The definition of “wellness” continues to evolve in society-at-large and senior living facilities across the US are following suit, a prospect that Cambridge Realty Capital Companies Chairman Jeffrey Davis is enthusiastic about. “The old view of integrating wellness into a senior living facility was to offer a few weekly exercise classes in a common room or to build a fitness gym or spa.” This antiquated theory of wellness during the senior years is being replaced with a more holistic approach. While diet, exercise, and regular medical attention have always been, and are still, crucial, the idea of wellness in the 21st century also includes social, mental, emotional and even spiritual management. Health care professionals of all disciplines now recognize that all of these facets are intertwined. If one area is functioning poorly, it can negatively affect the rest and thus decrease the overall quality of life.

Health care professionals, seniors advocates and even developers of senior facilities now recognize that simply building a campus with a gym or spa does not necessarily ensure residents’ wellness. A fitness gym may look attractive to a family helping a loved one choose a senior living facility, but the mere presence of a gym does not provide any health benefits to seniors if they do not actually use it to exercise.

Because of this, modern senior living communities of all types are taking a much more proactive approach to wellness. It’s a shift away from the “if you build it (a gym), they will come” mentality to one of actively ensuring that every resident can access wellness programs, has ample opportunity to do so, and, most importantly, have guided programs tailored to need and skill level. It also facilitates an approach that includes more than just a senior’s physical health.

The Trail Ridge Senior Living Community in Sioux Falls, SD, which includes independent living, assisted living and memory care under one domain, is one facility that is leading the way in holistic wellness. It provides residents with a functional health assessment to determine individual needs. Individuals are then funneled into one of three distinct levels of fitness programming which encompasses 20 different classes. Classes address cardiovascular health, strength and balance, gait, flexibility, posture, and center of gravity. Presbyterian Village North (PVN) in Dallas, TX, which provides five different types of housing options and care types, also espouses a holistic approach to wellness. It addresses six facets of health in its residents: social, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, occupational and physical. Every program, class, and service that PVN offers focuses on at least one of these areas of wellness.

The shift toward whole-person wellness that is facilitated with intentionality and guided by professional staff is one that Cambridge chairman Jeffrey Davis sees as critical to the health and success of senior living as it moves into the future. Not only is it a model that “sells” in the eyes of a senior and his or her family, but it also speaks to the dignity and value of the individual senior and the senior population as a whole.

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