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Ann’s Choice named ‘healthiest company’

Employee health and wellness is a priority

Created date

October 10th, 2014
Ann’s Choice employee Maria Gutierrez celebrates as Nurse Practitioner Michele Smith announces that she’s won the Summer Slimdown competition.
Ann’s Choice employee Maria Gutierrez celebrates a

Erickson Living retirement communities like Choice in Bucks County, Pa., enjoy a sterling reputation of providing residents with integrated health amenities. 

Residents benefit from advantages like healthy dining options in multiple restaurants, a fitness center with personal trainers, an indoor swimming pool, and a full-service medical center staffed by physicians who treat only Ann’s Choice residents.

What about employees? 

“Next to the focus on residents is the focus on employees,” says Ann’s Choice Executive Director Chris Donati. “Having happy and healthy employees helps foster happy, healthy residents.”

Through its Employee Health and Wellness Center, Ann’s Choice offers a weight-management program, a clinic providing primary and urgent care with no co-pay, and free use of the campus fitness center. 

Thanks to such programs, this spring, the Philadelphia Business Journal named Ann’s Choice one of the five “healthiest companies” in the Philadelphia area. 

Donati says an employee weight-loss competition last fall also played a role.  

To expand employee health programs, he’d suggested a “Biggest Loser” contest to Michele Smith, the center’s nurse practitioner.

Smith ran with the idea. She and Fitness Center Coordinator Beth Muller developed a three-month, broad-based competition that focused on weight loss but included lunchtime exercise classes and a four-part nutrition class.

“Our goal also was to promote healthy lifestyles,” says Smith, “so we incorporated pre- and post-contest blood pressure and fasting blood sugar checks, and offered optional cholesterol checks.”

Winners were selected by percentage of weight lost, not the number of pounds.

Eighty-six people signed up, and more than half finished the competition. Total weight loss equaled 468 pounds, and some participants improved their fasting glucose numbers. 

Building on that success, Smith and Donati proposed a March through May competition this spring. “Summer Slimdown” emphasized healthy lifestyle choices but again targeted weight loss. 

Muller added a 30-minute, lunchtime walking program to the exercise classes and developed a Bingo card of healthy habits. Participants earned points for filling their Bingo squares, losing weight, and exercising.

At contest’s end, regardless of weight loss, participants said they felt better, were more active, and were making better food choices. 

“The programs have now taken on a life of their own,” Muller says. In July, Ann’s Choice formed an employee wellness committee comprising representatives from every campus department. 


And the winners are…

When the Ann’s Choice Employee Health and Wellness Center announced its “Biggest Loser” contest, Dan Feeley and his colleagues in Rose Gardens’ dining services department all participated.

Rose Gardens is Ann’s Choice’s on-site rehabilitation and continuing care neighborhood.

A recent college graduate, Feeley had gained weight during his student years. He considered the contest an ideal opportunity to lose it. 

“Competing with my peers helped me stay on track,” he says. “And I thank Ann’s Choice because the contest got me in gear.”

Feeley’s 14.8% weight loss earned him the $500 top prize, which he put toward his student loan payments. 

Then, this January, a snowboarding accident forced him to stop his five-days-a-week gym workouts. He regained 12 pounds but shed them all during Summer Slimdown.

Maria Gutierrez, who works in campus restaurant Banners Café, won the Summer Slimdown competition. She earned the most points and lost 22 pounds. 

“I did the treadmill [at the campus fitness center] whenever I had 15 minutes’ free time,” she says. “I was already healthy, but I made myself better.” Her winnings went toward her sons’ college expenses.

Gwen Merriweather came in third in Summer Slimdown. 

She participated because at her long-overdue annual checkup, her doctor told her that all her medical conditions could be resolved if Gwen lost weight. “So I was determined,” she says.

With replacement knees and a busy front desk position, Gwen focused on the Bingo card’s healthy lifestyle choices. 

She practiced portion control, ate more fruits and vegetables, and drank lots of water. She took three 10-minute walks a day and joined the center’s weight-management program.

She worked on her own, “But if I’d wanted to go to the gym or the classes, I could,” she says. “It was reassuring that I could.”

Nurse Practitioner Michele Smith’s encouragement kept her going, and Gwen lost 35 pounds. She’s now increasing her physical activity.

“It’s like a rebirth,” she says. “I enjoy the efforts of Ann’s Choice to always be on the employees’ pulse and to be as concerned about our health and welfare as they are about the residents’.”