Over the past 20 years, fitness centers in Life Plan Communities have undergone a major transformation, adding state-of-the-art equipment in large rooms with lots of natural light, and enhancing personal training programs. But to truly meet the wellness needs and expectations of today’s and tomorrow’s prospective residents, community wellness programs need to go well beyond offering strong fitness programs.
In this, the second of a two-part series on exceptional wellness programs, we take a look at the life enrichment program at Meadowood in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. In a previous blog, we took a close look at John Knox Village in Pompano Beach, Florida. Both communities received the 2022 ICAA NuStep Pinnacle Award as being one of the top five senior living communities for wellness in North America.
Wellness Is More Than a Department
“At Meadowood,” said Regina Farrell, vice president of health services, “wellness is not a department. It’s something that is at the core of the community. We’re really trying to make wellness an experience for our residents, our staff and our community. We take a personalized approach to working individually with each person to develop a whole-body, whole-mind approach to wellness.”
Becky Anhorn, Meadowood’s director of fitness and wellness, described the community’s approach to its program, which has been branded as “Meadowell.” “We meet individually with each new resident. We do an assessment to determine what their goals are, and where they see their needs in the next year. Then we work to develop a whole-body program that meets them where they are, with the abilities they have. Each person’s program is unique to them. And once that program is developed, our job is to be the concierge that helps them connect with the departments in the community that can provide the support they need along the way.”
At Meadowood, this includes providing emotional support, nutrition education, evaluating residents’ physical environment and tapping into their vocational skills, as well as offering fitness support. Each year the community reassesses each of the seven areas of wellness and revises residents’ plans for the coming year.
Wellness Extends Beyond Independent Living
Meadowood’s Meadowell program is not just limited to independent living residents. It is extended into higher levels of care and to employees as well.
“One of our staff members keeps telling us she is ‘working in the land of unicorns,’” says Ms. Farrell. “She can’t believe we offer the same assessments and coaching to team members that we do for residents. Extending Meadowell to employees has definitely helped our employee retention. We installed a basketball hoop in our wellness garden to enable team members to destress during lunch breaks, and a team of employees is training together to compete in a Tough Mudder event.”
In Meadowood’s McLean Memory Care program, the wellness program includes (among many other things) sports and spiritual experience stations along an infinity loop, a garden residents can work in, another garden in which they can enjoy a peaceful environment, and an equine therapy program where residents visit a local farm and can both ride and groom the horses. “It’s amazing to see someone with significant memory impairment just come alive when they are with a horse,” said Ms. Farrell. “And all of this is research-based,” she added. “There is a lot of research with people in memory care that shows that doing things from their childhood creates better memory capacity.”
Tracking Engagement and Results
A challenge of all wellness programs seems to be effectively tracking and measuring engagement. While the hope is that software will soon be available to automate more of this today, much of Meadowood’s tracking requires a lot of hands-on compilation. “We track everything for residents and staff,” said Meadowood’s Ms. Farrell. “Personal training, wellness coaching, who attends classes, how many people are using various facilities, everything. We put our events into CareMerge and can track attendance there, which helps, but we do a lot manually, too. We continuously evaluate what is working and what needs to be changed.”
As for creating engagement, at Meadowood, old and new forms of communication combine to maximize participation. “Of course, we promote all of our wellness programming on internal social media and online channels,” said Ms. Farrell. “But we also put up old-school posters around the community. People have different communications preferences, so we adopt different approaches to reach the most people.”
Speaking of engagement, one of Meadowood’s most popular events is its annual fall Flügel Fest. Flügel Fest is a combined effort between residents and staff to create a two-day event featuring a beer garden, German food, a concert and many competitive matches held all over campus, including badminton, bocce, cornhole, golf, shuffleboard, Wii bowling and water volleyball. Meadowood team members described it as “a great way for residents and staff to come together as a community.”
Strong Wellness Programs Generate a Strong ROI
Is this investment in comprehensive wellness programs paying off? “Absolutely,” said John Kotsatos, Meadowood’s vice president of sales and marketing. “All of our competitors have fitness programs, but they don’t have comprehensive wellness programs like Meadowell. Our Meadowood Club members, which is our waitlist, are highly engaged in Meadowell, and that is really our feeder for independent living. We are able to fill vacant residences right away, and we’ve also been able to significantly reduce our investment in other marketing efforts. It’s been a great return on investment!”
What is the future for Meadowell? “We want to find a way to share the program with the greater community,” said Mr. Kotsatos. “We have such great people here who are educated in the field, and who care so much. We’d like to be able to provide services for people outside of our walls, to benefit the greater community as well.”