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How Senior Living Providers Are Delivering Wellness At Every Price Point

An increasing number of senior living providers are placing wellness at the heart of their operational approach. How that occurs, however, varies by price point.

Market-rate and high-end providers have a variety of resources at their disposable but also have a high bar to clear, for residents and family members with high expectations.

Middle-market and affordable providers, meanwhile, have to provide wellness within the constraints of their budgets, and view wellness initiatives as another way to make operations more efficient, and to strengthen their workforce cultures in order to facilitate more positive outcomes.

The two approaches share one common bond, however: having a fundamental understanding of the residents they serve. That’s according to leaders with Ventana by Buckner and CiminoCare, who spoke during a recent webinar hosted by Senior Housing News.

At any price point, residents demand consistency, predictability, transparency, and some agency in the wellness offerings, said Mark Cimino, CEO and Owner at CiminoCare.

Forging partnerships at a luxury community

Establishing innovative partnerships has been a linchpin for the wellness approach of Buckner Retirement Services’ Ventana by Buckner, a 325-unit high-rise continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Dallas.

Based in Dallas, Buckner owns and operates six retirement campuses across the Lone Star State. Ventana, which won “Best CCRC Design” in the 2019 SHN Architecture and Design Awards, is marketed as luxury senior living and is equipped with upscale amenities including wellness and fitness centers, a heated pool, multiple patios, a salon and spa, a rooftop garden, and a movie theater.

To Danica McGuire, executive director of Ventana by Buckner, wellness is defined as a lifestyle rooted in variety, and is the main reason residents move to Ventana.

“For the majority of our members, wellness is something that’s been a part of their lives, always,” she said.

To that end, Ventana partners with CooperAerobics, a Dallas-based health and wellness firm that pioneered aerobics, in most of the facets of its wellness offerings. Residents can create personalized fitness programs where they work one-on-one with a CooperAerobics trainer, and track their progress via specialized cards inserted into gym equipment.

CooperAerobics also offers group fitness classes that address a range of fitness levels from beginner to athlete.

“It’s their social hour. There is something for everyone, and that is really the goal of a fitness journey,” McGuire said.

For Ventana’s dining operations, Buckner partnered with Texas-based chef Stephan Pyles, regarded as one of the founding fathers of modern Southwestern cuisine, to create Ventana’s dining program. The partnership generated substantial interest in the community, and set a high bar for meeting or exceeding the expectations of incoming residents, and getting them to embrace foods outside their comfort zones.

“[Pyles] brings an energy that flows throughout the dishes that are made here. Our executive chef has one of the toughest jobs, because you have a real mix of people [set in their ways]. You have to figure out the balance,” McGuire said.

Integrating wellness across a middle-market portfolio

Providers such as CiminoCare, which operate at lower price points, do not have the budgets or the space to offer wide-ranging wellness programs. Some buildings, in particular, may have some level of functional obsolescence to contend with, Cimino said.

The Citrus Heights, California-based provider owns and manages a portfolio of 10 communities in northern and central California serving middle-market and affordable price points, and offering a range of options from independent living and assisted living, to respite and transitional care, and hospice.

CiminoCare does not have a centralized wellness program and, instead, empowers local leadership teams to evaluate available resources within their greater communities to identify potential partners for wellness initiatives. This approach can be time consuming, however, as executive directors and department heads are dealing with multiple issues within their buildings.

Some CiminoCare properties have found success forging partnerships with outside vendors that did their own outreach into providing services such as one-on-one therapy sessions or personal training, with residents paying for it.

“If you can get one client, the word will get around, and then maybe [you add] two or three [more]. You can then make the argument to the administration that they should do a class, and it’s [more] affordable for the community to undertake as a class versus individual therapy sessions,” Cimino said.

The best way to get residents to buy into a successful wellness initiative is to give them an ownership stake in the offerings.

This is especially challenging to middle-market providers because of market variances. A dining program that might be popular in San Francisco may not be in demand in central California, for example.

CiminoCare encourages its executive directors and local teams to survey residents at its communities on what they want to see in wellness offerings, Cimino said. This gives residents and their families a sense of ownership and purpose in the programming of their communities, and increases the chances of an initiative succeeding.

Such an approach can occur at all care levels. Some of the programs that CiminoCare’s memory care residents have participated in include hosting fundraisers for pet shelters or groups such as the Alzheimer’s Association. These serve a wellness objective by fostering a sense of purpose among residents.

“We try as much as possible, even in our memory care communities, to keep residents contributing purposefully – they still have inherent value to give,” he said.

At Ventana, communication between staff, residents and their families is essential to providing residents with the agency, regardless of how tough a conversation might be for staff to hear, McGuire said.

Purpose, she believes, is when all stakeholders are on the same page and moving in the same direction to facilitate the best possible outcomes for residents. Gauging the needs and concerns of residents and their families forces providers to question if they are doing enough within their operations to provide the best possible dining and programming experiences to generate these outcomes.

“Instilling a sense of purpose is about answering the hard questions, and having those hard conversations with loved ones, in fitting outside of the box,” she said.

Budgeting for wellness

Budgeting for a successful wellness program can be a tough endeavor, even at market-rate price points.

Ventana’s partnership with CooperAerobics helps the community with costs, to an extent. But there are other pain points when budgeting, McGuire said.

For example, Ventana’s census tends to be more highly educated than the standard senior housing resident, and residents are constantly seeking out new knowledge. Factor in a highly competitive senior housing landscape in Dallas, and providers in the market find themselves under pressure to offer unique wellness programs.

In addition to providing budgetary relief, Ventana’s relationship with CooperAerobics has provided a competitive advantage in the Dallas market. CooperAerobics’ founder, Dr. Kenneth Cooper, has hosted educational seminars for the community’s residents. Yoga classes at Ventana have an educational component, as well. And many of the community’s residents are willing and able to pay for private lessons.

“It’s a constant ebb and flow, based on the culture of the members that are here,” McGuire said.

At CiminoCare, local teams do comprehensive assessments of department operations and budgets, adding a layer of transparency to residents and their families regarding what the rates they pay cover.

The assessments also allow local teams to budget departments accordingly, based on resident demand and market expectations. This also allows CiminoCare to staff at levels appropriate to deliver the best possible offerings.

“Transparency is part of wellness,” Cimino said.

The post How Senior Living Providers Are Delivering Wellness At Every Price Point appeared first on Senior Housing News.

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