What's new: Unlocking the future: Closing the gap between consumer expectations and community offerings in senior living report.

Call for action

ICAA Call to Action: Reclaim wellness for older people

Organizations are using the massive disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to reinvent their services, programs and properties. Business leaders are keenly aware that operations can never return to the past, and older adults are experiencing a renewed sense of hope and discovery. A strong commitment to the thoughtful and comprehensive integration of a wellness philosophy is a proven method to meet the expectations of current and future clients, improve the perception of senior living and senior services, and counteract the dual pandemics of mental stress and physical deconditioning that surfaced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The value of wellness has not changed, only the methods for delivering it: in-person, online, high touch and touchless. To rise above the feelings of loss and fear experienced during the pandemic, International Council on Active Aging calls on all its members, associates and society at large to join the cause and implement the Call to Action.

ICAA Call to Action: Reclaim health and well-being for older people by integrating wellness throughout all organizational strategies and operations.

Key messages

Reclaim emotional and mental health. Wellness is an antidote to the feelings of anxiety, loneliness and grief that harried many people during the social isolation and personal losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wellness offers support groups, counseling and physically safe gatherings for spiritual, intellectual, cultural and social interactions, all of which lessen loneliness and build resilience.1,2

Reclaim functional ability. Healthy aging means having the functional ability that enables well-being at older ages (World Health Organization). The wellness dimensions frame the cognitive, physical, social and psychological abilities for functioning in everyday life, whether daily life entails a walk to the bank, managing personal finances, conversing with a coworker, completing self-care activities or setting up a video call with family members.3,4,5

Reclaim the potential of aging. Negative, ageist stereotypes can afflict older adults, resulting in social isolation, poor mental health and reduced physical health. Wellness opportunities and programs have a purpose well beyond entertainment. Wellness brings together younger and older generations, promotes volunteering and lifelong learning, showcases highly skilled artists, educators and businesspeople—all of these reclaim older adults as valuable contributors to society.6

Reclaim business health. Counteract misunderstandings about the value proposition of senior living and senior services by showcasing how wellness guides a lifestyle of personal growth, effective health behaviors and safe, personalized care. Wellness culture and opportunities align with many organizational performance metrics by attracting and retaining customers/residents, generating referrals, reducing risks, delaying care needs and delivering the brand promise. Well-designed workforce wellness programs are a recruitment and retention benefit.7-10

The Decade of Healthy Aging 2020-2030 has begun, and the wellness philosophy—brought to life through a wellness culture—is the guidepost to achieve the decade’s goals. Wellness is the pathway to healthy aging, “the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability[ies]…that enable all people to be and do what they have reason to value.”3

Personal choices combined with an organization’s thoughtful offerings empower older adults to experience their best possible lives. Join with ICAA and your colleagues to share, support and implement the ICAA Call to Action: Reclaim wellness for older people.

  1. Ishikawa, R. Z. (2020). I may never see the ocean again: Loss and grief among older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 12(S1), S85-S86.
  2. Saltzman, L. Y., Hansel, T. C., & Bordnick, P. S. (2020). Loneliness, isolation, and social support factors in post-COVID-19 mental health. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 12(S1), S55-S57.
  3. World Health Organization. (2020). Ageing: Healthy ageing and functional ability.
  4. Trinity Valley Community College. (n.d.) Functional ability concept definition. Health Care Concepts 1, Course RNSG 1430.
  5. Memel, D. (2008). Assessing functional ability is important. British Journal of General Practice 2008; 58 (557), 835-836.
  6. World Health Organization. (2021). Global report on ageism.
  7. International Council on Active Aging. (2017). ICAA/ProMatura Wellness Benchmarks: The National Benchmarks Report, 2017.
  8. Ryan, P. (2018). The business case for wellness programs in senior living. International Council on Active Aging.
  9. Mather Institute. (2021). The Age Well Study, Year 3 Report, Investigating factors associated with happiness & life satisfaction in residents of Life Plan Communities.
  10. Mullaney, T. (n.d.). Wellness Program Gets Personal to Retain Senior Living Workers. Senior Housing News.
Implement the Call to Action

Wellness, through all the dimensions, is valuable to organizations because it can improve the health and well-being of older adults and help the organization stay relevant in a changing industry. Now is the time to reimagine a new way of life, a refreshed workplace and an updated business model. How? A wellness culture is the foundation because wellness envelops virtually all the services an organization provides older adults. Simply add the attitude that older people are uniquely capable.

Step 1. Define wellness and wellness culture. Wellness is derived from our ability to understand, accept and act upon our capacity to lead a purpose-filled and engaged life. In doing so, we can embrace our potential (physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social, environmental, vocational) to pursue and optimize life’s possibilities. A culture of wellness involves all leaders and staff, in every role and department, in providing services and experiences that enable older adults to participate in life-affirming choices that include the dimensions of wellness.

Tools: Find the basics at “What is wellness?” and in the “Foundation of Wellness” course.

The wellness dimensions

ICAA Call to Action: Reclaim health and well-being for older people by integrating wellness throughout all organizational strategies and operations.
Wellness dimension Descriptions
Emotional managing and directing feelings; coping with challenges; behaving in trustworthy and respectful ways
Environmental integrating wellness into physical environments and nature; eco-friendly products, services, processes and designs
Intellectual, cognitive engaging in creative pursuits and intellectually stimulating activities; problem solving and reasoning
Physical choosing lifestyle habits for health and functional ability, e.g., adequate nutrition, sleep and exercise; limiting stress, alcohol intake; accessing health care
Professional, vocational maintaining or improving skills, abilities and attitudes that help self or others; being productive
Social interacting with others for mutual benefit; awareness of the larger community and participation within it
Spiritual living with a meaning/purpose in life; exploring beliefs and values that create personal peace and understanding

Step 2. Gather allies to optimize wellness culture. Department walls broke down during the pandemic; prevent them from rebuilding by forming a wellness strategy group. Include colleagues at the highest levels in the organization and at entry-level positions to discover what is important for wellness and the business.

Tool: The “ICAA State of Wellness Survey” lists jobs titles that need to be educated about wellness and most important areas for forming a wellness culture. Download

Step 3. Assess what is already in place and what needs to be done. Toss away old structures and audit wellness in all areas of operations. Now is a good time to see how individual staff members, leaders and clients/residents view the state of wellness.

Tool: In the “ICAA blueprint for a wellness-based community” find the strategies and action steps, then use the assessment form to determine what is in place and what can be improved. Download

Step 4. Evaluate new options and delivery methods. Think out of the box. The past is no longer relevant because of structural changes that will remain post-pandemic and because younger-older adults have high expectations and needs different from those in the past.

Tool: Changes to the idea of community, services, programs and physical plant are offered in “Future-proof your senior living community.” Many ideas apply to all types of organizations (and individuals). Download

Step 5. Prioritize the most important places to add or improve. Map short-term and midterm action items, who is responsible and when the action should be completed.

Tool: “ICAA State of Wellness” survey lists areas of importance in creating the wellness culture. Download

Pathway to wellness

Are the words "wellness" or "quality of life" or "well-being" in your organization's vision, mission, or values statements?


The organization plans to prioritize lifestyle/wellness activities

Seven steps along the path to a wellness culture, and the roadmaps to guide the way—all available from International Council on Active Aging at www.icaa.cc

Step 1

The Board of directors, senior leadership and staff in every department are knowledgeable about wellness and support all the dimensions. Educate: What is wellness, Principles of active aging and The modern elder: Rethinking roles and preparing for action.

Step 2

There is a formal plan to integrate wellness throughout the organization. Strategies: Creating your blueprint for a wellness-based community, Environments for Wellness

Step 3

Older adults believe in wellness across all dimensions. Education: What is wellness?

Step 4

Executives finance wellness. Strategy: Business case for wellness, Framing the investment in wellness staff

Step 5

Meaningful wellness programming is centered on the dimensions of wellness. Development: Foundation for Wellness course

Step 6

There is a career path for lifestyle/wellness staff to advance within the organization. Guidance: Career path for wellness staff, Competencies for wellness managers, Leadership in wellness management course

Step 7

Wellness outcomes, including quality of life and satisfaction are measured regularly for all wellness services and programs. Metrics: Business case for wellness, ICAA/ProMatura Wellness Benchmarks


Wellness culture, through all dimensions, guides the people and the organization.

The organization plans to prioritize health care and medical services

Three actions to effectively merge health care into the wellness culture, increasing opportunities for prevention and management while reclaiming quality of life for older adults. Along the path are roadmaps to guide the way—all available from International Council on Active Aging at www.icaa.cc

Step 1

Explain how health care and medical services are one component of wellness. Education: What is wellness?

Step 2

Show how wellness in all dimensions is a good investment. ROI: Business case for wellness, Framing the investment in wellness staff

Step 3

Lay out a planning framework to include health care/medical within a lifestyle/wellness culture. Strategies: Creating your blueprint for a wellness-based community, Environments for Wellness

Step 4

Move along the Pathway to reclaim wellness culture.


Wellness culture, seamlessly integrating lifestyle and health care, guides the people and the organization.


The organization provides social, physical, emotional, medical or nutritional options for older adults

These services are part of a wellness culture. Learn more at What is wellness?

PR support tools

Social media posts and hashtagsYour personal choices combined with our organization's thoughtful wellness offerings empower you to experience your best possible lives. Now is the time to reclaim your health and wellness by supporting the ICAA Call to Action.

Learn more at https://www.icaa.cc/callforaction/overview.htm

#ICAAcalltoaction #Reclaimwellness @icaanews


Download PDF


icaa 100 members