In senior living, especially in recent years, we associate wellness with exercise programs, life enrichment programs, and social events. But what is wellness, really? And is your organization or community truly “wellness ready”?
Guest columnist Kelly Stranburg (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior wellness specialist and CEO of Excellence in Wellness, LLC. Excellence in Wellness partners with individuals, communities, senior living settings, and organizations to design outcome-based programs and events to meet wellness needs and goals. CEO, Kelly Stranburg brings over 20 years of experience managing and operating in the fitness, aquatic, and senior living industries. She is a certified exercise physiologist and a certified strength and conditioning specialist. Stranburg's passion lies within helping people live their best life through her programs and offerings.
Wellness encompasses much more than just programming, and it involves many facets of living and the environment in which we reside. According to a 2018 International Council on Active Aging survey, 59% of staff and managers within senior living believe that, in the next five years, retirement communities will be based on wellness with options for care. So, what should we be focusing on? Programming is a huge piece of wellness, but we should also consider dining options that educate and bring people together beyond the regular seating arrangement; additional services such as laundry services or pet care; and opportunities for unique partnerships with the surrounding community to support connectivity and continued involvement in hobbies, passions, and volunteer opportunities.
What is your environment like? Are you considering environmentally-friendly lighting that supports aging eyes? Construction materials with reduced impact on the environment that do not negatively impact health? Selections of colors that soothe and calm when appropriate and stimulate in areas such as fitness centers and learning classrooms? What tools, resources, or technologies are being implemented that support wellness? Ultimately, consideration for how one’s senses are impacted by the environment should drive design, material, and technology selection. This is essentially an element of care and directly impacts the well-being of an individual in a living space. If the senses and how one feels in the environment are not taken into consideration, can we really claim we are a community focused on wellness and well-being?
With that being said, how do you know your efforts in the wellness arena are making an impact? Information gathering methods such as tracking attendance at various program offerings and resident satisfaction surveys are regularly utilized to drive decisions and changes in daily operations. But deeper data is essential in order to learn if what you are offering is truly impacting the wellness of your residents. Yes, the aforementioned methods do give you data, but are they telling you the impact you are having on your residents’ actual health and well-being?
A platform such as Wellzesta focuses on the wellness of an organization by tracking community-wide initiatives, as well as individual wellness goals. A resident may want to increase the amount they walk each day to increase their HDL level and stay mobile for independence. An Apple Watch may be paired with the Wellzesta platform to support them in tracking their daily progress toward this goal. Wellzesta can communicate through the Apple Watch to remind the resident daily to stay on track with their personal health goals. But better yet, the community can see that efforts to provide a wellness-based living environment are paying off, as the resident is maintaining or improving their wellness! And of note, this is not a structured program, this is an example of a living environment that is focused on resident well-being. The ability to track progress for that individual and be able to intervene if necessary or celebrate progress is priceless.
I encourage senior living providers to step back and really look at the living environment they provide.
Is it engaging the whole person?
- Does it positively impact all the senses?
- Do you support wellness beyond programming alone?
- How do you measure and track the impact you are having?
As an industry, we are changing so quickly as our consumer changes and the wellness component is not going anywhere. The ROI that can occur for both the residents and the bottom line of an organization can be exponential if wellness comes to the forefront of operations. Wellness is here to stay, so finding ways to embrace and merge it into operations will support long-term success.