Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Cognitive Decline: Senior Wellness Program Considerations

ThinkstockPhotos-500778232.jpgAs we grow older, we experience changes in cognitive processes, which is a normal part of aging. But in some cases these changes are severe enough to interfere with the performance of activities of daily living (ADLs), signaling the beginning stages of cognitive decline or possibly dementia. In most cases, age-related decline occurs roughly around the age of 50, and it is estimated that by 2025, 7.1 million older adults will succumb to Alzheimer’s disease.

However, there are actions that you can take to promote your cognitive health. Likewise, research has shown that lifestyle choices can help delay or possibly prevent cognitive decline. Yet it must be stated that not all risks for developing dementia can be modified, such as age and genetics. More importantly, if you happen to be a wellness professional or care provider, it will be imperative for you to identify whether the person in question lives independently, needs assistance, or depends on others, as this will affect the individual’s wellness program.

Three Principles for Creating a Wellness Program

To create your senior wellness program, it is essential to have a strong foundation to build upon. Here are three principles to build from:

  • Identify possible barriers to your wellness program.
  • Develop strategies to implement your program.   
  • Consider the application of the strategies.

Case Study: Dan

Now let’s take this one step further and look at a hypothetical case.

Recently Dan has been experiencing a number of difficulties when it comes to his memory/recall. A few days ago, one of his friends noticed that Dan had difficulties following the flow of the conversations and had a tendency to forget what was said. Additionally, his son has been noticing over the past few months that Dan has been misplacing things and forgetting appointments. And on top of that, Dan has become aware of his recent lapses in memory. According to his neurologist, Dan is suffering from what is known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

With some background about Dan, we can begin the process of helping him navigate his barriers and begin to implement strategies that will best benefit him. With MCI, it is important to realize that Dan recognizes what is happening but needs help to navigate the MCI. Therefore, the following recommendations have been made for Dan which will require reevaluation every six months by his neurologist.  There is no cure for MCI—but these strategies to navigate challenges will help improve Dan's quality of life.

  • Regular exercise: Research has shown that it may delay cognitive decline or slow the rate of decline.
  • Social activities: Interacting with others creates a mutual benefit including offsetting potential isolation and depression brought on by individual struggles with MCI.
  • Cognitive stimulation: Taking part in creative pursuits that include problem-solving and reasoning help the brain remain active in important ways.

Also, research has shown that factors that aid in overall health may indeed play a significant role in delaying dementia. These strategies include

  • Staying physically active
  • Losing excess weight
  • Performing cognitively stimulating activities
  • Being social
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Eating healthy

Avoiding Falls

One more factor to be aware of is falling, and among older adults it’s the number-one cause of head injuries, which can lead to language, emotion, and thinking impairments. Thankfully, there are actions that you can take to help decrease the chance of falling, including increasing lower-body strength and balance, adjusting medications, and evaluating fall hazards.

***

All in all, it’s important to keep a positive attitude and embrace a culture of wellness. Through this perspective and these three principles, you are setting up yourself or those around you for success. More importantly, it will behoove you to continue researching cognitive decline to better equip yourself and those around you. Consider this information as only a summary, a beginning point for further development depending on your needs and goals.

Whitepaper+Wellness Culture


Topics: senior wellness balance cognitive function dementia Alzheimer's Disease

Active Aging Week: Planning for a Successful Week of Programs

It’s that time again! Our team has been working hard to get ready for Active Aging Week 2015. We’ve changed things up a little bit this year. For the past few years we’ve done a friendly competition between Active Aging sites for the week. This year, we’ve set a goal as a team and we’re competing against ourselves to get our highest participation yet!

Read on to find out about some of the most exciting senior wellness elements of this year’s Active Aging Week.

Multiple Dimensions of Wellness

For us, the goal of Active Aging Week has always extended beyond just encouraging our residents to be physically active. This year is no different. We’ve planned events focused on physical wellness, but also social, intellectual, vocational, and emotional wellness. It’s so important to understand how each dimension impacts a person’s health and lifestyle. After four years of participating in multi-site programs, the residents appreciate the variety as well.

Philanthropy

Thursday’s event has quickly become a favorite for many participants. Each year, we reserve Thursday as the day we focus on vocational wellness and giving back to the community. Each site gets to choose a philanthropy that they want to work with that day. Some sites donate clothing or food, some sites write letters to troops or veterans, and other sites use the opportunity to raise money for an organization. For each site, this is an important day where residents get to help out a cause that’s close to their hearts. 

Across the Continuum

The first year we put together an organized, multi-site Active Aging Week program, it was really just geared toward residents who resided in the independent-living sections of the communities. Since then, we’ve expanded the program to include assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care, and even employees. Each day’s events include elements that can either be extended across the entire community or easily adapted so each area can have its own version of the event. This has been especially nice for residents who’ve moved from independent living on to another area; now they aren’t missing out just because they transferred to a different level of care.

Personality

One of the great aspects of Active Aging Week year to year is that across the country our residents are participating in the week’s events together. Another awesome feature of the program is how easy it is to adapt to the personality of the residents within a particular community. Each site is handed a week-long program outline that includes some details to make the week run smoothly. From there, the rest is up to the NIFS manager and staff. They get to be creative in their implementation of each day’s events, and it’s a great opportunity to tailor everything to the residents at each individual community. This is one of the reasons Active Aging Week has been such a successful program for our sites. The planning and preparation are important, but the care, creativity, and attention to detail that’s given by each site manager is what really makes it special, and that’s what attracts residents to participate year after year.

Are you planning anything creative for Active Aging Week this year?

 

Topics: senior wellness active aging senior fitness active aging week,

The Power of Massage Therapy in Senior Wellness

senior_back_painI am a firm believer in massage therapy because a little over a year ago, I woke up in agonizing lower-back pain that did not allow me to move. My first thought was maybe I should go see a chiropractor. I had been to one before, but was not the biggest fan because they cracked my back and sent me on my way after charging $65. 

This time, I did my research and found a well-rounded practice that offered a full evaluation prior to the treatment to be sure they could help me and not further injure my back. Here, they first did a 30-minute session with a massage therapist, applied heat while rolling the back, and then I saw the chiropractor. In my situation, I needed the full run-through. Now that my injury is better, I can maintain the relief with strength exercises, stretching, and massage. 

So when I began working at a senior living community and found that the community had a regularly visiting massage therapist, I thought, “How very lucky we are to have a certified massage therapist!” She has her own room and setup that the resident can enjoy, or she can meet them at their apartment if that is more comfortable for them. I have found, though, that many CCRC residents do not take advantage of this resource just because they aren’t fully educated on the benefits.

How Often Should You Visit a Therapist?

Believe it or not, it can be to your greatest advantage to visit a massage therapist a two or three times a month. Often, it is thought that massage is a luxury visit to a spa once in a blue moon for some rest and relaxation. While it is great for that, massage is something that can be done in a less expensive setting and more often so that you can reap the benefits. 

What Is Massage?

What exactly is massage? Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing, and manipulating the skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The combination of movements and sequence in which the therapist works is meant to alleviate pain, reduce the stress we carry in that area, and treat a wide variety of conditions. And the great thing? If it isn’t your cup of tea, you can just forget about it and try something else. 

Types of Massage

There are different variations of massage, depending on what the need is. Need relaxation? You’ll want a Swedish massage. Have a pain in the low back? You may need a deep-tissue or trigger-point massage. The great thing is, the massage therapist will know which is likely best for your situation. 

Benefits of Massage Therapy

While more research is needed to confirm the benefits of massage, some studies have found massage may also be helpful for the following conditions:

  • Anxiety
  • Digestive disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia related to stress
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Paresthesias and nerve pain
  • Soft tissue strains or injuries
  • Sports injuries
  • Temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ)

Here are some additional benefits of massage therapy.

Ask Your Doctor

One last thing, massage isn’t meant to replace regular care from your physician, and when a member complains of a pain that sounds most like a muscle or ligament pain, I suggest they ask their doctor whether seeing a massage therapist would be a good idea. 

When Massage Might Not Be a Good Idea

If one of these is something you suffer from, massage may not be right for you: 

  • Bleeding disorders or take blood-thinning medication
  • Burns, open or healing wounds
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Fractures
  • Severe osteoporosis
  • Severe thrombocytopenia

Before I go, I want to encourage you to take a look at this alternative medicine and the role it can play in senior wellness. It has relatively low risk and can be very beneficial. Does your community offer this onsite? Would you like for them to? If you have a leisure services or wellness department, that might be the place to start. 

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Topics: senior wellness CCRC continuing care retirement community stress relief injury prevention massage

Does This Count as Exercise? A Senior Fitness Challenge

Recently we were challenged at our senior community to increase our exercise and record it to send to our corporate office, in hopes of raising awareness of how important exercise is for those who have Alzheimer’s and those hoping to prevent it through senior fitness.

An Exercise Challenge for Alzheimer’s Awareness

The Goal: Each community needed to accumulate around 1,500 hours of exercise in 60 days, which would translate to 100,000 total hours from all communities.

The Prize: The corporate office would donate $10,000 to the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter.

The great thing about this challenge is that we already have many group exercise opportunities where hours are easily accumulated, as well as a fitness center that members can utilize. But we wanted to amp up the amount of exercise residents were doing because, after all, it is a challenge to exercise more to bring awareness.  

While explaining this challenge to the residents and fielding questions the following weeks, I found that many residents and members did not know what was considered exercise. I was getting questions left and right, “Is this exercise? Does this count?” 

ThinkstockPhotos-163162703_1What Counts as Exercise?

So here is the thing: exercise doesn’t have to be a hard workout routine only in a fitness center or group fitness setting. Some folks feel as though that is what exercise is, and I am happy to break the news that it is not the only way to get in exercise! Guess what, things that you enjoy as well as activity needed for healing count as exercise!

Here is a list of the “does this count” exercises residents asked me about. 

These are just a handful of the activities residents are participating in that they weren’t sure would count as exercise. The great thing about fitness and activity is that there are many avenues to take in order to reach the level of fitness you are looking for. Exercise does not have to be a boring, long-drawn-out routine. 

If a regimented fitness center routine is what you like for your workout, that is great!  But, if you need something else to hold your interest, whether it is a game like corn toss or working long hours in your garden, it is best to do an activity that you will stick with. And if you want to add intensity or are having a hard time finding what suits your interest, that’s the best time to consult with your fitness specialist to plan out exercises or activity that are best for you!

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Topics: senior wellness CCRC senior fitness senior living community exercise and wellness exercise for elderly Alzheimer's Disease

The Importance of Being Your Own Health Care Advocate

It is safe to generalize and say the majority of people put a lot of trust in their doctor and admire them simply for their level of education. After all, they did go through many years of extensive and exhausting studying and training in order to earn the title of “Doctor.” They even have a decent health grade and framed certificates around the office, but does that mean we should put all of our faith in them and make them 100% responsible? Well, not exactly.

overwhelmed_senior_ThinkstockPhotos-471557740There are a lot of checks and balances in place when it comes to health care. You have nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physician’s assistants, physicians, surgeons, and more, but what if all of these fail? Though it may be rare, it does happen. So who should ultimately be accountable? You. 

Too often, patients sit in a doctor’s office and are given loads of information, which might as well be told in a foreign language, all wrapped up in 5 minutes. The patient sits, smiles, and nods, thinking (or pretending) that they followed every detail that was spilled out to them. We assume the medications and dosages we are being prescribed are necessary and safe.

Kelly’s Story

A friend of mine, who we will call Kelly, was not feeling well and had arrangements to fly later in the week. To avoid being uncomfortable during her travels, Kelly reached out to her doctor. Kelly’s doctor was out of town, but the partnering doctor was available to see her. Without hesitation, the partnering doctor prescribed Kelly an antibiotic, and, without any questions, Kelly picked it up at her local pharmacy. A week later, Kelly felt extremely foggy-headed and enormously sluggish, and started developing rashes, painful headaches, very achy joints, and more. 

Kelly put her week on replay, trying to figure out what she had done differently that could cause such a major downward spiral in her physical health. Then it hit her: the antibiotic. She quickly started searching for answers and within seconds, from a simple Google search, she found it. Kelly was prescribed a sulfa drug, which is the number-one drug that should be avoided if you have lupus. Because the doctor seemingly did not even glance at Kelly’s files, the pharmacist did not pay attention to her log of current medications, and Kelly did not think twice about a doctor’s advice, she had the worst lupus flareup she had ever experienced.

How to Advocate for Your Own Health Care

Why do we assume all instructions are best for us because of a health professional’s level of education and authority? It is our body, yet we blindly and mindlessly do as we are told. Why is it difficult to be vulnerable and admit that we do not understand the information we are given during our visits? When did we lose our curiosity or stop asking “why?” You are at the office seeking medical advice, so seek it! Here’s how:

  • Ask questions.
  • Have logs and questions written down before you walk into the office.
  • Make the doctor or nurse write down information for you.
  • Ask for the doctor to explain what the lab results mean, not just rattle off numbers that you can read yourself. Then ask for copies of the lab results.
  • Remind all health professionals involved of your medications and lifestyle changes.
  • Request print materials related to your diagnosis. If your doctor is not willing, it may be time for a new doctor.

Remember, you are part of the team that makes decisions toward improving your health and wellness. Be involved, be informed, and be okay with asking for help when you don’t understand. Be your own advocate.

Your health is important, check out our quick read to see why exercise is important in aging well, download it below!  

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Topics: senior wellness health and wellness wellness health care

What Does Wellness Really Mean for Senior Living Communities?

Our use of the word “wellness” in senior living is confusing and potentially problematic for the consumer. When the possible definition by organization for “wellness” swings all the way from a few group fitness classes at one community to a full-blown medical clinic in another organization, it’s challenging to succinctly define what is being offered under the wellness banner. 

Nurse_doing_fitnessThinkstockPhotos-474647990Sometimes I visit a community and they have a wellness director who is an RN with primary responsibilities for running the community’s outpatient clinic and helping residents navigate their health care needs. In other cases, I interact with an individual at the community level whose title is wellness director, but whose primary roles are focused on running the fitness program. Those two individuals have two very different focus areas, diverse areas of expertise, and they offer two entirely different value propositions for prospective residents. And neither of them paints a full picture of what community wellness can be.

How you define your community in the area of wellness can be a point of distinction and a clear competitive edge for your business. But I wonder if that definition is best suited to be made at the community level or if there is a need, or even better a benefit, to defining it at an industry level. LeadingAge has initiated a “NameStorm” to find a new term for “continuing care retirement community” (CCRC). Is there a need for this kind of industry-wide focus on how we universally define wellness in senior living?

If we use the well-recognized dimensions of wellness (and I’ll go with the seven defined by the ICAA) as the means to define individual wellbeing, then the essential duties of the RN clinic director and the fitness program manager fold into various dimensions. But so do the essential duties of several other common jobs at a CCRC, including the activities director, the social worker, the dietician, the chaplain, etc. I could argue that each employee at the community has some portion of his essential duties impacting resident wellness.

I think, in a lot of cases, we get wellness all wrong. We want to box it into neat compartments, but it really spills out to all areas of the organization. Wellness is about building meaningful lifestyle opportunities for residents. It’s about honoring who they are as individuals and finding ways to help them tap into what motivates them, what provides them with purpose, and what keeps them engaged in life.

As I’ve started shifting my view on resident wellness in senior living to this broader perspective, I’ve started wondering whether resident wellbeing doesn’t need to sit a little higher in the organizational chart. Wellness isn’t just fitness and it’s not just activities. It doesn’t belong under either of those “departments.” It’s not limited to nutrition or spiritual designations, and it’s not focused on health care and clinical services.

Perhaps it’s the culture we’re trying to build.

But if that’s true, if wellness provides a cultural focus for our organizations, then each employee needs to have a stake in what it means to provide person-centered opportunities for well-being. And that message needs to come from the top. It can be supported by a well-developed employee wellness offering, as well (which is being discussed more and more in senior living). It can get folded into employee goals, job descriptions, and team meetings. And while one person should probably have ultimate responsibility for wellness in the community, it cannot operate in a silo apart from other elements that are unique to what your community offers. (This post talks more about how the various departments can collaborate better.)

How are you cultivating wellness beyond your fitness programming, your activities calendar, and your clinic?

Download our whitepaper on how you can create a culture of wellness in your senior living community.

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Topics: senior wellness CCRC continuing care retirement community

Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis: The Scary Truth of Being Uninformed

familly_caringDuring my morning commute a few months ago, I switched on the radio and caught the tail end of a brief NPR story about doctors not communicating to their patients when they are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Because I am surrounded by this disease in the workplace and have experienced it first-hand in my family, I was quick to become empathetic and my heart sank into my stomach. It just seemed so unfair and, well, wrong.

The next day, I decided to dig a little more deeply and find the article in writing. Maybe I missed some important details at the beginning of the story. Maybe the twist was that these patients were being diagnosed but simply forgot after they walked out of the doctor’s office doors, because, after all, they do have memory loss and dementia. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

According to this specific study, an alarmingly low number of patients with Alzheimer’s (only 45%) claimed that they were given this diagnosis by their doctor. When the study looked past the patient’s input, still only 53% of family members or caretakers reported being aware of the diagnosis. The reasoning behind this sits among a variety of excuses, ranging from the doctor having limited time in each appointment to the doctor simply feeling uncomfortable.

Is It Acceptable to Withhold the Diagnosis?

Are these legitimate excuses? Is it ethically acceptable to withhold information that is unknowingly being written down in your medical records just to save one or both parties from feeling uncomfortable? 

Sure, it feels terrible to look someone in the eye and tell them devastating news, but when a person is relying on someone, their doctor in this case, to keep them informed, the doctor needs to take responsibility here. Withholding this information puts the patient at risk of harming himself, as well as those around him. What if those around a person with Alzheimer’s believe these forgetful moments are merely part of a normal aging process? Maybe one day the person with Alzheimer’s cannot recall a street name, which may seem normal, but what if the following week(s) lead to such scenarios:

The person with Alzheimer’s…

  • Goes for a walk or bicycle ride without telling anyone and gets lost.
  • Accidentally leaves the gas burner on all day while home alone.
  • Needs help but forgets how to dial the phone.
  • Leaves the water running in the bathtub, does not realize it, and goes to bed.
  • Gets in a pool alone and forgets how to use their legs, loses footing, and goes under.

Benefits of Knowing the Diagnosis

Some of these examples may seem extreme, but they are actually scenarios that either myself or someone I know has personally witnessed. So many dangerous situations can be avoided if family or close friends are aware of the diagnosis. And though there is no cure, doctors are finding medications that can help slow down the disease process, and researchers are finding more and more ways for people with Alzheimer’s to gain a better quality of life through means such as music, aquatics, memory care, and more.

I often see family members or caretakers get frustrated, and even angry, with people who are forgetful. When we are able to have a medical diagnosis, can realize that it is truly a disease and out of the person’s control, and can view the whole picture, we are opening a door to having more compassion and understanding for the situation a person with Alzheimer’s is facing. 

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Topics: senior wellness cognitive function memory dementia memory care Alzheimer's Disease

Active Aging: What are the benefits of getting a massage?

knee_painHow many suffer from joint pain and inflammation?  Feel stiff and sore? Deal with lack of circulation, feel tired, depressed or have lack of energy, even have trouble sleeping? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then the big question is why are you not getting a massage?!?

Getting a massage is a proven way to reduce some of these issues.  Because we are living longer and keeping much more active, our muscles, joints and bones will develop forms of stiffness, aches and pains.  In addition we start to have limited range of motion or flexibility.  Aging brings about many other conditions that affect our bodies, such as osteoporosis arthritis, back pain and reduction in circulation. Massage therapy cannot cure these issues, but it has been proven to alleviate them.  A good licensed massage therapist can use techniques that focus on areas of the body to gently get to those muscle contractions or knots, making the muscles feel less stiff with more capability to move. 

Feeling down and depressed? Guess what? Getting a massage can actually help improve your mental health.  A regular massage can play an important role in boosting moods by providing that much needed contact.  Sometimes certain oils or creams used in massage therapy are another form of enhancing mood. 

Can’t sleep? Guess what? That’s right a massage can help you sleep better! Massage Therapy has been proven to relax the body, reduce stress and even assist with concentration.  When you get a massage, you can throw away your worries or even think about things as you relax, therefore, not having to think about them when you’re ready for sleep.

So now that you realize how good massage can be follow these helpful tips prior to setting up an appointment:

  • Always consult your physician and research your massage therapy options. 
  • Look for a therapist who specializes in working with active agers.
  • The words gently or soothing in the types of massage descriptions.
  • Always get referrals
  • Verify that they are licensed.  

The question is not why should I get a massage?  The question should be why not get a massage?

 

Your community fitness center is more than just group fitness classes, check out our white paper and how you can create a culture of wellness in your community.

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Topics: senior wellness active living health and wellness

3 Ways to Do Wellness Better with Better Resident Onboarding Processes

Raise your hand if your senior living community does not have a formal, functioning, and strategically built new resident onboarding/orientation/integration process. It’s common—really common—to see communities either have no process or expectations on how to integrate new residents, or to have expectations that are so loose and disorganized that the “process” is ineffective.

There is so much to take care of when someone moves in, not to mention all the other responsibilities of community jobs that don’t stop just because a three new residents arrived last week. Still, I think we’re missing a huge opportunity to do right by those new residents in the community’s wellness program when we only look at orienting them to the community as simply another item on the “to-do” list. You might be wondering how I’m making the leap on the orientation affecting wellness. Bear with me and read below about three ways you can do better with new residents to ultimately build a better wellness program.

Of course, in order for this to make sense, you’ll need to appreciate that I’m coming from the position that your wellness program is more robust than simply filling the calendar with “one and done” activities. For your wellness program to be multidimensional and person-centered, it has to be based on fulfilling the purpose and passions of the residents you serve. For tips on how you can better evaluate the quality of your programs, read this blog

 

#1: Shift Away from Telling Them What They Need to Know.1-_senior_independence

In most communities where I’ve provided wellness consulting, if there is any formal new resident integration process in place, it involves staff scheduling time with the resident to tell him about a particular area of the community. There’s usually collateral involved, and the time the staff member spends with the resident is usually a download of programs, services, and how-to’s related to that department.

I’m all for making sure new folks have the information they need in your community. They should absolutely know how to place a work order for service, how to reserve their seat on the bus trip to the symphony, and how to access their financial accounts with the community. But spending your “I’d like to get to know you better time” with that individual overloading them with do’s and don’ts, calendars, contact information, and anything else on your 20-point checklist will be daunting and downright exhausting for even those who are wildly enthusiastic about their move into your community. Imagine how it feels for those who are ambivalent about their transition.

This is not the end of your onboarding process.

#2: Start Focusing on Individual Purpose and Passion.

Once you’ve followed through on providing the basic how-to-get-what-you-need information for new residents, you can turn your attention to understanding individual resident passions. It’s understanding what makes an individual tick that sheds light on his potential. And that is the place you can help him connect in your community.

Several months ago, I wrote about the position of activities director and how it’s turned into something of an order-taker role. Tasking your activities director with onboarding new residents in a different way can be a great first step toward breaking down that order-taker paradigm. It could also be appropriate to consider a Community Navigator, as described in this blog from Glynn Devins, for this kind of role. Regardless of whose job it becomes, someone on your team initiates the “get to know you” visit with a new resident. But instead of using that time to download from a checklist, the time is spent asking open-ended questions that drive conversation and allow the staff member to honestly learn about what motivates and inspires the new resident.

I would advocate for some set/standard questions, but also allow space for the conversation to meander along the individual’s personal history to afford glimpses of who that resident is and what they’re truly passionate about. (In truth, your team members may need some training to learn how to do this style of conversation and investigation.)

Remember, too, that by the time a resident is ready to move into your community, they’ve already gone through the prospecting and sales process with your counselors. There’s a good chance that the resident answered several questions about personal interests as part of that wooing process, and using that information in advance of the 1:1 session will help maximize everyone’s time during that face-to-face meeting.

#3: Use What You Learn.

The information you gather from your sit-down with the resident should be used to start building a resident profile to help you connect that individual to opportunities in the community to learn and grow. You should also use the information you’re gathering from all new residents to build a database that informs your wellness programming strategy, because now (finally!) you have a basis from which to build programs and services that speak to the actual articulated needs of your residents. You’re no longer slapping spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks; instead, you’re building what they’ve asked for, and you’re feeding the resident’s purpose. You’re helping them live exceptionally well.

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

Topics: senior wellness senior living community nifs fitness managment

What if: Occupancy and budget were not obstacles & you could focus on improving resident lifestyles?

Throughout 2015, we’ll be blogging about our dreams for corporate wellness, fitness, and aging well.  Some of the content will represent a gentle “poking fun” at the industry, but it’s all written to stimulate thought about what really could be if we put our heads together and started mapping out what’s really possible in the realm of individual wellbeing.  We hope you’ll join the conversation by commenting on the blogs, giving us additional ideas about which to write, and/or by finding us out on Twitter at #wellnesswhatif.

seniorlivingwomentalkingWe do a lot of wellness consulting in senior living, and by “wellness”, I mean non-clinical, lifestyle-focused consulting.  For many of our clients, that consulting relationship involves a thorough review of their “activities” department; in other cases, it’s focused more on what’s happening with their exercise program.  Regardless of the original area of focus, we always arrive at the same point – building a strategy that allows the community to shift from filling a calendar toward supporting resident purpose and passion.

Often, when I talk with a client who thinks he’s interested in having us come onsite to consult, there’s a heavy discussion about cost.  And while I certainly understand a business’s sensitivity toward expenses, I often wonder:  If budget (and occupancy – the two are inextricably linked) was no obstacle, what would you be expecting from your activities department?

Leadership in senior living communities have a lot to focus on, and it makes sense that activities might not rank near the top.  In fact, it’s common for that department to be well-liked by residents and to be well rated on satisfaction surveys.  So no pain point exists because there doesn’t appear to be an issue.  The challenge with continuing to look the other way is two-fold:

  1. Your current residents may not realize what’s possible, so putting your faith in them to be your barometer for when something needs to change is ill-placed.  That is particularly true with activities because that area of your community traditionally bears out the 80/20 rule where 20% of your residents engage in 80% of the activities.  You are likely supporting the interests of a vocal minority in your community.  And the question becomes: What is your activities department developing to meet the needs and interests of the less-engaged majority? 
  2. The adult child knows better.  They are not content with bingo, cards, and trips to the theatre, and they won’t be fooled by a full calendar that lacks opportunities for them to live out passions, dreams, and purpose. 

If you think your programming is top notch and you perhaps just have an engagement challenge, take a look at our slideshare on how to get your residents to engage.

Get our Slideshare: Improve Resident Engagment

Maybe you know wellness is an important differentiator for your community, but you really feel compelled to nail down a more favorable and consistent occupancy rate before you begin fine tuning programming and other lighter elements at your community.  I can see why you’d adopt that philosophy, but before you stake your claim there, consider reading this blog on how and why wellness is an important differentiator for any community.

Think also about the long term investment of putting in some money up front on wellness consulting that breathes new life into your campus and creates a new outlook on how activities are developed and delivered.  It’s a chicken and egg debate but if a $5,000 investment could be an important step toward solidifying occupancy and thus improving your budget outlook, would that $5,000 be worth it?

Here’s our picture of what it means to do wellness better in senior living:

  • When you do wellness better, you have data your marketing and sales staff can work with to back up their stories with prospects about how fantastic it is to live well at your community. 
  • When you do wellness better, you have more diverse, robust, and life-enriching programming on your calendar that appeals to a wide audience. 
  • When you do wellness better in your community, you create natural bridges across departments for collaborative programming so that one over-worked activities director doesn’t have to do it all. 
  • When you do wellness better you understand individual resident passions and interests and incorporate those at the personal and program level to ensure opportunities where you residents can live with vitality in the ways that are true for them. 
  • When you do wellness better, you do so much more than fill a calendar.  You map out a program and service strategy, informed by data, resident interests, and past successes.

If you think your community may be falling short in one or more of those areas, check out what we have to offer in the way consulting to help you do wellness better.

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

Topics: senior wellness senior living senior living community wellness consulting what if resident wellbeing