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April 1, 2008
by Perry Edelman, PhD and Jan Montague, MGS
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First national survey identifies changing expectations for LTC

Editor's note: This month, Long-Term Living takes an in-depth look at the National Whole-Person Wellness Survey and wellness in general and how this culture change is impacting long-term care facility owners and administrators. Our coverage begins with Perry Edelman, PhD, director of outcomes research at Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging and Jan Montague, MGS, vice-president of community life at Lakeview Village, Lenexa, Kansas, explaining the significance of the first National Whole-Person Wellness Survey, undertaken last year. To see how the survey findings are working in the real world, we introduce you to holistic health at the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, Harrisonburg, Virginia; a forward-thinking facility that introduced whole-person wellness back in the late 1990s. We also present a discussion with Cornelia Hodgson, AIA, a well-known authority on wellness environments for seniors. We hope our coverage educates and inspires you to embrace whole-person wellness in your facility; and if you already have, to reaffirm its importance to your staff and residents.

As continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) prepare to meet the needs of baby boomers who are beginning to move to senior living communities, whole-person wellness is becoming more than a slogan; it is becoming an expectation of a way of life. Today, many CCRCs are undergoing a major cultural change, shifting to a person-centered and person-directed approach that embraces a holistic way of thinking about wellness and quality of life.

To examine the current status and future expectations with respect to wellness programs in CCRCs, Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging, along with architectural firm Dorsky Hodgson Parrish Yue, and Ziegler Capital Markets, conducted the first National Whole-Person Wellness Survey. Distributed to executive directors and program managers of CCRCs across the United States, the survey focused on the six dimensions of whole-person wellness (physical, social, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and vocational) and covered a wide range of topics, from wellness philosophy/goals and program features, to the physical design of spaces used for wellness activities. Respondents included communities (N = 61) that represent all geographic areas of the United States and a variety of settings, including rural and suburban, as well small and large urban locations. Descriptive analyses based on survey findings follow.

Impact of wellness programs

Provided by National Whole-Person Wellness Survey

Provided by National Whole-Person Wellness Survey

Overall, respondents were very positive about the impact of wellness programs. When asked to rate 25 items using a seven-point scale (one indicating no impact and seven indicating a great deal of impact), wellness programs were perceived as having widespread impact; the mean scores for each of 21 items was at or above four—the midpoint of the scale. Impact ratings were highest for a number of core issues, including residents' ability to:

  • Exercise regularly at least three times per week and accomplish everyday activities (physical dimension)

  • Participate in activities that are meaningful to them, volunteer or engage in hobbies or occupational interests (vocational dimension)

  • Socialize with others (social dimension)

  • Continue learning or other opportunities for intellectual stimulation (intellectual dimension)

  • Find meaning and purpose in life (multiple dimensions)

Respondents demonstrated a strong belief that the wellness program had an impact on the satisfaction of both residents and family members. An overwhelming majority (88%) of respondents indicated a score of five or higher when asked about the impact on residents' satisfaction, and almost three-fourths of respondents provided a score of five or higher when asked about the impact on family member satisfaction. In terms of initially attracting people to their CCRCs, almost three-fourths of respondents provided a score of five or higher when asked about the impact of the wellness program on residents' and family members' decision to join the community. In a related finding, although the impact of the wellness program on the CCRC's image and visibility was in the four-point range, communities in which wellness activities were offered to staff members may have had a particular advantage. Respondents from those communities reported that the impact of their wellness programs on the organization's image in the outside community and ability to obtain a greater market share was in the six-point range.
Provided by National Whole-Person Wellness Survey

Provided by National Whole-Person Wellness Survey