Is a therapy pool worth it?

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Nick Drey, MS
Nick Drey, MS

The big question on the minds of many senior living community owners, directors, managers, and even architects is: Is investing in a therapy pool for your senior community worth it?

My answer: Absolutely. Let me offer three reasons why:

1.  Your Residents Will Love the Warm-water Therapy Pool. Recognize that people won't use what they don't understand. When new residents move into our community at Walnut Ridge, we schedule personalized orientation sessions for them in the wellness center. They experiment with the pool and other equipment, guided by one of our helpful and knowledgeable staff members. This affords the resident time to ask questions and develop the correct technique in a private setting, without the scrutinizing of their peers. 

Residents develop a comfort level with the equipment (and the staff member). Who wants to feel self-conscious on their first outing to the gym? No one! We want our residents to stay in the best shape possible and we know they will only use the equipment if they feel ultra comfortable doing so.

Once our residents feel comfortable with using the warm-water therapy pool and underwater treadmill, it's sometimes difficult to get them out! The warm water sooths their aching muscles and joints and provides the hydrostatic pressure necessary to increase their circulation and energy level.

At Walnut Ridge, we even encourage our residents to participate in a 10-week “Wellness Challenge” using the wellness center. We record the number of minutes exercised by each resident and highlight winners individually and by floors. We record their activity daily for 10 weeks to help increase awareness of how much exercise they are actually getting during a week. This simply helps them keep the need for activity and exercise on the “radar.”  And they love the recognition.

2.  Perceived Value of Care Within Your Community Will Increase. Residents (and future residents) choose our communities not because of the grand décor or the excellent staff, or even the tremendous amenities we offer. They choose our communities because of the way they feel when they are there; when we walk with them, work with them and serve them. Offering state-of-the-art technology allows our residents to trust us; to know that they are receiving the best possible care. And they, in turn, tell their friends and loved ones — and anyone else who will listen — about us.

With the use of the underwater treadmill, we've helped folks who suffer from neurological and physical disorders improve balance and walk almost pain free. And many of them haven't experienced that in months or even years! They are able to increase their range of motion in the un-weighted environment, normalize their gate, and train in a way they could never do on land. This progression is priceless for family to witness.

One of our residents loved to play the piano, but because she suffers from Parkinson's disease, piano playing had eluded her for many years. She tried medication and various forms of therapy, but nothing worked long-term. Then she tried water. She began to see results — quickly. Our therapy pool with a variable depth floor and imbedded treadmill allowed her to roll right out to the floor of the pool — elevated to be even with the pool's deck— and gradually stand, as water levels increased. Using the handrails and support of the warm water, fear of falling vanished and she was able to move freely. She strengthened her core muscles using the water's hydrostatic pressure and properties of buoyancy. Eventually she was able to regain the balance needed to sit upright at the piano and play songs she hadn't played for years! Her congregation celebrated the fact that their accompanist was back and we gained many new friends.

3. Warm-water Therapy Pools Generate Revenue. After experiencing physical therapy in our specialized warm-water pool, many residents express a strong interest in continuing to use the underwater treadmill. We offer the therapy pool to residents at an additional, per use cost. This has not only increased our return on investment, but having this equipment available to our residents helps them feel we are providing the best possible care, using the most relevant technology and giving them the best over-all experience as they age.

Wellness centers, technologically advanced amenities and state-of-the-art fitness equipment in senior living settings are on the rise. Baby boomers want it—in record numbers. It's the new wave.  Are you willing to catch it…or be crushed by it?

Here's the bottom line:  the equipment you invest in and its potential to increase revenue and enhance your community's position is limited only by your creativity and desire to serve. Invest in the best and your residents will reward your efforts.

Nick Drey, MS, is the Director of Wellness at Walnut Ridge at Clive Senior Community in Clive, IA. His primary areas of focus are on geriatrics, land and aquatic fitness, and athletic performance. He will be presenting a free webinar on “Why Water Matters in a Retirement Community Wellness Club" on Tuesday, April 29 at 1 p.m. ET. Sign up here.

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