It can be challenging to convince decision makers to invest in quality, state-of-the-art fitness centers and equipment. Meet Alicia Estrada, Wellness Coordinator at Sunny View Retirement Community in Cupertino, CA. Here’s how she took a unique, proactive, data-driven approach and proved the impact that strength training has on falls before even asking for the investment in new equipment.
HUR: Alicia, you took a unique approach to convincing management to invest in a new fitness center and HUR equipment. Can you tell me more about what you did to get the necessary buy-in?
Alicia: I knew from previous experience that I’d be more likely to get buy-in from residents and management if I could prove the impact that consistent strength training and exercise has on fall prevention. So, the first year that I started working at Sunny View, I set up a research project designed to compare fall data for exercisers and non-exercisers. I worked with our Director of Health Services who kept a log of every resident who had a fall. I also collected information about which residents in our community were exercising at least three times a week. Then I compared the two data sets. The numbers clearly showed that those who weren’t exercising had a much higher risk of falling.
When I compiled several months of data, I presented it to our management team. I could clearly show that residents who exercise are significantly less likely to have a fall. The data caught the attention of our philanthropic partner, the Sunny View Foundation, which helped us secure the funding we needed to build a new fitness center equipped with HUR machines. I also put the data in our resident newsletter, which sparked attendance in our fitness classes and in the gym.
HUR: Why were you convinced in the first place that investing in strength training equipment would be good for the residents at Sunny View?
Alicia: My personal philosophy is to do everything I can to challenge residents in accordance with their ability, not their age. I think that sometimes, those of us in senior fitness approach our work with assumptions about what older adults can and can’t do that are based purely on their age. I wanted to push residents in accordance with their actual ability, rather than relying on stereotypes and resistance equipment was essential to this goal.
I also knew that strength training at least three times a week was extremely important for active, healthy aging. When I first started working at Sunny View, the community had very little strength training equipment, and what they did have was not appealing or appropriate for most of our residents. We had a variety of fitness classes, but nothing that provided adequate whole-body strength training. So, I made acquiring the right equipment my top priority.
HUR: Have you noticed changes in the residents who have been using the equipment on a regular basis?
Alicia: Absolutely. Since installing the HUR equipment, we’ve seen about a 20% increase in residents working out in the fitness center. The majority of residents who come into the wellness center are there specifically for strength training, and every month the numbers continue to grow.
One of the main reasons why we have more residents coming in to use the equipment every month is because of word of mouth. The residents are selling it themselves. They are motivating and encouraging other residents to come in here. When a new resident moves in, or someone alerts us of weakness or other health issues, I hear other residents encouraging them to come see me and ask to get set up on the HUR equipment.
Before we had the HUR equipment, I did my best to help residents get stronger. Some of them were weak enough that just getting in and out of a chair was a struggle. I got them started on a program with non-equipment exercises like step ups and leg extensions and it made some difference, but honestly, not a lot. They would make some improvements and then hit a plateau that they just couldn’t get over.
Now most of those same residents are working out on the HUR equipment and they get stronger with every workout. They aren’t struggling with basic activities like walking and getting in and out of a chair. Many are standing up straighter and not having to rely on support tools like railings, walkers, and canes to go about their day.
In addition to building strength the HUR SmartBalance is also making a tremendous difference for many of our residents. It’s helping them gain back control over their muscles and reflexes and reducing their chances of having a fall.
HUR: Does management and Sunny View Foundation feel that the investment was worth it?
Alicia: Definitely. They are extremely happy with the new fitness center and HUR equipment. They see residents coming in and out of the fitness center and know they made the right decision. In fact, they keep telling me that if we need anything else to please let them know.
Wellness is becoming the foundation of life at Sunny View because our management team truly believes in the power of wellness and in doing all we can to support healthy aging for our residents.
The other thing that’s been very exciting since installing the HUR equipment is that we are better able to serve the needs of our memory care and assisted living residents. Being able to offer such powerful resources to residents with disabilities is something we are very proud of.