By Emily Champion, Account Executive, Validic

As the overall population continues to age and the average life expectancy continues to increase, independent living communities (ILs) are becoming more common – and more competitive.  Potential residents and their adult children are focusing more on programs that resident communities offer, especially at a time when consumerism is growing in healthcare and such consumer behaviors drive the search for quality care. Individuals are looking to stay engaged physically and socially while living in their communities to help truly create that feeling of living at home. And, children want a home for their parents where they can be happy and well cared for. Increasingly, wellness programs are becoming a vital consideration for residents in these communities. For an aging population, managing adherence to the program can be a challenge; however, incorporating data generated by the members themselves – from their blood pressure devices or activity trackers – can help these communities offer a more impactful, yet unobtrusive, care experience that is easy for personnel to manage.

Incorporating Resident Data

Imagine the ability to know if a resident has had a sudden decrease in activity levels. Maybe they have been having issues with mobility or feeling dizzy, but since they are living in the independent living section and don’t have regular monitoring from care teams, there seems to be no major changes to the community staff. By tracking data generated from wearable devices, staff can identify sudden changes or even gradual trends – ones that can indicate an issue – and begin working with the resident to ensure there are no falls or other negative health events. Preventing a condition from progressing through more accurate, active management can allow the resident to continue to live indepently in the community and prevent them from having a hospital and rehab stay.

It can also be taken a step further and communities can create wellness programs and support groups around specific diseases that allow peers to address similar experiences. Such wellness programs allow the community staff to prevent complications from arising – ones that could cause a resident to have a medical event that would necessitate moving to a higher level of care. By pulling in data from devices like glucose meters, activity trackers, and blood pressure monitors, staff can empower residents to better track their own health while creating a community or support group around condition management.

Improved Physical Health

Wellness programs play a major role in improving residents’ physical health in ways that not only increase the length of their life, but also help residents age in place. When residents don’t have to travel long distances to acquire the care they need, they are able to become truly entrenched in their community – which can crucially improve a person’s quality of life. This is because residents can spend more time interacting with their community and socializing, rather than spending valuable time commuting to and from what may be frequent doctor’s appointments. Additionally, these wellness programs, which provide a level of preventive care by keeping people more active and encouraging positive behavior, reduce the need for residents to move onto a higher, more intensive level of care early on in their residency.

A report by ProMatura found that residents who participated in a wellness program lived in a community an average of two years longer compared with residents that weren’t participants.  When people are able to stay in a community longer and better adapt to their environment, they’re better able to maintain the independence that allows them to manage their own wellbeing (to an extent) and live a more pleasant lifestyle. Wellness programs also help to prevent frequent hospital readmissions, allowing hospitals to avoid reimbursement penalties from Medicare. By maintaining better awareness of residents conditions, communities can catch potential issues before a readmission is required.

Increased Resident Satisfaction

94 percent of seniors rate wellness offerings as extremely important, showing the increasing attention shown to not only living a longer life, but a more fulfilling one. Residents want to maintain a lifestyle similar to what they had before moving to an IL. And, as it’s known that physical health and mental health are closely connected, simple wellness activities as a part of daily life can improve a person’s state of mind. When residents are satisfied with their community and the options offered, they are more likely to refer friends and family. It is also an attractive feature for new residents and their adult children as they are comparing communities to live in. As seniors age and must focus on healthcare to manage chronic conditions and other health issues common for aging people, wellness becomes a critical theme. 80 percent of adults age 40 or older believe that managing chronic conditions is important – and a wellness program that emphasizes this will help to meet resident expectations.

Overarching Social Benefits

Wellness programs can be utilized to increase residents’ social interactions and keep residents engaged. As people age, their social participation begins to decrease, having a negative impact on their overall wellbeing. Involving residents in simple, new activities such as step challenges, laughter yoga, and other group activities can help combat that.

Overall, wellness programs have a multitude of benefits designed to keep residents active and engaged while allowing them to age in place – meaning residents can maintain a level of independence while still receiving the care necessary to manage complicated conditions. As baby boomers begin to look at moving into independent and assisted living communities, they bring a desire to stay healthy and socially active. They also bring an increased understanding of technology and the desire to continue their education. This opens up wellness programing options to include more digital solutions that can track trends and help residents improve their wellbeing, and more specifically, solutions that enable care teams to monitor residents remotely while giving them the independence many desire.

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