Wellness Programs at Senior Living Communities are Good for Residents and Great for Business

“The Longevity Bonus” is a term that comes up frequently in articles and discussions among retirement experts, economists, and senior living executives. The term refers to the extra 30 years (or so) that have been added to the average American lifespan, according to mortality statistics, and includes fewer years of disability, especially amongst health-conscious seniors.

In a Time Magazine article titled Your Longevity Is Good For Businessthe author writes that people over the age of 50 represent  "a global market nearly the size of China,"and that "people past the age of 50 control 70% of the nation's disposable income."

For senior living communities, these facts lead to important questions: 

  1. What is the economic impact of the longevity bonus and how does it affect the long-term growth and sustainability of our industry?
  2. What products and services are seniors looking for in their effort to live longer and more active lives?

In other words…

Is there a business case for quality wellness programs in senior living communities?

And, if so, what elements make up a profitable program?

The length of an average life today is unprecedented in human history and redefining our world. Today’s older adults literally have entire decades longer than their parents and grandparents to be productive and engaged in the world. More than just living longer, seniors have an expectation of living “well” and are looking for services that support their aspiration for an active healthy life well beyond the age of 65. 

To meet the needs of seniors who are living longer and aging in place, many senior living communities are rethinking their business model, and the services and amenities they provide for residents, and moving towards a stronger emphasis on wellness and active senior living. This is a smart move, as a strong correlation can be drawn between the strength of a community’s wellness program and the ability to attract and retain residents who are satisfied with their quality of life within the community. Furthermore, when residents maintain their ability to live independently, their financial resources are preserved and spent within the community for a longer length of time. 

According to the ICAA/ProMatura National Wellness Benchmarks Report for 2017, participation in wellness activities helps senior living residents live independently for longer periods of time. This means more years spent within the community. And more years spent within the community means a stronger financial outlook for the community itself.

Key Takeaways from the 2017 ICAA/ProMatura National Wellness Benchmarks Report

  1. Communities that promote an active lifestyle are more likely to include residents who are satisfied with life in the community.
  2. Wellness programs are a key reason behind why residents choose to live in any given senior living community.
  3. Residents who participate regularly in their community’s wellness activities tend to have a longer length of stay in independent living, and feel that the money they spend to live there is money well spent.
  4. How satisfied residents are with the community and their own quality of life is largely impacted by the community’s wellness offerings.
  5. Offering a variety of classes and activities led by educated staff has a strong impact on resident satisfaction with the entire community.

It’s not just important to have a wellness program.

For the program to impact the bottom line, residents must participate.

Since 2015, the ICAA annual benchmark report statistics demonstrate that residents who participate in their community’s wellness program are more satisfied with their quality of life and their decision to live in the community. What’s more, they feel that the money required to live there is worth it because the community contributes to their good health. 

In many cases, participation is tied to the quality of the community’s wellness staff and a well-equipped on campus gym. In the 2017 ICAA benchmark report, the communities that boast high participation levels in their wellness program employ well-educated wellness professionals who are actively involved in leading a variety of programs for residents. Many of these communities had also invested in state-of-the art fitness centers equipped with a variety of exercise equipment.

While somewhat unconventional, adding programs for an extra fee is one option that could provide resources to hire more wellness staff and increase resident participation. For example, Paradise Valley Estates in northern California, beganoffering Personal Training for an extra fee in 2017, generating an additional $90,000. What’s more, they found that the extra fee actually increased exercise participation. 

“Residents want to get their money’s worth, and so they work harder and train more consistently. The additional funds allow us to hire more trainers and offer more classes. Residents are happy, and spread the word like wildfire. More personal training clients allows us to improve the program even more. It’s a cyclical win-win situation for everyone.” - Jan Olsen, the Fitness and Living Well Manager at Paradise Valley Estates

Community is a significant part of a successful wellness program.

Nearly 50% of those studied in the 2017 ICAA annual benchmark report say that their community’s wellness program was a major reason why they chose to live in the community in the first place. What’s more, for many residents, the wellness program is an influential factor in feeling like they belong.

One of the main reasons that active healthy seniors choose to move into a senior living community is for the community. Many older adults want to live in a community of their peers, with access to a wide range of personal pursuits right on campus. Wellness programs are a huge part of this, giving residents another way to get involved and fill their days with meaningful activities. Group classes become a way to interact with others. Well-equipped on campus gyms become social hubs. 

“When residents show up at The Wellness Connection, they receive support and encouragement from a community of people that care. Everyone is there for a positive purpose and they leave feeling great after every visit.” — Dane Mans, Wellness Connection Coordinator, Three Pillars Senior Living Communities

The Decision to Invest in Wellness

Every day, senior living executives are faced with decisions that impact the community’s ability to serve both residents and staff, and establish a foothold as a healthy thriving business with a secure future. This is, at times, a daunting task. But, one of the most effective ways to balance revenue and costs while differentiating their community in the marketplace is by investing in their wellness program. 

Traditionally, senior living communities have been viewed as places to go when one’s health starts to deteriorate. Today’s communities can not only differentiate themselves, but entice residents to move in sooner, by positioning themselves as a place for active, healthy adults who want to live in a community where health is maintained and even improved.