ICAA Forum Think Tank Report Explains How to Operationalize Wellness

The senior living industry is embracing the need to change. In large or small shifts, at a rapid or measured pace, updated models are emerging that engage and support residents who desire a well life beyond care and housing.

Wellness recognizes that all areas of a person’s life are intertwined, and therefore every option for food and beverage, social encounters, fitness, lifelong learning, and daily interactions impacts wellness. How do you fully commit to a wellness culture that prioritizes quality of life for residents and the greater community? All the steps that must occur to go all-in and fully commit to wellness are detailed by the senior leaders who recently gathered at the ICAA Forum, hosted by the International Council on Active Aging.®

“It always goes back to mission,” said Colin Milner, CEO of International Council on Active Aging. “If the purpose of a senior living community is to provide housing and services, then wellness is integral to that purpose. Filling rooms to maintain occupancy is the key metric for senior living. But why do people want to move in? It’s the wellness lifestyle. How do organizations control costs and staffing needs? It’s the wellness culture.”

Because every community or building within a community is often at a different starting point when moving toward a wellness-centric model, colleagues at the ICAA Forum adopted the process framed in the Transtheoretical Stages of Change model to strategize how organizations can successfully transition to a wellness culture.

At each of the five stages of change to a wellness culture, action steps are outlined in the ICAA Forum report, “Going all-in for wellness”:

  • Stage 1. Precontemplation. There is no awareness of wellness as a business strategy.
    Actions: Assess the organization’s values and future positioning. Conduct an environmental assessment of the industry, potential residents and customers.
  • Stage 2. Contemplation. Wellness culture is seriously considered as a way to help move the organization forward.
    Actions: Merge the value proposition of wellness into the organization’s plans for the future. Write a wellness vision statement, and gather the data needed to complete a wellness feasibility study.
  • Stage 3. Preparation. Plan the steps to implement wellness as a cultural imperative.
    Actions: Align the wellness vision with all board members, executives and managers. Include wellness in the strategic plan. Conduct a wellness audit of the people, place and programs. Detail the wellness initiative in the wellness business plan, then create a wellness playbook to guide staff, managers, wellness champions and executives.
  • Stage 4. Action. Implement plans in all areas to operationalize wellness.
    Actions: Roll out elements of the plan. Deliver the wellness messaging to align staff and residents with the concept. staff champions and resident wellness champions facilitate rollout. Monitor results, expand successful implementations and change or replace less successful outcomes.
  • Stage 5. Maintenance. Sustain a stable and growing wellness culture.
    Actions: Deliver the messaging around wellness through all interactions. Maintain the wellness vision among board members, executives and residents. Act upon the wellness metrics, celebrating successes and refining initiatives.

“Many lessons were learned during the big changes caused by COVID restrictions,” said Colin Milner of ICAA. “The industry proved that it can move rapidly and institute big changes. Siloed structures collapsed, innovations flourished, and everyone had to think differently to maintain the quality of life of residents. The thought leaders at this Forum outlined actionable, scalable strategies every community can use to fully commit to a wellness-centric community—at every stage of development.”

The ICAA Forum think tank, sponsored by Humana, Keiser, Matrix, Smartfit, SportsArt and Accushield (the official health and safety partner), opened with Paul Johnson, Executive Vice President–Community Development at Rancho Mission Viejo and Helen Foster, Owner/Principal at Foster Strategy and strategic advisor to Willow Valley Communities, outlining the stages these organizations traveled along to integrate the wellness philosophy throughout operations. Industry leaders at the Forum represented life care/continuing care communities, independent living and assisted living/memory care residences and active adult properties,

The “Going all-in for wellness” report details action steps at each stage of the wellness journey. The report, along with “Funding the new wellness model in senior living,” is available for download on the ICAA website https://www.icaa.cc/listing.php?type=white_papers

ICAA Organizational and ICAA 100 members can access the “ICAA Wellness Audit” for free.

About the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA)
ICAA is a professional association that leads, connects and defines the active-aging industry and supports professionals who aspire to develop wellness cultures for adults over 50. This support includes creating wellness environments, programs and services. The association is focused on active aging—an approach to aging that helps older adults live life as fully as possible within all dimensions of wellness—and provides its members with education, information, resources and tools. As an active-aging educator and advocate, ICAA has advised numerous organizations and governmental bodies.