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Wellness Coaching Program Spreads to 12 States

It helps residents at retirement communities get exercise and avoid depression

Wellness Coaching Program Grows

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The wellness coaches help set physical, social, intellectual and spiritual goals.

Bea Lipsky, 89, shuffled into her wellness coach’s office with her walker. This year she endured a hernia operation and two emergency room visits for heart problems, and she’s losing her hearing.

But she told her coach she’d achieved her annual goals, including attending her grandson’s wedding in China. Lipsky spent two months doing leg curls and riding a stationary bike for a 10-day trip to China, with an aide.

“It was absolutely divine,” she told coach Susan Flashner-Fineman, who works at the Orchard Cove retirement community in Canton, Mass.

Lipsky’s check-ins with Flashner-Fineman are part of Vitalize 360, a program that Orchard Cove start­ed eight years ago with the Kendal nonprofit senior living organization in Pennsylvania. It has spread to 35 communities in 12 states, reaching 2,600 adults.

When residents arrive at Orchard Cove, a coach measures their health in an hour-long session, assessing problems like loneliness, pain and distress. Then residents meet with their coach every three months. The coaches help set physical, social, in­tellectual and spiritual goals.

Atul Gawande, a physician and author of Being Mortal, calls Vitalize 360 “transfor­mative.” It recognizes that “even as you may have health is­sues and frailty and the difficulties that can come with aging … people have lives worth living.”

Since it started, the proportion of residents who exercise at least three times a week has increased from 30 to 77 percent, and one study found participants felt significant­ly less depressed.