Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Build Relationships to Grow Your Wellness Program

As the manager of your wellness program, have you ever been at the point where participation has stalled a bit? Maybe January was huge with all the New Year’s resolutions and February was decent, but it slowed down in March and April. So how do you reach out to that crowd that’s a little less motivated to participate in your wellness programming?

Learn names.

Think about the last time you were new in a place—maybe a gym, maybe a church, maybe even your favorite restaurant. It’s a little uncomfortable, right? Even if you’re an extrovert and you love meeting new people, it’s not the same feeling as walking in to a group of friends. Now think of how much more at ease you would feel if you heard your name and turned around to see someone you knew. Take the time and make the effort to learn as many names as you possibly can. And then use them! Asking “Hello, Mrs. Smith, how’s your day going?” can go a long way toward building a rapport with Mrs. Smith and making her feel welcome in the fitness space.

Invite them out for coffee.

Get to know them! The point of this coffee date is not to probe them with questions about why they aren’t coming to this amazing triathlon event you’re having with all the prizes. The reason you’re sitting down and taking 20 minutes out of your day specifically for them is to build a relationship. Ask them about their family, their career, their hobbies. Get to know them on some level and show that you genuinely care about them as a person. That’s it. You don’t even need to invite them to come down to the fitness center sometime. You’re planting a seed. Then, eventually, if you’re hosting a wellness event that has something that might appeal to them, make a point to speak to them about it directly and see if they’d like to come.

GettyImages-483770407 (1)Hand-write cards and notes.

Yes, it’s impractical to hand-write every notice or invitation that goes out advertising your wellness program. But it is absolutely practical to take a minute to write someone a two- or three-sentence note in a birthday card once a year. Make people feel special! If there’s a program where you think “Mrs. Smith would be perfect for this,” write a sentence or two on the bottom of the postcard that’s going out with the information on it. Something as simple as “I hope to see you there!” can go a long way if it’s in your handwriting with your signature at the bottom.

Remember the details.

I struggle with this one because I have a hard time focusing on one thing at a time so my memory isn’t great. So, I write it down. If Mrs. Smith comes to show me the 72 photos that she just received in the mail of her new baby great-granddaughter, I’m going to write a note to myself to remember that baby’s name so that I can ask Mrs. Smith about her in a few weeks. It seems tedious and small, but I promise you that remembering those details goes a long way in building trust with that member.

What other ways do you build relationships with people who interact with your wellness program?

Partner with NIFS to improve your senior living community

Topics: corporate wellness senior wellness motivation participation personal interest wellness programs relationships

Friendship Village Resident Praises the NIFS Fitness Program

IMG_1985NIFS has been partnering with Friendship Village Kalamazoo since 2015, when they opened their beautiful new Wellness Center. We recently heard an uplifting story from FV resident Kim Cummings regarding the impact the health and fitness program has had on his mobility and outlook on life.

Mr. Cummings has been an avid participant since joining the program in 2015, faithfully attending fitness classes two to three times a week and exercising in the Strength & Cardio Studio. NIFS Fitness Manager Alecia Dennis commented, “I love how Kim is always pushing himself to be better and stronger than yesterday. I am thankful that I am able to watch him flourish in all of his fitness endeavors. He truly is an inspiration to me and all of the residents here at Friendship Village!

We know the value our services bring to the residents and communities we serve, but it never gets old (ever) hearing directly from residents like Kim about their journey. Here is Kim’s inspiring story.

I came to Friendship Village regretting my ongoing dependence on a walker and lacking confidence in the Village’s fitness program. After eight months of our actual experience here, my perceptions radically changed. Having become a regular user of the fitness machines, now attending stretch and strength group classes two or three times a week, and now regularly walking our dog on the paved pathways surrounding the Village and its nearby woods, I’ve actually been able to ditch my walker and, though slowly, feel myself gaining additional strength.
I’ve also come to recognize the fitness program’s social function. The group classes, led by our zesty fitness manager, connect me with an ever-larger group of exercisers. None of us is terribly fit, but we all feel good about marching and stretching and pulling together. We just like coming together, grabbing our weights, finding a chair, and chatting with our neighbors. Likewise, when working out on the fitness machines, I find myself connecting with the individual exercising beside me. The machines are fun to work out on—they give one a sense of accomplishment and progress, but they also provide a great opportunity to introduce oneself to others.
A lover of the outdoors, I’ve also come to appreciate the Village’s accessible and attractive walking paths. I’ve particularly enjoyed my recent walks in the Village Woods (where, even in the winter, the paths are kept clear). I love getting to know the many different plantings and benches dedicated to past residents and to see the ongoing work of the Woods volunteers. Last week I spied a flock of migrating robins passing through the Woods and feasting on the crabapples planted along the side. Walking in the Woods reconnects me with nature and with the rich collective heritage of this Village community.
Freed from my walker and gaining strength, I feel that the fitness program and other aspects of Village life have added to my independence, enabling me to get around more easily. At the same time, it helps me get socially connected with other residents and stay connected with nature. I couldn’t ask for more.
Are you ready to do wellness better? Learn more about wellness consulting.
Topics: senior wellness active aging senior living fitness center nifs fitness center management testimonials senior wellness consulting

Walking Group Safety for Retirement Communities: Have Fun and Be Safe!

HarrogateBelieve it or not, warm weather has arrived in some parts of the country, and is quickly approaching in others. As the sun peeks out from behind the clouds and nature begins to call, many older adults will be heading out the door for a walk outside. This is a very good thing, and should be encouraged for most people. Some retirement communities may even establish walking groups, which can be an extremely rewarding and fun activity for everyone.

If you plan to start, or join, a walking group near you, this blog is for you! Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you prepare to walk.

Prescreening

If you are responsible for heading up a walking group, keep prescreening in mind. Walking, like any form of exercise, does carry risk. Prescreening is a great tool used in all fitness programs to ensure participant safety, identify risk, and reduce liability of fitness professionals. It is very likely that most people who will want to participate in your walking group will have already been screened during their membership application, and are good to go. However, it is important to make sure everyone in your group has been prescreened and understands the risks involved in exercise prior to joining. This is the first step toward protecting others and yourself.

Plan Ahead

Before you embark on your first walk as a group, make sure everyone knows where you’re going. If you’re the group leader, be sure to go over the route with your participants before you leave. If you’re a participating member of the walking group, be sure to ask where you’re headed if you don’t already know. By sharing the route with all participants, you’re reducing the chances of anyone getting lost along the way. As the leader, you should also share your planned route with someone who will not be joining you. This way, in the event of an emergency, your group will be accounted for.

Don’t Go Empty-handed

Speaking of emergencies, they do happen. Walking is very safe for most people, but health and safety issues can arise quickly. In these cases, it would serve yourself and your group to be prepared. I recommend taking a few important things with you on a walk. If you are a member of the walking group, make sure to bring weather-appropriate clothing, water, and a cell phone with emergency numbers easily accessible. If you are leading the group, I recommend bringing the following:

  • Water for yourself
  • Extra water for others
  • A cell phone
  • Emergency phone numbers
  • A map of your route
  • A first-aid kit
  • A light folding chair

That last one may sound strange, but it is important for anyone experiencing a health issue or needing to rest on the trail to have the option of sitting down. Benches may not always be available in an emergency situation, so bringing another seating option along with you is a good idea.

Walking groups are a wonderful way to experience nature when the weather finally lightens up. Whether you are leading the group or joining it, be sure to take some precautions. By making sure everyone in your group has been prescreened, you make the walk safer for yourself and others. Planning and sharing your route before you leave reduces the chances of navigation issues, and ensures that your whereabouts are well known. Finally, by bringing along a few key items on your walk, you’ll be much more prepared for an emergency if it should arise. All of this together will make your walking group experience safer and more fun. Enjoy your walk!

Interested in how NIFS can help your community improve your fitness program?  See how we helped a client turn their program around, click below.

How we improved an already successful fitness program

Topics: senior wellness prescreening tools safety senior living activities starting a walking program

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

Senior Fitness: What is the point of exercising?

As we age, we get this notion that we no longer need to exercise, or as the common adage says, “I’m too old.” To put it bluntly, you are never too old to exercise or be active. No matter your condition, one of the best things you can do is to get up and move. Years of research has shown that exercising has tremendous health benefits, no matter what your age is! Exercising has shown to improve balance and coordination, prevent bone loss, increase strength, improve cognitive function, and decrease chronic illnesses such as diabetes. With this in mind, here are few senior wellness myths that older adults believe when it comes to exercising.

What is the point of exercising when decline in old age is inescapable?ThinkstockPhotos-494387649.jpg

Aging does not mean decline; it means another chapter in life with new challenges to overcome. There are numerous stories of older adults becoming marathon runners like Ed Whitlock, who ran marathons well into his 80s. While running a marathon may not be your goal, it does show you that age does not matter. The delusion is that aging means weakness and/or fatigue, but in reality it’s a sign of inactivity. More importantly, exercising and staying active can help you maintain your independence and your lifestyle.

At my age, is exercise really safe for me?

Yes, exercise is safe for you. Again it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself. Moreover, studies have shown that individuals who exercise on a regular basis are less likely to fall. In part this is because exercising improves strength, flexibility, and coordination. Two of the better exercises that target flexibility and coordination are tai chi and yoga. Additionally, exercising frequently will increase bone density and decrease the likelihood of osteoporosis. 

I have a chronic disease, so I shouldn’t exercise.

Many older adults suffer from arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and many other chronic conditions. And because of it, older adults believe that they can no longer exercise. In fact, the opposite is true. Exercising and being physically active is the best thing to do. For example, if you have arthritis, exercising will help improve your range of motion and decrease the pain caused by arthritis, which will lead to increased energy levels and improved sleep. Additionally, if you happen to have arthritis, here are a few tips to get started before exercising:

  • Apply heat: This will help the blood flow and relax the muscles around the affected area.
  • Move gently: Move slowly to warm up the joints. You may want to do this between 5 and 10 minutes before moving on to strength and aerobic activities.
  • Ice: After performing your exercises, apply ice as needed to help prevent joint swelling.

***

If you are just starting out with senior fitness, make sure not to overdo it. It’s alright to start off slowly and to work your way up in intensity, especially if you have not been exercising for a few years or decades. The goal is to get moving and to create a habit that becomes a lifestyle. Also expect to experience soreness after beginning a program. However if you experience pain, you may have exercised too hard and will want to tone it down. 

See how we keep our residents coming back to the fitness center with our unique programing.  Click below for ideas to improve your programs.

Improve your programs >

Topics: senior wellness balance senior fitness staying active injury prevention osteoporosis

Navigating the Dining Options at Your Senior Living Community

So you moved to a retirement community! Raking leaves is soooo 10 years ago. Who needs a lawnmower—not you! Snow is just a pretty decoration because you don’t have to shovel it, or in some cases, even clean off your car. Some do miss these seasonal outdoor chores, but many don’t.

ThinkstockPhotos-120726908_1.jpgThe biggest change, however, is the fact that you no longer have to think about what’s for dinner, or lunch, or even breakfast. What a joy! My husband and I have the same exact conversation every day at around 5:30pm: What’s for dinner? I don’t know. What do you want? I don’t care. What do we have lying around that I can toss together quickly? I don’t know, eggs, a salad? And we end up usually having a salad, maybe with an omelet. Easy, but sooo boring.

The Many Choices in the CCRC Dining Room

When you move in to a senior living community, you are sure to take advantage of the wonderful food options. Blueberry pancakes on a Tuesday? Why not! You would probably have a boring bowl of cereal, but not now. You can have eggs Benedict, grits and toast, and sausage. What’s for dinner? I bet it’s the soup of the day, a salad, an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert. Oh and the desserts. No graham crackers or dry cereal for you! No sir! Cakes, pies, a wide selection of ice cream, Jell-O, crème brûlée, pudding, the works! Oh and lunch. You can have a cheeseburger or a BLT every single day if you want to.

It’s no wonder that many put on what I like to call the “Freshman 15.” Just like when we went to college, we had this amazing buffet of options every day, and who am I to turn down these delectable items? I want to get my money’s worth! So I eat everything that is offered to me. But there are plenty of healthy options. You just need to practice a tiny amount of restraint with an eye toward weight management, and learn how to navigate the menu.

Choosing Healthy, Nutrition-Packed Dining Options

Easy enough. Here are my tips:

  • Avoid the sauces. Try to stay away from stuff with lots of sauce on it. Always get the sauce on the side. Dip your fork in the sauce then in your food. That saves a little bit of calories.
  • Eat more salad. Make a salad your entrée twice a week, instead of the side for your main course. Practice the same restraint with the salad dressing that you do with sauces. Even if you LOVE Parmesan peppercorn dressing, dip your fork in the dressing first and then stab it into your salad.
  • Keep veggies healthy. See if you can get your vegetables steamed or roasted, without sauce or butter on them, with maybe a squeeze of lemon and salt-free seasoning.
  • Increase your fiber. Fiber helps you feel more full and has lots of healthy side-effects. Pick whole-grain items off the menu, like brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, and whole-grain breads. Stick with sweet potatoes and skip the baked potato if possible.
  • Enjoy healthy fish dishes. Look for the catch of the day and get it broiled or blackened, and always ask whether they prepare it with lots of butter or oil (and skip it if they do).
  • Indulge occasionally. And finally, dessert. As hard as this is, choose two days a week that you can treat yourself to dessert, and see if anyone at the table wants to share it with you. Often the serving you get is really meant for two or even three, so don’t try to scarf it all down by yourself. I also suggest saving your dessert, taking it home, and having it for breakfast! Your body does a much better job of burning calories during the day, and by the evening your metabolism has begun to slow down to prepare for sleep. (Do you know how sumo wrestlers gain so much weight? They eat a big meal, about 2,000 calories, and then go right to sleep.) And who doesn’t love chocolate cake for breakfast? 

So enjoy the easy life; you have earned it! Just don’t get too carried away with the food options. You are in this for the long haul, and if you eat sensibly, get a little exercise, and get involved with programs and activities at your new home, you will truly make your new life the best it can be!

Create a culture of wellness at your community, click below to learn more!  

Whitepaper+Wellness Culture

Topics: nutrition weight management senior wellness senior living calories fiber dining food

Senior Living: Four Tips for Improving Your Resident Exercise Program

Truly, one of the things I love about working in senior living is the passion employees have for serving the residents who live in their communities. Despite variation in the physical spaces’ amenities, decor, and size, the culture of caring about the residents is consistent. The people who work in senior living are genuinely committed to getting to know their residents as a means of helping them live exceptionally well.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but the other half of my career is spent in corporate

wellness, where the bottom line often drives the conversation. And while I think employers do care about their workforce, that’s not their starting point for investing in any wellness initiative. So when I work with senior living communities on improving their programming ThinkstockPhotos-529580019-1.jpgand activities for residents, I’m often surprised at what an afterthought their exercise amenities and services are. The clear appetite to provide residents with the very best options for living just doesn’t square with what’s in place for resident exercise at the community.

 If this disconnect resonates with you and you’re looking to make a change, consider
improving your resident exercise program with the tips below as ways to live up to your commitment to build active living options for your residents.

 

1. Provide staffing in your exercise program.

Residents will not (I repeat, will not) use your exercise equipment and spaces without the right leadership in that area of the community. It’s not sufficient to simply offer exercise classes, nor is it adequate service to have a trainer in the gym a few hours per week to offer assistance on the equipment. You can hire your own manager, or you can work with a fitness management company like ours. For more information on how get exercise leadership right in your community, check out some of the blogs we’ve written on the importance of staffing.

2. Review and update your group exercise equipment when you can.

Fitness equipment isn’t cheap, but the items used for group classes are far less expensive than the capital equipment in the fitness center. For $5,000, you can buy one new treadmill, or you can buy a classroom worth of new resistance chairs. There are a lot of practical tools that group fitness instructors can use in classes to make them more interesting and more effective for the residents, and they aren’t that expensive. In your next budgeting cycle, make room for a few of these options:

  • Small weighted balls: Sets of the 1.1# and 2.2# work well.
  • Airex balance pads: Buy enough for each person in balance class to have one.
  • BOSU: Buy a few to use in stations on a strength or balance class.

3. Establish a cross-referral system between your fitness center and your therapy group.

If you have qualified staff in your fitness center and there is not already a relationship between that individual and your therapy team, building a bridge between the two is low-hanging fruit on the improving-services tree. Check out this quick read to learn why we believe integration of therapy and fitness is important for resident well-being.

4. Take a hard look at all of your senior wellness initiatives and how fitness folds into that set of programming.

It should be woven in seamlessly among other programs and services designed to engage rather than entertain your residents. If all programming is being carried off in silos, it’s time to take a fresh approach. If participation in programs and services is represented by the same handful of residents, it’s time to re-envision your offerings. If the activities calendar looks pretty much the same as it did last month, last quarter, and last year, it’s time to breathe new life into what you’re offering. Download this quick read for a series of questions you can use to evaluate the quality of your wellness programming

Find out how to evaluate your program

Topics: exercise group exercise senior wellness senior living active living senior fitness staffing

Residents Expect More from Senior Living Community Exercise Programs

ThinkstockPhotos-535515241.jpgI got a call from a resident of a senior living community the other day. She told me that she’d been thinking about how her community could do better with the exercise program it offers. She saw a lot of potential to build on already successful offerings, and she’d been working with a resident team on this idea. Over the last several weeks, she’d been all over our website and decided it was time to talk about how we might be able to support her team’s goal to report on options to improve the community’s exercise program.

This woman was sharp! She had a good understanding about what was available to them, what was working, and where they needed to progress. Specifically, she told me that the classes were well liked and that didn’t necessarily need a change, but she also noted these common issues:

  • The pool is largely empty except for the regularly scheduled water aerobics classes.
  • The fitness center is typically unused because residents don’t feel like they know how to use the equipment to their benefit.

She had grabbed our quick read on how to grow participation in your aquatics program, and that’s when it hit her: she knew it all came back to staffing—that having qualified fitness staff running the community’s exercise program was central to its success.

Your Current Residents Expect More—and They’re Telling Their Friends

So if you’ve been focused on other competing priorities at your community and the exercise program is an afterthought running quietly in the background, now would be a good time to give it a second look. Because your residents are already doing that; and you can bet that if your current residents have a radar for what’s possible, your prospects do, too.

Sometimes there’s a hurdle in understanding just what a fitness center manager should be doing. I suppose that varies by community, but for a staffing organization like ours, we have clear expectations and supports for how NIFS staff spend their time in our client’s fitness centers

Maybe you think this kind of astute observation by residents isn’t happening at your community. That might be true, but before you make that assumption, consider how the resident with whom I spoke shared her observations with a prospective resident.

She told me that she had invited a friend to dine with her recently who was not a resident of the community but who was shopping for a senior living environment he could call home. He asked her if there was anything negative about living there. She said she couldn’t come up with negatives (which is great!), but then she told him about how they could do better with their exercise program (which is not so great).

And this isn’t the first conversation I’ve had like this where a resident found our organization and reached out to see whether and how we could help.

Review Your Wellness Programs along with the Fitness Offerings

For what it’s worth, your entire wellness initiative may need a review—it’s rare to have a strong exercise program and a weak holistic wellness offering. It’s also unusual to have your holistic wellness program be strong while your exercise program suffers. Wellness and fitness go hand in hand.

[Read More: What to do when traditional senior living activities falls short]

If you’ve been waiting to address your exercise program until the residents complain, it’s time. Begin your investigation on possibilities by downloading our quick read below designed to help you quickly evaluate your overall wellness program. It highlights some broader wellness areas as well as specific exercise program components. Share it with your team and start a conversation about how to do wellness better in your community.

Find out how to evaluate your program

Topics: senior wellness senior living senior fitness senior living community resident wellness programs exercise program

Are You Talking Senior Wellness TO Residents, or WITH Them? (Part 2)

Now it is time to apply what you learned in Part 1. Let’s look back on some key points:

  • Only 12% of the U.S. population is health literate.
  • Health and safety information should be delivered on a fifth-grade level.
  • “Why” is a crucial question to ask and to answer in resident wellness.

Did you think about how you and your clients communicate and how instruction is delivered? Do you talk to your clients, or do your discuss with your clients? Let me ask you this: How often are you creative with your answers? How often do you use analogies that can be seen in the everyday world?

The Power of Analogies in Senior Fitness EducationThinkstockPhotos-529580019.jpg

I love using analogies. The body is an amazing machine, but also a mystery to many. I know we have all explained osteoarthritis many times over in our careers, but how well is the message getting through to the client? We can try to explain that the cartilage in the knee has slowly been worn down over time due to previous damages that may have occurred.

Now imagine that you have no idea what cartilage is, or can’t picture it. Would anything after that word mean anything to you? Probably not. So let’s put some visualization to this. Cartilage covers bones where they will meet with other bones and rub together. It is like a wet plastic sheet. Over time, damage happens because of impact from the many falls, running, and jumping that we have done. It also becomes more dry and brittle as we get older. Because of the damage and the dryness, the bones do not slide across each other smoothly anymore. The rough surfaces rubbing together will cause more damage, and the moist plastic lining is not there anymore to stop the bones from rubbing together. This explanation took a little longer, but I also know that the client now has a good picture in their mind of what is happening inside their knee.

Perspective and Visualization

One surprising statistic I learned while in my physics class in college is that if you hold a gallon of water straight out in front of you, your shoulder has about 100 pounds of pressure on it, even though a gallon of water is approximately 8 pounds. This is a statistic I am always passing on to my senior wellness clients. It can be very hard to understand why such a small weight is so difficult to lift, and maybe even painful. Some even feel embarrassed that they can’t lift a larger amount of weight. As soon as I tell them this, there is always a light bulb that goes off, along with surprise, of course. Again, the body is a machine. Machines follow the laws of physics, but how many of us can explain physics well enough for a fifth-grader to understand? Visualization is key.

Working with Plain Language: A Training Manual, written by William H. DuBay, has a great deal of information on the background of plain language, why it is necessary, and how to apply it in all manners.

One of our greatest joys as health, wellness, and fitness specialists is seeing the people we work with succeed. So let’s find that common ground where we are not just talking to our clients, but discussing with our clients about their health, wellness, and happiness.

Interested in how you can do wellness better for your residents?  Grab our quick read below to see how you can better evaluate your wellness offerings in your senior living community.

Download Now
Topics: senior wellness senior fitness resident wellness programs education communication

Are You Talking Senior Wellness TO Residents, or WITH Them? (Part 1)

4399_KF_3334-1.jpgIn the fitness and health field, we are asked for advice continually. It is our job to build fitness routines that are safe, comfortable, and something our clients will actually build into an overall resident wellness lifestyle. The difficult part always seems to be creating a program that they like that also fits around all contraindications of diseases and ailments, and having them not give up after a week.

The Importance of Communication in Senior Fitness Education

After observing many fitness professionals with their clients and many years in practice myself, I noticed that one of the greatest obstacles is neither of those two problems, but our ability to communicate with the client and find that connection for them. I’m not talking about the connection of personalities and ability to get along, but that connection where the client understands your thought process and why you are putting them through the “torture.” Education is the key to our success with the clients, and it is how that education is delivered that matters most.

So stop and think about how you deliver your educational pieces. Most likely you lay out your fitness plan. Then you demonstrate the plan. Then at the end of the talk you ask if they have any questions. Of course they reply “no” or “when do we get started?” They have not asked the one most important question that we learn to ask when we are two, but become afraid to ask as we get older: “WHY?”

  • “Why are we doing this exercise?”
  • “How does it help?”
  • “You mentioned the muscles that we will be working—what do they do?”

Anticipating and Answering Residents’ Senior Wellness Questions

We as practitioners already know why we are doing this, so we forget to pass that knowledge on. We move on to demonstrating the exercises and correcting their movements and posture as they do the exercise, until they look like a pro to anyone coming in, but they still are not quite sure why they are doing that exact movement.

I may be one of the biggest “older” kids out there, but I still love the question “Why?” I truly feel that if we understand why we are doing what we are doing, we will stick to it better. Also, if we understand a subject it is more interesting to us. If it is more interesting, we tend to want to try to learn more and become proficient. The trick becomes how to properly educate and make a lifelong plan with our clients rather than just doing it to our clients. We have to know that those why and how questions are running through their heads and take the initiative to help them answer the questions they don’t even know to ask or how to form.

Making Wellness Communications Easy to Understand

The next challenge is the client understanding what you are saying. The Quick Guide to Healthy Literacy, a fact sheet produced by the United States Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, states that “only 12 percent of adults have proficient health literacy.” Impact Information Plain Language Services’ newsletter reports that all health and safety information should be delivered at a fifth-grade comprehension level.

Health information is difficult for most people to understand. There is no difference in the world of wellness. We are asking our clients to trust what we are saying and what we are telling them to do, but many do not understand why they are doing the exercise we are teaching or how those exercises will help make them feel better, possibly decrease potential for chronic diseases, and even lessen the severity of other chronic diseases.

Think about this information and think about what you do. Do you work with your clients, or do you talk to them? You will probably find there is a little of each happening. Watch for part 2 to learn some tips on how to work with your clients and help them enjoy the wellness they are working with you to achieve. 

Senior living communities commonly miss out on the opportunity to have a qualified person on staff to help guide residents in the fitness center.  

Click below to check out our quick read, The Impact of Staff on Senior Fitness.

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Topics: senior wellness CCRC fitness center senior fitness education communication