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How Wellness Programs Improve Resident Satisfaction and Length of Stay

The highest levels of resident satisfaction are found in communities that prioritize wellness.

Staff and management at Senior Living communities face many challenges. But, one of the most pressing and demanding is figuring out how to motivate residents to become more engaged in fitness and wellness programs.

Fitness directors know that increased participation in fitness programs will promote physical, cognitive, social, and emotional wellness, ultimately leading to better overall quality of life and lower costs of care. And yet, before pouring time and resources into programs, they must first make a case for wellness based on unknown projections such as the number of participants, functional outcomes, and return on investment.

The International Council on Active Aging/ProMatura Wellness Benchmarks Report is a research report demonstrating the business advantages of lifestyle and wellness programs implemented in Continuing Care Retirement communities, Assisted Living communities, Independent Living communities, and Memory Cares communities.

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For fitness professionals who are working hard to show the business case for wellness, here are a few of the key points:

  • In continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), 77% of the residents who have participated in a wellness program said they are satisfied/very satisfied with the program. 
  • 84% of the wellness participants in CCRCs said they are very satisfied or satisfied with their overall quality of life at the community. 45% of participating residents said that taking part in a wellness program has made them much more satisfied with their overall quality of life at the community.
  • In communities offering independent living or a combination of independent plus assisted living, 84% of residents who participate in a wellness program said they are satisfied or very satisfied with it.
  • 94% of the participating residents in independent living or independent plus assisted living properties said they are satisfied or very satisfied with their overall quality of life at the community, and 44% said that they are much more satisfied with their quality of life because of the community’s wellness program.
  • 48%of CCRC participants and 43% of participants in independent living or independent plus assisted living communities said they agree or strongly agree that the wellness program was one of the primary reasons they selected the particular community in which they live.

In addition, the report included 5 important takeaways based on data that can provide senior living staff with the information they need to increase buy-in from residents and management alike. Let’s look briefly at each one.

#1. The link between participation and feeling healthy.

Many senior living communities offer a wide range of activities designed to promote active aging. Fitness classes, aquatics, strength training, hiking clubs, yoga, tai chi, and balance classes are becoming standard at communities across the nation.

Participation in these activities is related to how well a person feels. If a resident is sedentary and weak, the chances of active participation decrease. Of course, the reverse is also true. The healthier a person feels, the more likely they are to take part in physical activities offered within their community. The key is in getting residents to start. 

Some research shows that structured routines might make a big difference towards getting people moving. Look for ways that you can initiate daily structures for residents that includes some physical exercise. With residents who are very sedentary, the key is to start slow and increase the level of physical activity slowly. As they begin to feel better, the willingness to participation will also increase.  

#2. Evidenced-based wellness programs are the most effective path to long term participation.

For most of today’s seniors, wellness lifestyle programs and state-of-the-art fitness centers equipped with senior-focused equipment are one of the primary decision making criteria for choosing a senior living community. In fact, over 40% of older adults choose their community based on the wellness programming that is offered and whether or not the community has a fitness center.

Purposeful, evidenced based programs are the most effective in generating community-wide participation and attracting new residents. 

For communities determined to take a holistic approach to resident health, rehabilitation programs should offer a long-term wellness plan for each patient that picks up where physical therapy leaves off. Physical Therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology, exercise physiology, and consistent up-to-date clinical education for staff, can help separate an exemplary senior living community in high demand from an average one.

#3. Overall community satisfaction is directly tied to wellness programs.

Resident satisfaction and quality of life depend in large part on the health and wellness options available to them within their community. In fact, over 75% of residents say that participation in a wellness program has made them more satisfied with the overall community.

Obviously, this statistic is cyclical: the healthier a person feels, the more likely they are to feel positively about their community. But, it’s about more than physical health.

Adequate social opportunities are vital for anyone living in a senior living community. Wellness should not only focus on physical health but also allow residents to feel comfortable and connected within their community through social activities with other residents.

Fun social activities that also support physical health will allow residents who may take longer to get adjusted to a new living situation feel more comfortable. If residents are connecting to others and enjoying their community, they are more likely to become engaged in purposeful activities focused on their physical and cognitive health.

#4. The long-term benefits of wellness programs for senior living communities.

Effectively delivered wellness activities help residents feel healthy, and well-designed physical activity programs aid the ability of seniors to live independently for as long as possible. It is important for a rehabilitation practice to establish a motivating culture within the community that will engage residents and encourage them to participate.

If residents are participating and feeling as though they are in good to excellent health, they are generally going to feel an increased sense of satisfaction with their community. And, the better a resident feels about their living situation, the more likely they are to make a referral.

Executive directors must understand and apply the value of an evidence-based wellness program for residents and the long-term benefits it will have for the community.

#5. The advantages of a well-educated staff.

Programs led by well-educated staff who are up to date on the latest research and programs, lead to resident satisfaction with the program and the community as a whole.

As previously stated, effective fitness and wellness programs should provide evidence-based clinical education to the staff. Well-educated staff will have a better understanding of identifying potential fall risks, applying safety precautions, and decreasing their chances of getting hurt while transferring residents.

Providing consistent education can help reduce resident hospitalizations and staff injuries due to improper body mechanics.

Increasing resident satisfaction and length of stay is good for seniors and good for business.

New data collected by benchmark communities found that wellness participants have lived an average of almost two years longer in independent living and assisted living and one year longer in memory care when compared with the average length of stay of all residents.

Increasing participation in wellness programs and physical fitness is not an easy task. The best approach is to make wellness the center of community life and support a multi-dimensional continuum of care along with activities that interest a broad number of residents.

The quality of the wellness programming, fitness center, and equipment is equally as important. The most effective programs are proactive, well-funded, and based on and evidence-based structure designed to increase resident engagement.

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