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Six dimensions of wellness are natural framework for programming

This is an excerpt from Exercise and Wellness for Older Adults-2nd Edition by Kay Van Norman.

Crafting a Culture of Wellness

Consider the influence each of the preceding elements has on the overall culture of the community, and seek opportunities to integrate whole-person wellness into the very fiber of daily life. There is a profound difference between using wellness programs to fill time slots in an activity schedule and fostering an environment of well-being for both residents and staff. Using the wellness approach doesn't mean that current programs need to be thrown out! Instead, the six dimensions of wellness act as a natural framework for all programming through the following:

  • Encompassing all aspects of body-mind-spirit wellness
  • Providing a means for evaluating existing program offerings and new program considerations
  • Providing continuity in wellness programs even amid staff turnover
  • Educating all staff and residents about objectives of programming
  • Helping both staff and residents view each other as whole people
  • Helping both residents and staff recognize potential areas of growth, regardless of challenges
  • Engaging residents and staff as active partners in their own well-being and enhancing their quality of life
  • Offering staff simple, specific strategies to work together to support resident well-being
  • Creating an expectation of well-being in the community and offering residents and staff strategies to support a wellness environment

Getting Started

An important step in creating a community-wide wellness environment is to carefully examine existing program offerings. Create a worksheet (see figure 7.2) for each dimension of wellness, and list program offerings under appropriate headings. Many programs can be listed under a couple of categories, but initially list them under the dimension reflecting the program's primary goal. For example, chair exercise would be listed under physical dimension programs but would also fit under the social dimension. This will provide a visual representation of which wellness dimensions are program rich and which ones need further development. Include medical wellness offerings as well as life-enhancement activities.

The column titled Ideas for Expansion encourages you to think about different approaches to programs within each of the dimensions. For example, the spiritual dimension is often only represented by religious services (of various denominations) and religious study. Consider adding programs that facilitate contemplation, reflection, and meditation to support personal growth in spirituality with or without a traditional religious focus. This will help address the complexities of the people making up your community of residents. Also facilitate the individual, self-directed involvement of residents. This can be achieved by simply providing residents with access to the necessary resources to try new things on their own. For example, in the physical dimension, make exercise props and self-directed brochures or videos available so people can choose to exercise on their own. The wellness stations illustrated in chapter 5 are an excellent example of self-directed programs that address multiple dimensions of well-being. People can use the stations at their chosen days and times and at their preferred level of engagement. They may just look at the illustrations, read the positive affirmation statements, or stop to perform the functional exercise and pocket the takeaway item. Refer to chapter 5 (p. 81) for more information about using wellness stations as a unique wellness program.

Integrated Approach

Use the concepts behind Project MOVE (an acronym for motivation, opportunity, verification, and education) to create a balance between staff-led and self-directed activities, and encourage residents to become partners in well-being rather than merely customers of wellness offerings. Motivation refers to helping residents understand why a program is personally relevant to them; opportunity includes ongoing access to wellness opportunities at multiple levels, dimensions, and stages of change; verification refers to continual reinforcement of wellness concepts; and education involves a systematic approach to delivering information on wellness topics and opportunities. Refer to chapter 3, page 39, for a detailed description of the MOVE concept.

Table 7.1 illustrates how a common programming schedule from a senior-living community can be expanded into a more integrated approach using this concept. Self-directed opportunities for involvement help people take an active role in improving their quality of life. Creating a balance between staff-led and self-directed activities encourages residents to become partners in programming rather than just customers. Offering a variety of approaches within each dimension of wellness, at various levels of ability and stages of change, provides many points of entry into this lifestyle concept called wellness. Take advantage of opportunities to reach out both to current participants and to people who do not regularly participate in group activities.

This same integrated approach can be effective in initiatives for the broader community by engaging community outlets like churches, senior centers, senior service providers, and local businesses.

Many local and state governments are looking for ways to increase physical activity and other healthy lifestyle opportunities for older adults, especially those who are considered to be at risk (e.g., homebound or physically frail people). Visit for information on how nonprofit organizations may be eligible to receive Project MOVE (described in chapter 5) for free.

More Excerpts From Exercise and Wellness for Older Adults 2nd Edition



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