For Senior Living Communities, is Wellness Connected to Dollars?

In the United States, people ages 50 and above spend over three trillion dollars a year. This population accounts for one out of every two consumer dollars spent and possesses nearly 70% of all disposable income. With the number of older adults continuing to rise over the next couple of decades, the opportunities to serve them grows as well.

Today’s older adults are creating a demand for products and services that we’ve never really seen before. Their needs, wants, and expectations are as diverse as they are. Yet, one trend emerges strong across the board: the expectation that they will live long, healthy, active lives regardless of age or health conditions.

For many Senior Living Communities, this means a renewed focus on creating a robust wellness program to meet the demand. But, how exactly is wellness connected to dollars? How can Senior Living Communities better serve their clients while supporting the profitability of their business? Perhaps most importantly, what is the impact of ignoring the demand for services that support active aging, or putting it off until later?

As with most things, the amount of resources that Senior Living Communities invest in active aging services is directly related to a future return. The question is, what are realistic expectations for that return? Let’s take a look…

Case Studies in Wellness Initiatives: Fuller Village and Paradise Valley Estate

Fuller Village, an independent senior living community in Massachusetts, opened the doors to a new, state-of-the-art fitness center just over a year ago, the cornerstone of which was 5 pieces of HUR SmartTouch strength training machines.

Andrea Doherty, the community’s Marketing & Operations Director, explained that “Since we are solely an independent living community, it’s important we offer amenities & services that support our residents’ independence so they can maintain an active lifestyle while living at Fuller Village. We viewed building a new fitness center as a necessity to attract the next generation of residents who have an increasing desire for access to wellness and fitness programs that promote healthy and active aging. Many of our residents were, in fact, leaving the community to go to a nearby health club daily. Building the fitness center was necessary if we are to remain competitive in the marketplace moving forward.”

The investment has paid off. Since opening the new fitness center, they’ve added between 20 – 30 people to their waiting list and experienced a 50% decrease in the time it takes to sell an available unit.  

Paradise Valley Estatesin Northern California, launched a unique personal training program last year that’s improving the lives of residents while also providing resources for growth and improvement for the entire wellness program.

Rather than offering personal training as a part of their all-inclusive wellness program, they charge residents an extra fee to participate. While the residents were somewhat resistant at first, the extra fee was the right move. Participation is up. Residents want to get their money’s worth, and so they work harder and train more consistently. The fees generated an additional $90,000 for Paradise Valley, allowing them to expand their wellness program even more.

Fuller Estates and Paradise Valley are just two examples of how investing in wellness is a strategic business decision that can have a serious and nearly immediate impact on growth. As they’ve both experienced, a robust wellness program and state-of-the-art fitness facility is hugely important to attracting older adults who want to remain active for as long as possible.

But, wellness services and amenities aren’t only attracting already active seniors. A large group of seniors who have led largely inactive lives is facing a difficult fact of life: health issues and functional limitations just when they finally have time to do many of the things they haven’t had time for in the past. Research shows that a commitment to a healthier lifestyle can restore function at any age. This possibility is driving more and more seniors to look for communities that will support their desire to adopt a healthier lifestyle that will keep them active and independent.

From a Medical Model of Healthcare to a Focus on Wellness 

As “active aging” defines itself as an industry in its own right, businesses are responding to consumer demands and changing stereotypes of what it means to be old. There is a distinct shift away from a medical model of healthcare and towards a focus on wellness that includes providing older adults with the information, choices, services, and products they need to take charge of their health.

The World Health Organization defines active aging as allowing people to, “realize their potential for physical, social, and mental well-being throughout the life course and to participate in society, while providing them with adequate protection, security and care when they need.” 

In other words, active aging means living a full life, with the ability to be engaged in activities that provide purpose and enjoyment. This is what seniors want. And they’re looking for communities that will help them do it.

To meet the demand for active-aging services and amenities, it’s more important than ever for senior living facilities to provide residents with on-site wellness and fitness centers that include space and equipment for a wide variety of options. As mentioned earlier, this is a diverse group and a one-size-fits-all wellness program does not appeal to many of them.

The industry is responding, and it’s paying off.

According to an ACAA 2017 survey of 664 organizations that offer lifestyle opportunities and/or support services for older adults, 66% have a formal wellness program. 89% will continue to expand their wellness program by adding more activities, classes or programs, and 85% plan to build or renovate a fitness center or fitness room.

The same survey revealed that there has been an increase of 2.7 years in the length of stay of wellness participants in independent living communities when compared to all residents. In addition, nearly 44% of residents of these communities “strongly agree or agree” that the wellness program was their primary reason for moving in.

Many of these communities are planning to upgrade their fitness equipment in the near future. The vast majority – 78% – say their top consideration when purchasing equipment is that it can be used by people with different levels of “functional ability”, and 44% plan to track participation and outcomes throughout their entire wellness program. Why? Because these communities understand that both decisions will have a positive impact on their bottom line.

The role of technology as a support to wellness

Many older adults spend a lot of time alone and are at risk for a fall or other behavior changes going unnoticed, especially in larger communities. Emerging technology is providing answers to problems such as these in new, highly effective ways. Motion sensors installed in baseboards and doorways can “learn” a person’s daily routine and send a signal if that routine is interrupted. Communication systems are becoming a routine feature of many senior living communities.

The Fairways of Ironhorse in Leawood, KS, is breaking new grounds with cutting edge technology akin to having a butler and a personal trainer at your service 24/7. This new luxury senior living community also includes a large gym equipped with HUR strength training equipment that’s equipped with SmartTouch technology.

We were especially excited about HUR’s SmartTouch technology because it’s so in line with our focus on using technology to enrich our resident’s lives.”– Brett Johnson, Partner, Overland Property Group

If wellness is a part of your Senior Living Community’s strategic plan, partnering with HUR is a good option.

HUR’s pneumatic equipment and automated SmartTouch technology set us apart as the number one choice in the world for strength training solutions for active aging, senior living, rehabilitation, and the inclusive wellness markets.