How One Senior Living Community Is Leveraging Technology to Support Resident Activity

The surge of technology use during the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in many technological advancements benefitting senior care communities. Technology can help residents enhance their lives, supporting activities like exercising.

Blakeford Senior Life in Nashville embraced technology throughout its campus. In addition to adopting a community-wide app providing information to residents, Blakeford also invested in smart gym equipment to support resident health. The equipment is changing how residents exercise and how Blakeford’s physical therapy staff are able to support residents.

The Process of Investing in Smart Gym Equipment

blakeford-logoShad Morgheim, physical therapy director at Blakeford Senior Life, explains that Blakeford has undergone a comprehensive renovation, including a new Independent Living Wing. “It features modern amenities that retirees are looking for as they search for a community that provides a holistic lifestyle,” he says. “One of the most important parts of this renovation process was the wellness center where they have implemented more interactive equipment to track resident usage progress and help guide the residents through an exercise program.”

A committee from the community was responsible for selecting the smart gym equipment. “The group explored several options and vendors and ultimately settled on Technogym based on its ease of use and ability to prescribe exercise programming and track residents’ progress,” Morgheim explains.

The Technogym equipment integrates with residents’ apartment key fobs. When residents swipe their key fobs on each piece of gym equipment, the equipment logs in the user, automatically adjusts the settings, and gives them workout options. Residents can access a variety of machines, including a leg press, leg curl, and chest press. Each machine features a monitor that the resident can see while performing the lift. “The monitor then provides a visual tracker that prompts the user to move through the full range of motion and paces them based on the workout parameters they have set. The system and monitor basically become a virtual trainer,” says Morgheim.

The Benefits of Smart Gym Equipment

The equipment offers distinct advantages for senior care residents and staff. The wellness team can print reports showing the time the resident used the machine, the volume of work, the range of movement, and the resistance level. “Through these reports and metrics, the wellness team can see if a resident is progressing in their fitness or if there is a decline,” explains Morgheim. “If there is a decline, the resident may benefit from a physical therapy referral to assess any issues.”

Thanks to the equipment’s capability to record data, it eliminates the burden of remembering workouts or recording previous sessions. “The Physical Therapy team works with each resident based on their deficits. Then, we use the equipment to continue the progress made in therapy, passing the resident and their goals onto the wellness team and setting up a resident on the designated equipment,” he says. The equipment’s programs and visual tracking can help residents achieve their desired goals.

Morgheim notes that since technology is so present in every aspect of our lives, and since smart features are efficient, the gym equipment’s orientation and training processes were simple. A representative from Technogym came to Blakeford to train the wellness team on each piece of equipment. The training lasted a day, and online support was available for any questions that arose.

Reactions to the Smart Gym Equipment

“The residents absolutely love the new equipment,” says Morgheim. “The interactive nature of the monitor and the automation of setting up each piece has improved overall engagement.” The equipment has no plates to adjust or pins to pull, and once residents swipe their key, the computer tracks resistance and makes adjustments as needed. “This not only takes the intimidation out of exercise, but the visual cues of some of the programs make some movements game-like, so a resident gets the benefit of movement without realizing the level of work they have done. The new smart equipment has increased usage easily by 50% in the initial months we have been open in the new wellness center,” he notes.

Blakeford’s previous gym equipment consisted of traditional pulley machines, free weights, and treadmills. While some residents used it, Morgheim says the gym was a largely underutilized space. “Now, all levels of residents are engaging with the smart equipment. I have had residents who have never set foot in a gym but are now regular cardio equipment users,” he says. “The cardio equipment is set up to record and remember your workouts and the monitors provide ‘walking tours’ as you run, walk or pedal through video locations all around the world. Taking someone who is not a traditional fitness enthusiast and getting them to pedal the coastline of a foreign location ultimately will make that individual stronger, safer and more engaged with their environment.”

Advice for Senior Care Communities Considering Gym Equipment Upgrades

Morgheim recommends that senior care communities consider the lifestyle they are trying to create and then find gym equipment that matches that lifestyle. “The residents of Blakeford are looking for an active, resort-like feel where they can experience the best in food, amenities and wellness,” he explains. “For our team, this meant finding high-end resort-like equipment that provided ease of use and engagement to enhance the residents’ experience.” Since upgrading the equipment, the wellness center has become a gathering place.

Communities looking to add smart equipment should consider what they want their wellness centers to look like, and what they want residents to experience. “Consider how you can offer them easy-to-use, highly engaging equipment that will help sustain the resident’s lifestyle, health, strength and balance,” advises Morgheim.

In addition to carefully choosing the right gym equipment, a community needs to invest time in preparing residents for that changeover to smart equipment. Morgheim recommends highlighting the benefits of the new equipment to residents. “Let the community know why you chose the equipment, what you hope the resident will experience using the equipment, and why the new equipment will be an improvement.

“In general, a community must ensure a complete cross-section of equipment. We have machines that will strengthen any body segment, but also a variety of cardio equipment that can accommodate runners, recumbent bicycles and seated or standing elliptical machines,” he notes.

Smart gym equipment advancements mean senior care communities now have more tools available to support and monitor physical activity in residents. From monitoring progress to making the experience of using the equipment easy and less intimidating, there are many benefits to embracing smart gym equipment. “Regardless of age, anyone can benefit from exercise,” says Morgheim. “The Technogym system facilitates that engagement in a manner that isn’t a burden but a welcome break from the day.”

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