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© Copyright 2004,
American Senior Fitness

Association

 

SUCCESSFUL WELLNESS CENTERS: A Case Study

Jan Montague, Kim Peters, and Wiley Piazza  Montague, Eippert & Associates


Jan Montague (center), Kim Peters (left) and Wiley Piazza (right) are colleagues at Montague, Eippert and Associates, which specializes in the design, development and implementation of wellness programs for older adults. For more information, please call Jan Montague at 859-442-5009 or visit www.me-a.com


Wellness Programs and Centers are becoming more prevalent in senior living communities across the country. Current information clearly indicates that wellness programming improves function and promotes successful living among older adults. Wellness initiatives at communities benefit both residents and staff. The next generation of residents will demand wellness as a way of life. Communities that do not have wellness programs may very well be thought of as being "behind the times". Often, communities are reluctant to commit the resources necessary for developing a comprehensive wellness program for fear of failure. In other words, what happens if this program is not a success?

The purpose of this article is to highlight several wellness programs that are successful. Montague, Eippert & Associates (specialists in the design, development and implementation of wellness programs and centers) have worked with individuals and communities across the country through consulting, training workshops, and as judges of national awards in identifying programs that work. Take this opportunity to learn from these professionals regarding the creation of a successful senior wellness program.

A Look At Wellness Across the Country

Twin Towers – Cincinnati, Ohio

Twin Towers, located in Cincinnati, Ohio, is accredited by the Continuing Care Accreditation Commission (CCAC) and by the Educational Assessment Guidelines Leading Toward Excellence (EAGLE). A state-of-the-art Wellness Center was constructed less than three years ago as a result of residents’ request and administrations’ desire to advance their commitment to a comprehensive wellness program. The wellness program became know as the Wellness Connection. The Wellness Connection has been recognized for Best Practice by both CCAC and EAGLE. PDT Architects/Planners have also been recognized by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Twin Towers Wellness Connection was selected to be published in the Design for Aging Review Six.

The wellness center facility includes a social area, check-in desk, skylit 25 meter swimming pool, spa, locker rooms, consultation areas, multi-purpose room, integrative therapy room and strength training and cardiovascular fitness room. Residents at Twin Towers are not charged a fee for usage of the center. Yearly fees are applicable for employees, volunteers, family members and outside community members.

The Wellness Connection employs a staff of 6.5 FTE’s, with a membership base of over 500 participants. Positions include a Wellness Director, Wellness Coordinator, Programming Specialist, Operations Assistant, Fitness Instructor, Aquatics Instructor, and a part-time Lifeguard/Instructor. "Having the appropriate number of staff members who are knowledgeable and qualified with the right personality is the key for a successful center," exclaimed Monica Smith, Wellness Director.

Ms. Smith also credits the Twin Tower’s wellness management team for continued program success. She remarked that, "The [management team] has embraced the wellness philosophy from the onset. It is known that Wellness is a philosophy of the organization and not just a department. Wellness is promoted by everyone throughout the community. The management team continues to be our best wellness ambassadors."

The management team was joined by Montague, Eippert & Associates for the planning and implementation of the project. Twin Towers received a private donation of $1,000,000 which was earmarked for the construction of the swimming pool. An additional donation of $500,000 was secured for the development of this wellness philosophy. These two generous gifts made it possible for Twin Towers to begin construction of the center to accompany the philosophy. Donations from residents and the outside community continue to support the programs operating expenses. This continued financial supports helps to ensure that residents may utilize the facility and services at no additional cost.

Does Twin Towers view their wellness initiative as a success? "The Wellness Connection has transformed our retirement community. Residents became involved in wellness activities more quickly than we ever imagined", states Scott McQuinn, CEO/President of Twin Towers. Ms. Smith concludes by adding, "Our success has been through the enhancement of quality of life and whole person wellness, not necessarily from a financial standpoint. Again, based on our outcomes, testimonials, and number of participants in our programs, we can clearly see that wellness does make a difference".

Colonial Heights and Gardens – Florence, Kentucky

Colonial Heights and Gardens is a Senior Living Community located in Florence, Kentucky. Administration at Colonial Heights and Gardens decided to create a wellness center to compliment their wellness philosophy. In fact there are two centers, one located in independent living and one located in the Personal Care building. The wellness centers consist of an exercise room and activity room. Residents are able to join the wellness center at no cost with a $15/month fee for employees. According to Laura Platz, Wellness Educator, "The wellness center is considered to be a key amenity [meaning it] plays an important role in keeping the apartments full thereby creating profit for the community."

The wellness staff is small but effective. Programs are coordinated by a Wellness Director and a Wellness Educator. These two staff members work closely with all departments to ensure that wellness is integrated into the entire Colonial Heights and Garden community. They also coordinate and instruct classes as well as evaluate and revise programs to continue to meet resident needs. While the program is flourishing, Ms. Platz hopes to eventually grow her staff.

With respect to the financial success of the program, Ms. Platz remarked that "Our community experiences financial success through our wellness program by the means of maintaining a higher census and less medical departures by residents. The residents experience financial success through less usage of prescribed medicine and fewer hospital visits."

The Colonial Heights and Gardens’ wellness program was not developed to generate revenue through membership fees. Rather, it was developed to meet the needs of current and future residents. The community administrators consider the wellness program to be successful with each new resident testimonial and with each new vacancy being filled. Colonial Heights and Gardens is committed to offering the wellness program and center as a benefit and service to their residents and staff.

Glacier Hills – Ann Arbor, Michigan

Glacier Hills Retirement Community is accredited by the Continuing Care Accreditation Commission (CCAC) and is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Their wellness center, The Wellness Connection @ Glacier Hills, has been in operation for approximately one year. The physical structure of The Wellness Connection consists of a fitness room and massage therapy suite. However, the wellness philosophy is reflected throughout the Glacier Hills community. According to Chris Eubank, Wellness Coordinator, "We aspire to be a ‘wellness-centered’ campus. The goal has been to establish a campus wellness philosophy versus just having an exercise program. We are working to have all departments and residents functioning together in implementing our wellness concept/philosophy".

An integral part of their wellness philosophy is to be inclusive and eliminate barriers regardless of individual abilities or disabilities. To accomplish this, The Wellness Connection is funded entirely through the general operating budget at Glacier Hills. There are no associated fees for staff or residents. However, a nominal fee may be charged for specialized classes or one-on-one programs.

The Wellness Connection is staffed by a full time Wellness Coordinator and a part time Massage Therapist. In addition, Tara Gilbert is Director of Rehabilitation and Wellness. This position is responsible for directing the wellness philosophy/culture throughout the entire Glacier Hills’ community.

Regarding the success of the wellness program, Mr. Eubank indicated that the Wellness Connection established five goals in its’ first year of operation, each of which has been met or exceeded. When asked more specifically about the financial success of the program, he had this to say: "We designed, implemented, and are operating our center/programs within an established budget. We consider it a success to be able to deliver such excellent services (based on the result of the member surveys) without having to charge a membership fee."

The Fountains of Melbourne - Melbourne, Florida

The Fountains of Melbourne is a Kisco Senior Living Community located in Melbourne, Florida. Three years ago, Kisco Senior Management, located in Carlbad, California, made a corporate wide decision to implement a whole person wellness philosophy in each of its communities. The Fountains is but one example of this corporate wide wellness initiative.

The wellness program at the Kisco communities is named "Healthy Strides". The Healthy Strides wellness program was initiated by Kisco Senior Living to address the quality of life commitment contained in their vision, principles, values, and beliefs statement. Wellness was also viewed as a key component in the financial performance of the Kisco properties. This commitment to wellness has been accomplished without added fees for any of its programming. Healthy Strides is funded through the annual budget of each community.

The Healthy Strides wellness center at the Fountains includes an outdoor pool, exercise room and locker rooms. The staff consists of a full-time Healthy Strides Director and Assistant Director. The wellness culture is assimilated into all aspects of the community, therefore, the Healthy Strides staff works in conjunction with all departments in promoting wellness. Every department contributes to wellness at The Fountains, according to Christine Schnitzer, Healthy Strides Director. It is easy to see that a small Healthy Strides staff is enhanced by everyone’s contribution to the wellness philosophy.

When asked to comment on the success of the Healthy Strides program. Ms. Schnitzer said, "Yes, very successful! In an effort to quantify our results, Kisco contracts with a service to conduct resident, family and associate surveys. The most recent scores in all surveys indicate our wellness programming is above the industry average in all areas and provides The Fountains with a competitive advantage is this arena. Also, being recognized as the 2003 NuStep Pinnacle Award National Winner, Best Senior Wellness Program, validated our work and efforts. Most importantly, it is our ability to really listen to our residents regarding their needs and concerns and then, program accordingly. Our residents’ positive feedback provides continued proof that we are on the right track."

Conclusion

These case studies provide further evidence that wellness programs across the country are successful regardless of the size of the program or the number of staff. It is also clear that a successful wellness program requires a dedicated staff and the support of everyone in the community. This support begins with administration and involves all departments. Each of these programs is based on a sound wellness philosophy and involved the entire community from the very beginning. Comprehensive wellness programming makes a difference in the lives of everyone associated with a senior living community. Developing a whole person wellness program is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do.

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