By Julie Simpkins of BMA Management, Ltd.
BMA Management was honored earlier this month by the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) with a 2013 Best of the Best Award for our Eat Smart, Live Strong Initiative.
ALFA is the largest national association exclusively dedicated to professionally-managed senior living communities and the residents and families they serve.
The association’s Best of the Best awards program is designed to recognize outstanding business practices in the senior living industry. BMA won the “A Taste of the Future: The Next Generation Dining Menu” category.
The award was presented to Rod Burkett, President and CEO of BMA Management, and Rachel Hawn, a graduate student at Eastern Illinois University at ALFA’s 2013 Conference & Expo that was held May 6 – 9 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
For the Eat Smart, Live Strong Initiative, we partnered up with Eastern Illinois University (EIU) to see if a program that was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for seniors 60 to 74 years of age could improve the health and nutritional habits of older seniors in assisted living communities.
The average age of residents in assisted living communities is 83.
EIU was interested in studying whether the program would successfully motivate assisted living residents to eat at least 3.5 cups of fruits and vegetables each day and to get at least 30 minutes of daily exercise.
The graduate gerontology program at EIU and the university’s kinesiology and nutrition programs were involved in the project. Jacquelyn Frank, Ph.D., Coordinator of the Master of Arts in Gerontology program directed the university’s participation.
We viewed the collaborate project as an opportunity to refine and enhance our Wellness programs offered at our communities. We operate 36 assisted living, senior living and memory care communities throughout the State of Illinois.
Our focus was on how we could help residents make lifestyle changes that would contribute to a longer and more independent life. We also used the initiative as an opportunity to incorporate the dining experience into our Wellness program.
The program was tested at seven of our communities in central and southern Illinois. The communities were Bowman Estates of Danville, Eagle Ridge of Decatur, Prairie Winds of Urbana, and the Heritage Woods communities in Centralia, Charleston, Flora, and Mt. Vernon. EIU is located in Charleston.
Based on the results of the pilot project, we are expanding the initiative to all of the communities that BMA manages.
From what we learned in the collaborative effort with EIU and feedback provided by the residents, we made a number of enhancements to our dining and wellness programs.
We changed our menu to offer more choices of fresh fruits and vegetables and have taken steps to insure residents of all physical abilities can participate in the exercise programs available at the communities.
We also learned the value of showing residents what a cup of fruit or vegetables looks like and promoting friendly competition to get and keep residents involved. People are a lot more willing to participate if they have a peer or buddy who is willing to do it with them.
Other initiations that are being tried as part of this effort are to develop resident vegetable gardens and to combine healthy snacks with activities such as serving smoothies after an exercise program or hosting a Pizza Party in the Park, which involved a 30-minute walk in the park followed by a picnic of homemade vegetable pizza.
(Left to Right) Mark Ohlendorf – Immediate Past Board Chairman of ALFA
Rachel Hawn – Graduate student from Eastern Illinois University
Rod Burkett – President & CEO of BMA Management, Ltd.
Richard Grimes – President and CEO of ALFA
This was the second time BMA has been recognized by ALFA with a Best of the Best award. In 2010, we were presented with a Best of the Best award for the our Leading the Way leadership training program.
This year, ALFA also spotlighted our WoW Program in the “Encouraging New Resident Engagement in the First 90 Days” category.
The WoW Program is based on the first 72 hours being the key to helping residents adjust faster to the move to assisted living. The program focuses on staff and residents delivering special personalized attention to engage new residents during their first 72 hours of residency.
Both the Eat Smart, Live Strong Initiative and the WoW Program are driven by our focus of providing residents with the love, compassion and dignity that they deserve and emphasis on helping each resident to achieve and maintain as much independence as possible for as long as possible.
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let us know.
“BMA Management is the leading provider of assisted living in Illinois
and one of the 20 largest providers of assisted living in the United States.”