It has been well documented that seniors can benefit from regular physical activity. As home-based care providers look to expand their services and differentiate their brands, fitness and wellness offerings likely offer a strong return on investment.
One company, SilverSneakers, has seen how fitness can improve health outcomes in seniors firsthand.
Nashville, Tennessee-based SilverSneakers is a community-based fitness and social engagement program that works primarily with seniors. The company has a robust gym network, as well community partners, in 30 states across the U.S.
Seniors who participate in the SilverSneakers program experience 42% fewer hospital stays and 18% fewer ER visits compared to Medicare Advantage (MA) non-participants, according to a study conducted by health care consulting firm Avalere Health.
Additionally, the length of stay for hospitalizations that do happen are typically shorter for SilverSneakers participants — 4.4 days compared to 5.8 for non-participants.
“We know that physical activity can increase mobility. It can increase strength. It can help people with their flexibility. It helps people, as they get into their older years function more as they did in their younger years,” Richard Ashworth, president and CEO of Tivity Health, which manages SilverSneakers, told Home Health Care News.
Ashworth noted that physical fitness ranges from walking clubs to swimming, lifting weights and more.
“We know that all of those activities help the heart, the brain and muscle strength, which can help [seniors] prevent the risk of falls and, of course, cardiovascular issues,” he said.
Another upside to physical fitness programs like SilverSneakers is the ability to curb health care costs.
In fact, SilverSneakers saw total average health care expenses reduced by 16% for program participants compared to non-participating Medicare Advantage members.
As SilverSneakers looks to grow, one of the company’s strategic pillars is partnerships. This means that the company is seeking partnership opportunities with home-based care companies and other senior care providers, according to Ashworth.
“It can be skilled nursing. It can be home care — or it can be at-risk provider groups. There are a lot of different places where we could partner,” he said. “We’re very open to different partnerships, where SilverSneakers can be seen as a benefit to raise the health and wellness awareness and engagement of seniors.”
For home-based care companies, the value-add for partnering with SilverSneakers, or a similar organization, to offer fitness services is the possibility of strengthening their position in the market.
With a proven track record of reducing hospital stays and ER visits, it’s very likely that home-based care providers who have formed these types of partnerships would become more attractive to MA plans or other organizations.
Alliance Homecare is one personal care provider that has been ahead of the curve when it comes to incorporating fitness and wellness into its service lines.
Founded in 2006, the Manhattan-based Alliance is a private-pay agency that operates throughout New York City and its surrounding suburbs, as well as in Bergen County, New Jersey.
Since 2016, Alliance has partnered with Namaste Wellness, a New York-based health and wellness services company. Through Namaste Wellness, Alliance’s clients have access to a program that combines yoga, massage and personal fitness.
“They really identify every client and meet them where they’re at,” Alliance CEO and co-founder Greg Solometo told HHCN. “They try to develop a program for them that is comprehensive and brings in what they think are maybe missing elements or elements that will help improve their overall strength, overall flexibility. They also coordinate with any PT or OT that’s going on inside the home.”
Indeed, Namaste Wellness’ is no stranger to working with the senior care community.
“We take an evidence-based, research-driven approach to deliver wellness,” Julie Wald, the founder and CEO of Namaste Wellness, told HHCN. “As we look at the senior population, we’re looking at the challenges that they are specifically facing, and the fitness and wellness practices that have been proven to be supportive to that specific demographic.”
Working with Namaste Wellness falls in line with Alliance’s holistic approach to care.
Over the years, Alliance has set itself apart from other home care companies by offering a unique service line that includes things like food delivery.
Currently, about 15% of Alliance’s clients take advantage of the fitness and wellness offerings. Of this group, the company has received positive feedback from clients and their families, according to Solometo.
“It gives the families of our clients a deeper sense of gratitude or more peace of mind knowing that they’re working with a company that thinks so broadly and so holistically,” he said. “We’re thinking about ways to improve their lives and preserve the health they have right now.”
In terms of more home care companies rolling out fitness and wellness offerings, Solometo believes it’s important for providers to have a firm understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.
“In business, especially in a service-oriented business, you have to know what you’re good at and be a master of it,” he said. “We’re masters of home care, care management and oversight, and private duty nursing. And I would rather partner with a company that focuses on wellness and fitness as their specialty. I think that’s a stronger overall service.”