Building Healthier Communities: How We're Prioritizing Wellness for Residents at Latitude Margaritaville

LIVE Minto | 5 MIN READ | 2024-02-20

A Conversation with Ramona Ward, Lifestyle Director at Latitude Margaritaville

With a name like Latitude Margaritaville, it's no surprise these resort-style communities, developed by our award-winning Minto Communities USA team, are in popular demand. Inspired by the legendary music of Jimmy Buffett and known for its world-class resort-style amenities and active lifestyle, the Latitude Margaritaville communities are proof of how we are living out our mission of creating healthy, vibrant communities. To learn more about how we're prioritizing health and wellness in our down-south communities, we caught up with Ramona Ward, Lifestyle Director at Latitude Margaritaville. Read on to learn more about her role and how her and her team encourage a healthy balance of wellness and fun for our 55-and-better residents.

Tell us about your role as the Lifestyle Director at Latitude Margaritaville.
In a nutshell, I get to work with an amazing team of Lifestyle Managers to ensure the "bucket of fun" is overflowing at our Latitude Margaritaville communities. It's our job to stay on top of the latest trends and ensure residents have everything they could possibly want and more. Making sure our residents are happy is at the core of our success and drives everything we do.

But there really are so many facets to this bucket of fun! It's not always about celebrations and confetti cannons. In order to enjoy the party, we need to prioritize health and wellness and ensure both our staff and our residents are physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy.

Our Health and Wellness programming is a key part of this, and has grown so much in recent years. Our Fins Up Fitness Center offers a variety of fitness classes and workouts, as well as programming, seminars, and workshops that are as much a part of our fabric as a cheeseburger and a Margarita.

With 55+ communities come an older population at various stages of life. Our residents are a mix of retired, semi-retired, and full time employed. Some are coupled, single, married, widowed, or divorced. But regardless of where they're at, their focus is on quality living. Our Health and Wellness programming helps them stay healthy so they can live their "second life" to the fullest.

What kind of wellness programs do you offer?
Our programming incorporates health professionals in various fields and formats. For example, our "Walk with the Doc" program features a wellness morning walk with residents where a local physician will walk with residents and discuss topics like nutrition, the importance of sleep, healthy blood pressure levels, and so on.

We also offer complimentary vision and memory screenings, chiropractic care, sports medicine seminars, hearing tests, and bring in physicians and experts to speak on topics such as holistic health, traditional medicine, creating a healthy home environment, or how to get physically ready for travel. We teach residents all kinds of wellness skills, such as how to meditate, stretch properly, and how to use swimming as a form of physical therapy.

Additionally, we partner with our local hospital and hold numerous meet and greets. Our residents come from all over and are often starting over with new physicians, dentists, and specialty caregivers. Connecting residents to the local health community alleviates some of the struggle and anxiety they have when it comes to finding new providers. 

Health and Wellness is a major pillar of ours and we understand how important it is for our residents to feel like they're being taken care of. We don't want them to stop dancing, we want to teach them how to do it longer! We don't want them to park the bike, we want them to ride safely. And above all, we want our residents to try new things and new adventures in a safe and healthy way.
How do residents feel about the services? Do you get a lot of interest? 
Yes, absolutely! Our programming in the Fins Up Fitness Center has grown so much. In fact, there is a separate calendar just for Health and Wellness. Our Fitness Advisory Group assists with collecting feedback and ideas from our residents, which is then shared with the Fitness Manager who creates a month long list of services and programming. 

Because we have so many participants, the experts in their fields are more than excited to speak on their topics. In fact, we have so many incredible professionals that want to participate in our programming that sometimes the calendar isn't big enough to accommodate them all! Events and programs that started out with just 5-10 participants have grown to 30-50. We use the theater for programming, that's how many folks are interested. 

Our Fitness Managers keep the programming interesting, thoughtful, and insightful, often disguising fitness with play! We offer all kinds of activities, including hiking, biking, golfing, pickleball, bocce, basketball, Finsball (think softball with a plastic ball and bat), and bowling. The options are endless and residents really love it.

What do you think is the most impactful part of your role. In other words, what makes the biggest difference to peoples lives?
I have a personal interest in health, have always been involved with fitness and sports, and I'm in the 55 age group. How and what I do to stay healthy is often what our residents are looking to do to stay healthy. Many of my questions, concerns, and interests are those of our residents. I take great pride in seeing them participate in everything they want to participate in. 

We are so blessed with this life and grateful for every day we get to enjoy it. I really try to authentically lead by example and experience. I am realistic, yet optimistic. I know we are getting older, but we can still play, learn, and laugh! I know we are aging, but as Jimmy Buffett says: "we are growing older but not up."

I have the "Little Engine That Could" mentality. I know I can, so I show others that they can, too.
What is your favourite part of your role? 
This is going to sound overly optimistic, but I enjoy seeing how active our residents are - like hearing how their fitness class is helping them get stronger, or that they're ready for a 12 day excursion. I love seeing their lights on later at night because there's so much for them to get out of their day. I love seeing how someone who's never had the time or energy to go kayaking is now leading a group of kayakers. I love seeing their small steps turn into miles, and hearing residents laugh, connect, and converse about their activities. But I think my favourite is seeing all that our residents are able to accomplish, and the surprise on their faces when they do something they thought they'd never be able to do.

We are all still kids at heart, we just play a bit differently. This community is so full of life and I'm so glad I get to see each smiling face enjoying it.

Learn more about Latitude Margaritaville and the Minto Communities USA family by exploring our award-winning homes and communities in Florida and South Carolina.