Following a month long contest, running from January 1-31, 2019, Living Meadows in Madelia, MN was named the Most Fit Live 2 B Healthy® Community in the Nation. I spoke with Paula Humbard, Activity Director (and Chief Cheerleader for Team Spirit) at Living Meadows this morning about how she inspired her community to come together and rally to increase their participation by over 192% for the month of January. An enthusiastic Paula spoke with passion about the strategies she used to lead her classes to the win.
Living Meadows began offering Live 2 B Healthy® senior fitness classes at the beginning of November, 2018. At first, the classes struggled to get off the ground, tending to attract only 4-5 regular attendees for the first weeks of class. When Paula started as the AD less than a month after the L2BH classes started at Living Meadows, she was thrilled to see the fitness classes on the Activity Schedule. Paula had actually been a Certified Personal Trainer teaching L2BH classes before she started at Living Meadows, so, “I was sold on the idea of these fitness classes! I knew what a great program they had going, and was really struggling with how to increase attendance.”
The first thing Paula and Living Meadows did was move the class from the afternoon to the morning, thinking that perhaps the time was conflicting with naptime. However, they soon found that the aides were already doing a “morning stretch and news” session with the residents and the residents felt a loyalty to the aids, not wanting to miss their morning stretch to attend Live 2 B Healthy® classes. Just as Paula was struggling to come up with a solution to up her class attendance, along came the Most Fit Live 2 B Healthy®Community contest, “I just KNEW that this was the answer and it was perfect timing for us!”
Paula used the Press Release that we supplied her to notify her local newspaper of the contest and their free classes. She also posted class fliers at the library and grocery stores in Madelia. Living Meadows has a roster of about 24 local church leaders (lay members and pastors) who come into the community on a rotating basis to provide morning devotionals to their residents. Paula made copies of the class fliers and handed them out to all the church leaders and asked them to invite their senior parishioners to visit their classes. “I knew that strategy worked, because we were flooded with calls and questions on Monday and Tuesday morning after the churches announced the free classes to their congregations!” From those calls, Paula learned that there was a local gym offering SilverSneakers classes on Tuesday and Thursday in town, but seniors who attended those classes at the local gym were looking to increase their commitment to fitness. They were thrilled to attend classes at Living Meadows, because they followed a very similar format to their local gym classes (Live 2 B Healthy® is partnered with SilverSneakers and Silver&Fit).
Suddenly, the Living Meadows was seeing 6-8 visitors attending their classes from the outside community every day. And those outside visitors were taking the opportunity to invite their friends who happened to be Living Meadows residents (“We are a pretty small town, after all! It’s true that everyone knows everyone around here, ” said Paula), to attend classes with them.
“It became a big social opportunity for our residents and a chance to catch up with lifelong friends who still lived at home,” commented Paula.
Living Meadows is a 50 bed Skilled Nursing community in a small town about 110 miles southwest of Minneapolis, MN . The city of Madelia has a population just over 2,300, and, as Paula said, “We aren’t the only option in town for senior living communities!” Paula used the incentive of the Most Fit Live 2 B Healthy® Community contest to publicize Living Meadows among the local community. The way Paula figures it, “We now have visitors who attend our Live 2 B Healthy® classes on a regular basis. They feel comfortable in our community, they enjoy seeing their old friends who are residents and they are here 3 times a week. When and if they decide to make the move to an assisted living community, who do you think is going to be their first choice?” said Paula.
Paula was thrilled with the outside visitors participation, but the real challenge was to encourage their own residents to give the classes a try. “I just started going around and personally inviting residents to come visit the classes.” At first, many were reluctant because they thought that the classes would be too difficult for them. “I heard a lot of ‘there’s no way I can be jumping up and down in a fitness class!’ comments when I started approaching our residents,” said Paula. When she explained that there was no jumping around (unless they wanted to jump around), and that many of the residents remained seated for the entire class, she saw a spark of willingness to give it a try. “I told them to come with me and they could sit in the back and just watch. They didn’t have to participate at all if they didn’t want to, but just please come watch and see what it’s all about. Nine times out of 10, they were waving their arms around with the rest of class within the first 10 minutes, and anxious to return the next day.”
“All they needed was a little personal invitation and encouragement,” said Paula. Now, thanks to the incentive of the contest, Paula and Live 2 B Healthy® Certified Trainer, Melissa Friel are enjoying watch 15-20 residents and visitors participating in their classes every day.
As the winner of the Most Fit Live 2 B Healthy® Community Contest, Living Meadows has earned the right to claim their title in all of their marketing for the remainder of 2019. They will receive a specially-designed co-branded tri-fold brochure to hand out to all of their visitors and guests, telling them about their title and how they achieved that title. They also will receive a pop-up banner to place in their lobby to alert guests to their status, a special party to celebrate their victory along with prizes to hand out to all their participants, guests and employees.