CCRCs Reap Big Benefits, Make Way for Wellness Programs

Adoption of wellness programs across Continuing Care Retirement Communities is growing, with those that have implemented programs reporting high marks from residents, as well as a host of different cost savings when it comes to their bottom lines. 

The successes show the trend is a lasting one for the programs that have only recently become commonplace. The “wellness” approach encompasses six dimensions: physical, social, intellectual, emotional, spiritual and vocational. 

“When we conducted our first research study years ago, to assess the impact of wellness in senior living communities, it was still very much an emerging trend,” said Cornelia C. Hodgson, president of C.C. Hodgson Architectural Group, one of three businesses to explore the trend in a recent annual survey of CCRCs nationwide. “Now, as we continue surveying how senior living communities are incorporating wellness into their cultures, we are seeing its significant impact on not only programming, but how they allocate and design their spaces.”


But not all wellness programs are equally effective, the study, conducted by Hodgson Architectural Group, Mather Lifeways and Ziegler, shows. Many have invested in the programs while questions remain as to how to effectively manage them to their fullest abilities.

Results across specific wellness activity types were heavily skewed.

Half of the survey respondents indicated that more than 80% of their residents participated in at least one of 16 activities listed on the survey, for example, yet group social activities were the only to achieve more than 50% participation. On the lower end of the adoption-rate spectrum, organized sports, employment opportunities off-campus and individual health/fitness counseling received less than 20% interest on average.


Yet even with mixed results in popularity of activities, those with wellness programs say, largely, that they are working.

Among the success measures, respondents reported a moderate impact of their programs on health care operations cost, use of health care centers, use of medication, reducing emergency room visits and hospital readmissions, and reducing falls.

Those that incorporate wellness of staff also reported high effectiveness. 

“Because staff well being is a critical piece of the puzzle in creating a culture of wellness within an organization, we are especially excited to learn about the programs that CCRCs have initiated in the areas of employee-focused wellness,” said Perry Edelman, Director of Wellness Research, for Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging. 

While they are still fine tuning their programs, the CCRCs did share some observations, noted in the study. 

In general, the communities have or will have specific wellness goals, with staff being a cornerstone of the programming. In addition, most see the programs having an influence in the future on attractiveness of the communities to prospective residents. Satisfaction resulting from the programs spans not only the residents but also their family members, the communities report. 

“The report defines a culture of wellness as one in which wellness is fully integrated into the organization; programming is comprehensive, including all six dimensions of wellness; programming engages both residents and staff in the process, and benefits of the wellness program are extended beyond residents,” Edelman says. 

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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