The Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) has awarded Brookdale Senior Living, one of the largest senior living providers, four of its prestigious 2010 Best of the Best Awards, a national recognition reserved for the nation’s most innovative and effective business practices in the senior living industry. Brookdale Senior Living is one of only 25 companies to receive Best of the Best Awards this year.
“These innovations recognize companies that have put their imaginations to work to continually improve and streamline operations, enhance resident care and services, train and retain quality employees, and much more,” said ALFA President and CEO Richard P. Grimes. “Plus, the industry-wide benefit of the Best of the Best Awards is the program’s ability to multiply excellence as these and other companies in senior living adopt these best practices as their own.”
Brookdale Senior Living received Best of the Best Awards for four separate innovative programs, each of which are featured in Assisted Living Executive magazine and were recognized during the Awards Program at the 2010 ALFA Conference & Expo this week in Phoenix. The programs are:
● The Brookdale Weigh program, modeled after the television show “The Biggest Loser,” was a 12-week team competition wherein staff was motivated to lose weight and win cash prizes. From frontline staff to the CEO, more than 4,000 associates within 1,224 teams at 400 offices/communities nationwide lost a total of more than 30,000 pounds. Divisional and companywide winners won up to $900 each. “Even those not out to win the competition were really into it,” said Kristi Reid, Benefits manager. In addition to improving associate health, Brookdale hopes to improve the company’s benefits budget by ultimately reducing medical claims through such wellness efforts. “It’s too soon to see if it had an impact, but it created a culture of wellness that may have been lacking in the past,” explains Reid. The program was so successful, it has been expanded to a second and third cycle.
● The Optimum Life® “Cross Train Your Brain” program was a public awareness campaign that Brookdale undertook in a joint venture with the nonprofit Institute for Optimal Aging. In six major markets from Los Angeles to Raleigh, Brookdale engaged an auditorium and brought in local medical experts to talk up the importance of brain fitness. During the free, all-day symposiums, participants learned about the importance of exercise, emotional health, and social engagement for brain health, and participated in fun breakout sessions such as ballroom dancing. “It’s about the latest research about the brain, and how it can be supported through lifestyle factors. There are certain things you can do over a lifetime to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s,” said Carol Cummings, manager of Optimum Life wellness programs. “It was hugely popular. In every place where we did it, we were at capacity and had waiting lists of people who wanted to come,” Cummings adds.
● The “We Say Yes” dining initiative was designed to tie resident satisfaction to associate morale. The program encourages dining associates to use positive phrases when communicating with residents and guests. For example, if someone asks for an item that is not on the menu, the first answer should be: “Let me go and check.” If the item is not available at all, the associate is empowered to come up with a positive solution, such as offering a similar substitute. “We were looking for ways to encourage and empower our associates, and, at the same time, find ways to say ‘yes,’” said Joska Hajdu, Senior Vice President of Dining Services. Dining associates wear badges that say “We Say Yes.” Associates caught in the act of providing exceptional service become eligible for rewards. The program has spurred friendly competition among associates, generated better service, and made associates more accountable. Resident satisfaction increased 36 percent after implementation.
● The “Experiences of a Lifetime” initiative was designed to help residents live life to the fullest in Optimum Life’s six areas of wellness: physical, spiritual, emotional, social, intellectual, and purposeful. Brookdale residents were given the opportunity to explain their lifelong dream and how it ties into those six areas of wellness. Subsequently, seven residents had the chance to have their dream come true—and have it videotaped for the Brookdale Web site. For example, Brookdale resident Jean Pettit jumped out of an airplane from 13,000 feet in a tandem skydive arranged by Brookdale (see www.brookdaleliving.com/pettit-experience-of-a-lifetime.aspx). “’Experiences of a Lifetime’ was a trendsetter on several levels, from breaking stereotypes about the elderly and elderly housing, to energizing a wellness culture, to making for memorable marketing,” said Sara Terry, vice president of Optimum Life. By telling the story of a dream come true in a video format, “you provide inspiration and a roadmap for others,” explains Terry.
For details about each winning strategy, see the cover story of Assisted Living Executive’s May/June 2010 issue at www.alfapublications.org. The ALFA 2010 Best of the Best Award winners are recognized at the ALFA 2010 Conference & Expo, May 25-27, in Phoenix.
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