park and chat with others while exercising with their pets. Another great bonus to Tracy’s program is that residents without pets are also are encouraged to join so that they can enjoy the company of both their peers and pets. This is one great example of the many benefits that pets can bring to your community.

Have an Annual Pet Day Event

What better way to get your pet involved than with an outdoor community dog day event? This would be a great way to show off your creativity and expressiveness. There are many ways that your community can host a dog day event.

  • Best in show: Host a fun, lighthearted dog show for community leaders to judge your furry friend.
  • Wiener dog races/pet races: A wiener dog race is a fun event that can include the entire community.
  • Pet grooming event/philanthropy: Have your community host a pet grooming/bathing event to raise money for a good cause. This also could be a great opportunity to contact a local veterinary clinic to come and provide vaccinations.

Therapy Pet Visits

Many of our NIFS senior living communities host therapy dog visits to their health center and assisted living residents regularly. The animals are intended to serve as companions and have gone through programs to ensure the safety of the residents and animal. If your community is unfamiliar with therapy dogs and training's near you, the AKC has information on how to train or find therapy animals for your next event.

The Crate Escape

Many residents enjoy having a walking trail for their outdoor adventures. It’s a great way to get fresh air and enjoy a little sunshine. Why not make it more impactful and bring your pet? Dogs need social interaction and companionship just as much as people do. Bringing your furry friend on a group walk provides a sense of community. It also provides a sense of security that will get you back out with a group.

Pet + Yoga

Yoga is a very beneficial form of exercise. Yoga is known to reduce stress, increase flexibility, and help you focus on mindfulness. Make this journey even more fun by adding pets to the mix. Depending on your pet’s obedience, size, and personality, yoga can be something that you both enjoy. Our Active Aging NIFS Manager in Lakewood, New Jersey, Rachel, recently hosted an event like this during Active Aging Week. The event was so successful that her community is going to start hosting it regularly.

All of these activities are safe, impactful ways to include pets in your community. Have you hosted or participated in a pet-friendly event recently? Comment below! We would love to hear about ways that pets are part of your community.

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Topics: active aging senior living activities senior living communities staying active yoga

Water Volleyball Tournament Is the Definition of Active Aging Week 2018

Active Aging Week is always an exciting time for the NIFS Active Aging team. Our team members work hard to create opportunities for the residents ranging from sports, recreation, and trivia to meditation, education, and beyond with the goal of celebrating a positive view of aging. NIFS staff members across the country went above and beyond this year to encourage residents to step outside of their comfort zones and celebrate actively aging all week.

This spirit was most certainly demonstrated by the water volleyball tournament that took place between our senior living sites in Chicago, IL, and Lincolnwood, IL this year. I had the opportunity to speak with both Ruth, the NIFS Fitness Manager at Lincolnwood, and Leah, the NIFS Fitness Manager at Chicago, to see how the day went. Check it out!

NIFS | Seniors playing water volleyball

Q: What inspired the idea of a water volleyball tournament between Lincolnwood and Chicago?

Ruth: I really wanted to put together more activities between our Illinois sites, and water volleyball seemed like a great way to get our residents together and get to know the other community. Leah did a great job of getting her residents to practice and actually come with their A game this year. I really would like to host chair volleyball tournaments to include Wyndemere as well since they don’t have a pool.

Leah: Last year, Lincolnwood came to the Chicago site to play water volleyball. We assembled a team for the event without ever practicing. The Lincolnwood players told the Chicago players that they “skunked us,” and that didn’t sit so well with our competitive residents. A rematch with Lincolnwood was one of the first requests I received when I started in Chicago last March. From there it was just a matter of timing, and we thought tying it into Active Aging Week was a great idea!

Q: So, let’s get the obvious question out of the way…who won?

Leah: I’m proud to say we brought the Poinsettia Trophy home this year. We had several residents who had played last year say they would only play this year if we practiced first. I put four practice times on the schedule, and the players enjoyed it so much they requested two additional practices. They were taking no chances this year and their hard work showed…we “skunked” them!

Ruth: Yeah, yeah they beat us...this year! We have an ongoing water volleyball group here at Lincolnwood that meets on Saturday mornings. They have a team resident leader, and honestly they were overly confident this year and really didn’t play to their full potential. Nonetheless, we loved having the Chicago team here and enjoyed the time together since we do a lunch afterwards as well.

Q: What do you think the residents enjoyed the most about the tournament?

Leah: Play is one of the best things you can do for your mind, body, and soul; and unfortunately, it seems like we lose sight of that as we age. This tournament gave our residents the opportunity to reconnect with their younger selves, become part of a supportive team, play, and have fun! Our team is a competitive bunch. They were jumping, leaping, and diving for the ball. One resident told me after the tournament that being on this team was the best workout and the most fun she had had in years.

Ruth: Definitely promoting water volleyball is a way to reach out to our residents as another form of exercise beyond the standard fitness classes. They love the competition aspect and really enjoy developing as players, regardless of their age! Many of them played volleyball throughout their life.

Q: Were there any surprises? Anything that stands out from the day?

Leah: My residents were shocked and not too happy to find the beach ball at Lincolnwood was quite a lot bigger and heavier than the ball we have at Chicago. It really threw the team off during the first game (which is the only game we lost at the tournament). It was fun to see them adjust their style of playing.

Ruth: We actually were equally surprised last year when we had to play with a smaller-version volleyball; perhaps we need to come up with an in-between ball. I think the biggest surprise for us was how prepared the Chicago players were, their setups were definitely practiced.

Leah: There were many highlights of the day, but the thing that stood out to me most was the game-winning point of the final game. There was so much tension in the air as our resident made the final serve. When the ball dropped to the water and scored the final point, the Chicago residents just erupted with a cheer. On our way home the team asked if we could continue to play once a week and open it up to all senior living residents. It is now on our schedule every Wednesday at 1 pm!

Ruth: The good news is that our players surprised me by not being upset over the loss; they embraced the camaraderie among both communities. They also appreciated the positive comments regarding the pool size and the luncheon, but they are excited about next year and heading back to playing at The Clare.

Q: Do you have any advice for fitness staff who want to host a similar tournament in their community?

Leah: I definitely recommend having a few practices before playing an actual game and communicating with the other facility about towels and water. The site in Chicago provides towels at the pool, but Lincolnwood does not, so I was thankful Ruth let me know that in advance so we were prepared.

I’d be sure to clarify the rules with the players before the game.

Ruth was kind enough to coordinate a buffet lunch after the tournament so all of the players got to enjoy a lunch together. Timing wise, we allowed 30 minutes between arriving at Lincolnwood and starting the game, and 30 minutes between the last game and lunch. We could have done 20 minutes between each instead because our residents transitioned more quickly than expected. In addition to the Poinsettia Trophy, Ruth also prepared a laminated certificate for the winning team, which we framed and will hang in our pool area. The residents are extremely proud of the certificate and have brought their grandkids in to show them.

Ruth: Ditto on the above. Have those rules laid out in advance so all the players understand before the tournament and set up practices months to weeks before the actual game! It really is just a fun way to bring communities together and showcase NIFS’s work in providing programs that continue to encourage a “healthy lifestyle” for both the mind and body to equal active aging!

Thanks for sharing, Ruth and Leah!

To learn more about partnering with NIFS to manage your senior living community, click the link below. 

Partner with NIFS to improve your senior living community

Topics: active aging week, competition adding fun to senior fitness activities calendar senior living exercise and aging senior living activities water

Is an electric wheelchair really "taking the easy way out?"

NIFS | wheelchair challengeThere isn’t anything easy about it. Residents were put to the test during Active Aging Week 2018 by completing an electric wheelchair obstacle course. An electric wheelchair is quite an intimidating assisted device that many residents around the building use to navigate the building. This was a great chance to see how residents could handle themselves in a situation where an electric wheelchair might be a last effort chance to remain independent and mobile.

The primary goal of this activity was for residents to see how life felt in someone else’s shoes for a moment. Electric wheelchairs aren’t always an ideal way to get around. Sure, it might get you from point A to point B in a shorter amount of time, but they often get looked down upon for “taking the easy way out.” Is it really the easy way out? The only easy thing about it seemed to be the fact that one could sit down in the process. Residents were quick to find out how much dexterity and fine motor skills are involved in steering this battery operated device.

Cones were set up in a large circle in the center of the room. Residents were instructed to drive around the circle as close to the cones as possible. When they made it the entire way around, they turned into the circle between two cones, without hitting them, and circled the cones in the opposite direction. Following the completion of the change of direction, the residents were instructed to pull between two cones that were located against the wall. This exercise was designed to simulate pulling between two chairs at the dinner table. They had to stop before the wheelchair crashed into the table (in this case, the wall). Then they had to back up as straight as possible and drive back to the starting position to exchange with the next resident in line.

All of the residents noted how fidgety the steering component was on the device. It didn’t always move in the exact manner they intended. The wheels are located in the back of the chair, which produces a much smaller turning radius that threw the residents for quite a loop. Some had trouble with speed control. Some had trouble with backing up. Everyone had their own complaints or pains about using the wheelchair for those 5 minutes.

Overall, the consensus was the same. Everyone enjoyed the experience, but knew they didn’t want to use the chair full time. Each person spoke about the stigma that came with using an electric wheelchair in public. Many residents would jump to the other side of the room when someone approached them in the chair because they thought they were too dangerous. Now the hope is that people will be more considerate and thoughtful towards those residents confined to a chair for mobility and independence.

NIFS can to help initiate activities like this at your community! Click below to download our quick read on how outsourcing your community fitness center might be the right move.  

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Topics: active living senior living activities active aging electric wheelchair active aging week,

What Happens When We Make Purposeful Living the Heart of Life Enrichment Programming

senior_woman_balancing.jpgLet's see if this sounds familiar:

  • Your residents love the life enrichment staff.
  • Residents sometimes complain that there are too many things on the calendar; they can't attend everything they want to.
  • Your life enrichment director routinely reports how lively and engaged the resident wellness committee is but you don't have real data to back this up.

These are "benchmarks" we've used for years to determine when activities are going well in the community. In 2018, those benchmarks are only status quo, and we are well into an era where leadership must begin looking carefully at how resources are being allocated for life enrichment (including the fitness program).

[Read More: How to give resident wellness programs a fresh look]

Activities Directors as Order Takers

Activity Directors (or Life Enrichment Directors, or Wellness Directors...you pick) are busy like all the other personnel in your community. They are at the heart of every community's bustling events calendar by performing a delicate balancing act every month taking “orders” (requests) from residents and the community all while juggling existing and long-standing calendar events (Do not mess with the card player’s schedule). The programming is delicately placed on the calendar and carefully scheduled with typically limited space inside the community, and tightly booked transportation to areas outside of the community. 

Sometimes the influx of requests from residents alone can fill a whole month. And sometimes the calls from outside the four walls of the community require booking out months in advance because the programming is so tight. It is indeed wonderful to have so many things to do in one senior living arena. 

But a busy calendar isn't the same thing as a calendar built on resident purpose. And there are limitations to your Activities Director serving as an order taker. While many community leaders lay an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" label over activities simply because the resident's aren't balking at their options, those organizations are leaving quite a bit on the table in terms of building truly purposeful living for their residents.    

Residents Do Not Want to be Entertained

You see, residents in your community aren’t looking solely to be entertained.  After all, your community is not The Love Boat with your Director filling the role of Julie. Instead, residents are looking for purposeful living in a setting where some of the barriers that used to get in the way, like home maintenance, have been removed. They’re looking for opportunities to contribute, to grow, and to connect in new and challenging ways. 

The order taker model only meets the needs of the vocal minority. Those who sit on the committee or who speak up are more likely to have their interest pursued. However, over the years, I have observed that senior living activities seem to fall into the Pareto Principle where twenty percent of the population consumes eighty percent of the resources. I guarantee there are residents who don’t participate because you haven’t tapped their interest or desires yet.  

[Read More: Top 5 reasons your resident's don't engage in wellness]

If your Activities Director moved away from taking orders, could the calendar hold more intentional opportunities for residents to engage in the community lifestyle programming?  Would more of your residents be involved in the offerings because of the thoughtful approach to a variety of interests represented by your diverse audience? This shift in how an Activity Director does business requires a change in focus; instead of using the meeting minutes from the monthly committee minute as a to do list, the activities team needs to start thinking strategically about how to engage a variety of stakeholders in the planning process for resident events and activities.

Change for the Sake of Doing Better

Most of us aren't big fans of change, but change for the sake of doing better provides meaning to the difficult decisions that lie ahead. Suggesting a fresh approach to how the calendar is organized, who is supporting events, how events are developed, and how success is measured will help the activities team start to see what "better" looks like. (Note, "better" doesn't mean turning all of the programming on its head. We do not need your residents in an uproar over substantial changes to beloved activities.)

That said, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start when you’re trying to change an approach or a process. Our Build Vitality webinar series (which covers branding, staff, program, and fitness center design) is a good resource. If you’d like a more hands on approach, consider bringing NIFS onsite for consulting to help you chart a course to build a multidimensional activities calendar that cultivates purpose for your residents.

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Topics: wellness for seniors senior living status quo senior living activities purposeful living