Active-aging organizations serving older adults plan to invest more in wellness programs for this group, according to the Wellness Industry Development Survey 2012 conducted by the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA), Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

The investment in wellness is seen as a "principal means of increasing the life satisfaction of older adults and a major method for remaining competitive in a changing world," says Colin Milner, founder and CEO of ICAA.

The survey received 554 responses from individuals working in various parts of the active-aging industry, including retirement communities and health clubs.

It found that the top two reasons for investing in wellness programs and facilities were "to increase the life satisfaction of older adults" (93 percent) and "to attract new customers and residents" (83 percent). Milner says that these numbers suggest that improving/maintaining quality of life trumps caretaking as the mission for the industry and as a primary growth driver.

"Seventy-two percent of organizations recognize that emphasizing wellness is the right thing to do," Milner says. "What's more, a majority of current customers and residents—61 percent—demand it."

Milner says that wellness means more than simply offering some classes in fitness or arts and crafts. Organizations should have formal wellness programs that embrace seven dimensions: physical (e.g., physical activity, nutrition, sleep), social (clubs, dancing, group activities), intellectual (journaling, games/puzzles), spiritual (faith-based, mindfulness), emotional (stress management, humor), environmental (meditation gardens, walking trails) and vocational (paid work, volunteering). Among survey respondents with formal wellness programs, three-fourths offer the seven dimensions.

The 2012 survey found an increase in organizations offering all seven dimensions compared to the 2010 ICAA Wellness Development Survey. The largest increases were in the vocational dimension (58 percent offered in 2010, 68 percent in 2012) and the environmental dimension (61 percent versus 71 percent), respectively.

The survey also found that 69 percent of organizations plan to add more wellness activities, classes and programs through 2014. Among those adding more wellness activities, 75 percent want to attract new residents; 76 percent want to increase their retention rate; 76 percent want to control health care costs; and 75 percent want to generate revenue. Thirty-two percent of respondents plan to hire new wellness staff. Wellness-related amenities planned for the next couple of years include, among others, walking trails or paths (19 percent of respondents), meditation garden/gardening area (18 percent), game courts (15 percent) and a wellness center in a standalone or attached building (13 percent).