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Holistic Wellness

April 1, 2008
by Maureen Pearson
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Bringing wellness to elders

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association supports research that indicates adults over the age of 60 who had high levels of fitness are living longer.1 At Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC), where most residents are in their late 70s, the importance and benefits of wellness and fitness are part of the corporate mission: to provide resources to help elders age well in a place they call home. From the inception of VMRC's Wellness Center in the late 1990s, the vision for the facility was to complement VMRC's mission of providing a full continuum of the highest quality health and wellness care to elders through a broad array of programming in the six areas of wellness: spiritual, physical, emotional, social, intellectual and vocational.

VMRC's wellness center offers three different aqua exercise classes. janna zirkle leads an aqua-lite class that focuses on motion stretching and cardiovascular endurance

VMRC's Wellness Center offers three different aqua exercise classes. Janna Zirkle leads an aqua-lite class that focuses on motion stretching and cardiovascular endurance

Anna manikus uses various exercise props while promoting fitness to residents at crestwood assisted living at vmrc.

Anna Manikus uses various exercise props while promoting fitness to residents at Crestwood Assisted Living at VMRC.

Program goals for the Wellness Center reflected that mission as well:

  • to provide a quality facility and programming to adults age 50 and older

  • to operate a state-of-the-art wellness center dedicated to improving the quality of life and well-being of the 50+ population

  • to provide a broad scope of exercise and fitness activities including strength training, aerobic, and aquatic programs

  • to provide a variety of therapeutic programs, including physical and massage therapies

  • to serve as a central facility for coordinating community-wide seminars, lectures, health fairs, and other wellness programs that educate and inform

  • to promote and integrate wellness activities provided by other VMRC departments such as activities, pastoral care, nursing, restorative, social work, and dining services

  • to generate funding through memberships and therapeutic/rehabilitative services

The development plan for the Wellness Center emphasized that VMRC residents would be encouraged to continually develop, improve, and balance all six dimensions of wellness through a broad array of programming, both at the Wellness Center and throughout campus life. In addition to housing a high-caliber exercise facility, pool, and serving as the “hub” for wellness and fitness at VMRC, the Wellness Center would present community-wide wellness seminars to promote wellness and foster community goodwill and awareness of VMRC. In 2000, the Wellness Center opened as a fee-for-service center offering residents of the continuing care retirement community an opportunity to use state-of-the-art equipment in a professionally designed fitness environment. With the opening of the Wellness Center, VMRC administration had the hope that every resident would desire a personal life enrichment plan. However, staff acknowledged over time that not all residents possessed the interest or motivation to participate in wellness programs.

After considerable discussion of the voluntary choice of an individual's fitness and wellness goals and VMRC's philosophy of holistic wellness, the administration changed its fee structures at its Wellness Center to include Wellness Center membership with all new resident fees. Existing residents at that time had the opportunity to have their contracts rewritten to include Wellness Center fees. A new philosophy of wellness programming was created and delivered that enabled greater collaboration among fitness and rehabilitation staff to focus programs on residents' needs. The new wellness program delivery model encouraged more residents to take advantage of the services for which they were paying. In 2002, the Division of Life Enrichment and Spiritual Care became the integrated organizational division at VMRC to oversee the Wellness Center, Arts and Education, Pastoral Care, Volunteer Services, and Supportive Living Activities. Prior to the establishment of the Wellness Center, wellness activities and programs were offered to residents under various departments within VMRC's organizational structure. A unified vision for promoting wellness to residents existed, but the structure within which to implement wellness programs and education was missing. By creating the Division of Life Enrichment and Spiritual Care at VMRC, the administration remained faithful to its original vision and philosophy of providing wellness and holistic health to elders.

The expansion of Wellness Center membership to all VMRC residents created programmatic opportunities that reflect the full-range of wellness needs of the 750-resident population. By recognizing and providing for this spectrum of wellness needs, the Wellness Center at VMRC became one of only two long-term care providers in the Commonwealth of Virginia recognized by the International Council on Active Aging to offer wellness programming that covers the comprehensive range of fitness levels and abilities of elders:

  • designed to help residents regain strength and balance

  • designed to help residents improve overall health and well-being