holistic healthcare

Holistic Health and Wellness for Senior Care

You’re already running a healthcare center staffed with medical professionals.

Your caregivers and team members assist residents above and beyond the call of duty. So, how can you take the next step in healthcare excellence? To attract more residents, consider incorporating holistic health activities and programs to improve what’s already available at your facility.

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Seniors are drawn to your facility because you offer dependable care from the hard-working staff, but the needs and expectations of seniors are changing. Baby Boomers are hitting retirement age and looking for options beyond traditional care centers. These new residents want more than simply medical treatment for illness. They want psychological, physical and social support in daily life. They’re active and on the move. These new seniors are seeking holistic medicine to addresses the needs of not only their body but their mind and spirit.

The Benefits of Holistic Health

Want to attract more residents to your facility and boost the health and wellness of your current residents? Consider including holistic healthcare in your amenities.

Alternative methods to traditional Western medicine have grown in popularity over the past few decades with chiropractors, naturopaths, dieticians and other holistic health practitioners becoming widely accepted and sought-after.

Practicing holistic health and wellness involves more than just medicine.

“Wholesome Approach To Healing” image courtesy of Vimeo user Lee Health.

The concept of health is no longer limited to blood pressure and cholesterol levels. More and more people nationwide recognize the need for both spiritual and emotional health and seek a more holistic approach to wellness. Daily movement and a healthy diet are two very important factors of a healthy lifestyle that stretches beyond pharmaceuticals and traditional medical care. There’s a new focus on mental health and ways to reduce stress. Today’s seniors want a comprehensive approach to wellness in all corners of their lives.

Additionally, nontraditional senior care centers, like those that focus on comprehensive care and holistic medicine, are a growing faction of the assisted living market.

Seniors no longer sit back in their rocking chair. Many are active members of society; new experiences and the pursuit of hobbies are important factors in their lives every day. Natural wellness and holistic healthcare seamlessly integrates into their active lifestyle. Senior living centers that offer comprehensive, holistic healthcare have happier residents with a higher quality of life in their later years

Get Moving! Holistic Health Activities Specifically For Seniors

As retirees embark on this new chapter in their lives, many will live in their new home for 20 years or more. Exercise is vital to maintaining their health during those years, and a lack of activity during that time can damage more than just the body. Exercise, even for a few minutes a day, keeps seniors sharp mentally as well as physically.

Finding a way to encourage mobility among residents is a great place to begin fostering wellness. Holistic health activities are important for their body and mind. Many seniors have mobility issues that hamper their physical fitness, so it’s important your facility offers adaptive opportunities for movement. Start with the basics – is walking outdoors near your center safe and easy? If not, encourage residents to walk the halls of the facility and even promote using light weights if possible.

Movement classes are another fun way to exercise and could serve as a huge draw for people when they’re considering your facility. Movement and bodywork classes like tai chi, yoga, and massage therapy help your residents keep their bodies fit. Better yet, most movement classes require little more than a well-trained instructor. There’s no need for your facility to invest in exercise equipment that might go unused.

Seniors practicing holistic health and wellness in chair yoga class.

Image, “Following Hands Around”, courtesy of Wikipedia user Mark Franklin.

When considering movement classes, it’s important to keep your residents needs and abilities in mind. Avoid strenuous classes like hot yoga, where the room is heated to 105 degrees, or power yoga, which requires maximum strength and flexibility. The best yoga classes for seniors may be a more moderate movement practice like chair yoga, yin yoga or gentle yoga.

Chair yoga, for example, entails simple, easy exercises that can be done from a sitting position (in a chair). If residents can sit on the floor without problems, yin yoga is another great option. It’s done almost completely from the floor and is very slow-paced.

Gentle yoga is a general term for classes geared to help people with low-mobility or who are recovering from an injury. It’s considered to be a form of restorative yoga, which makes it perfect for seniors with a limited range of motion.  Even those residents put off by traditional exercise may find some benefit in a weekly yoga class.

Creative Outings for Holistic Health and Wellness

Today’s senior living is much more social and adventurous. Seniors understand staying active is important to mental and physical health. Retirees see their later years as an opportunity to explore the world and enjoy new experiences. A holistic approach to senior care includes plenty of opportunities for exploration and leisure. Often residents may need to adjust to physical limitations, but they still enjoy vibrant social lives. Offering an array of engaging activities will help them adjust to lifestyle changes.

There are traditional choices like trips to the shopping mall and local casinos, but many outings provide an opportunity to add wellness to the agenda, too. For example, when the weather’s chilly, a trip to the mall offers residents a chance to fit in walking while getting their shopping done. Site-seeing and scenic stops during outings offer bathroom breaks and a chance for everyone to stretch their legs.

Work with local gyms to offer your residents discounted memberships. The gyms could also partner with your facility to offer direct sales.  Instructors from nearby yoga studios and gyms may provide adaptive classes to suit the needs of your senior residents.

Embrace holistic health and wellness by taking advantage of cultural opportunities like museums to engage minds. Theater and concert performances are also appreciated by residents who enjoy cultural experiences. Ensure your residents get a chance to take in the unique sights of your city and still engage with the surrounding community regularly.

Studies show how social isolation is detrimental to health and well-being. A solid support system leads to a longer life. Encouraging community connections both within your facility and without is beneficial to both the residents and community members. Consider a partnership with a local school or children’s group, where seniors and kids connect on a daily or weekly basis.

Intergenerational programs are beneficial for kids who might live far from their grandparents and enjoy the mentorship provided by seniors. These programs are also extremely beneficial to the older adults, who enjoy the contagious spirit of youth!

Gardening for Seniors: Continuing To Grow

A community garden is also a great way to expand your holistic healthcare program. A garden offers residents a chance to engage in light physical activity while also spending time outdoors. Being outside has huge benefits for health and well-being–allowing seniors to get fresh air and enjoy nature. Adding a garden to your property grounds is an inexpensive way to foster health and well-being.

It’s important that the gardens are adaptive to the needs of your residents. Offer waist high garden beds to reduce the need for stooping or kneeling. Provide benches and shade so residents can rest and enjoy the sights and sounds provided by the beauty of nature.

A great practice for holistic health and wellness at your health care facility is to have raised or waist high garden beds.

“Raised vegetable beds for disabled access” image courtesy of Wikimedia user David Hawgood.

Creating a green space requires a small investment but building materials for raised beds are worth the investment, thanks to the benefits your residents will receive. Seniors will bring years of gardening knowledge they’ll be happy to share. A garden provides an easy activity with concrete results. Seeing the fruit of your labors is one thing; seeing actual fruits and vegetables that can be enjoyed by staff and residents alike is something else entirely.

Not all the items grown in a garden will make it to your kitchen, of course. Composting is an easy way to recycle organic matter into fertilizer for next year’s garden. It also keeps your residents involved and aware of the garden during the post-harvest months.

Not only will gardens supply you with fresh food, and a healthy outdoor activity for seniors, but a garden will also encourage your staff to “think green”. This can lead to a push to recycle materials within your facility and to be more aware of your environmental footprint. Recycling is a perfect activity for both staff and residents. Why not hold a competition to see who can collect the most recyclable material? These are great ways to go green and implement eco-friendly practices.

Holistic healthcare often creates a ripple effect in the surrounding community. A garden may be the first step toward getting involved in a community-wide ecology program. Incorporate a garden into your intergenerational program and host a dinner featuring foods grown on-site by the residents and their student friends.

Holistic Health Makes Wealth

Implementing holistic health and wellness practices into your senior living facility works on multiple fronts. First, it promotes a sense of community and cohesiveness. It brings staff, residents and the community together, building connections: yoga classes or gardens may be open to the entire community. Seniors may participate in on and offsite activities to enhance their sense of belonging and quality of life.

Holistic healthcare is also good for your bottom line. Promote your approach to wellness in your press releases and marketing materials. Potential residents will love to hear about the ways your care center gives back to the community.  This increases your appeal to Baby Boomers who value community-centric businesses.

Offering holistic wellness programs will also save your facility money in the long run. By implementing simply green programs—a garden, and a recycling program, you’ll see a shift toward eco-friendly practices. Your residents will likely have some suggestions for improving your green initiatives, as well.

Ultimately, a care center is a senior’s home, whether it’s for a short time or long term. Your residents want a sense of community and belonging.

Consider the example being set by The Green House Project – a national network of homes providing elder care. They began in 2001 with a vision to change the way senior health care was provided. They are dedicated to holistic wellness and a 360-degree approach to senior living that fosters a meaningful existence for residents in their later years.

If you aren’t already working towards integrating more holistic health and wellness practices into your facilities, you’ll definitely want to consider making it part of your strategic plan. Baby Boomers want more comprehensive care from facilities and adapting your healthcare practices to suit their needs will boost the appeal of your facility. Focus on holistic healthcare and the wellbeing of the seniors and their communities. That feeling of well-being and engagement goes a long way toward keeping each resident’s mind, body and spirit healthy and happy.

Featured image courtesy of Flickr user Marco licensed under CC by 2.0.
Images courtesy of Flickr user Take Back Your Health Conference licensed under CC by 2.0.