Most of us have heard these terms thrown around in the aging services field when it comes to wellness – “whole person”, “holistic lifestyle”, and “person-centered care”. It is easy to use these terms in glossy marketing brochures or on a website, but how much of this are we really accomplishing within our communities?
At Blakeford, we realized that we were just scratching the surface with our lifestyle offerings. We had to be more than a provider of housing and services. We needed to effectively address the whole person wellness to truly meet our mission and vision.
To begin, we had to discover who we truly wanted to be as a community by developing our wellness vision philosophy. Here are a few things we did in our initial discovery time that may help your community as you explore this.
- Ask Yourself – What you are already doing well in your Wellness and Life Enrichment programs? What is the current culture of your community? What could be impacted the most if you were able to allocate additional resources and development time into it?
- Reach Out – Identify others in the field both locally and nationally who could offer insight into the assessment and development of your offerings. LeadingAge, International Council on Aging, and MatherLifeways Institute on Aging are great resources offering continuing education, toolkits, and trend reports. Visiting other communities with vibrant programs already in action is helpful and encouraging as well. You can also utilize a Wellness Consultant. We utilized the services of Mendez Wellness Consulting.
- Research – Get a good feel for what is going on in the aging services world. Connect with resources such as International Council on Aging, American Society on Aging, MatherLifeways Institute on Aging, and LeadingAge’s National Wellness and Wellbeing listserv. These resources will also link you with seminars and webinars helpful to your development.
- Listen – Gather feedback from your current team members and residents. What offerings/activities do they currently enjoy. What needs to be improved. This can be accomplished through informal focus groups and surveys. You may even want to gather feedback from your sales and marketing department, future residents, and other stakeholders. The more people you have on board on the early side of your development, the better!
Once you have determined your biggest opportunities you are ready to create a plan for moving forward. There are “pre-packaged” wellness models and toolkits available. For example, MatherLifeways has a toolkit to help you navigate these waters. Another option is to create your own wellness philosophy and brand, which is what Blakeford did.
After you have established the direction you plan to go, whether it’s using a toolkit or developing your own brand, take a look at your community’s lifestyle calendars and “audit” them against your mission/vision. Ask questions like:
- Where are you missing opportunities?
- Are you heavy on Social Wellness and light on Intellectual Wellness?
- Are you providing diverse Physical Wellness opportunities to meet the varying needs of the residents?
Involve your Life Enrichment and Wellness teams in this process so they have more of a buy-in. In addition to this initial evaluation, you should keep your philosophy top of mind by constantly using it as a measure for success and future goal planning with your team.
The information gathered through the planning stage will guide you when educating your community on your ultimate vision.
You will want to get the word out to your entire community through various means. Some good ideas – team meetings, resident council, and internal print communications. Make sure the wellness brand logo is displayed on the website, newsletters, calendars, and sales materials.
Work with your HR department to get the message to your team members to ensure they understand the opportunities available to them. Help them understand the importance of a wellness culture for our residents.
It is also important to have the right people in the right places. If you can, choose to hire an in-house team rather than having to contract out for these roles. In addition to our Life Enrichment team, we hired a full-time Wellness Coordinator four years ago to meet the physical wellness needs of our residents.
Since then, we have grown our team to also include a Spiritual Care Services Department. Our full-time Chaplain meets the emotional and spiritual needs of our residents and team members. Again, the goal of our philosophy is to meet the whole person, not just the physical needs.
It may seem an overwhelming process. In the end, though, you’ll have a true wellness philosophy that touches every area of the community.
Holli Passmore serves as the Administrator for Independent Living Services and Director of WellLife for Blakeford at Green Hills.