Interview With Wellness Coach Michael Hilario


At Prestige Assisted Living, our wellness coaches help residents stay strong and active, as they seek to reduce falls and gain independence.

One of those wellness coaches is Michael Hilario, at Prestige Senior Living at Mira Loma.

In this interview, we talk to Michael about his background, his approach to working with residents and success stories.

What is your background, and how did you end up at Prestige?

“I got my Bachelor’s of Science from Arizona State University in health science and I also did the Wellness Coach program that they had there, and I became a certified wellness coach through them. And then I worked other jobs, but I was looking for something more tailored toward what I went to school for. I’m a certified personal trainer, so that was something I was doing on the side while I was in school too. And then basically just came across the wellness coach position just one day on Indeed…It really falls in line with what I went to school for… It was my first time working with an older demographic. I’ve worked with athletes, I’ve worked with all different types of people in the fitness community, just having worked at YMCAs and other gyms, but I’d never actually worked in assisted living…I started here in November, so it’s been a little over seven months now. I was very fortunate and it’s honestly the best job I’ve ever had. I absolutely love it.”

Residents all have different backgrounds with fitness, different abilities and different comfort levels. How do you reach each resident to best suit their needs?

“I would say the biggest thing with me is, I’m very easygoing… I talk from the minute you get in to the minute you leave, and half the time they don’t even realize they finished exercising. It’s just because we’re having a conversation the whole time. We’re talking about some of their stories, we’re talking about things that they’re looking forward to in the week and their goals. And a lot of times that just makes it to where we can have a little bit of a conversation – I’ll get them set up for an exercise and we’ll just do it, and then we’re talking throughout. And that has been one of the biggest successes is that the more I talk to them, the more I ask questions, the more we have a back-and-forth dialogue, the more willing they are to just exercise, whether they came from a fitness background or not, because they enjoy being able to have just that interaction with me.

And then, not everyone wants to be in a group setting, but for those that want the one-on-one and the privacy, they come in here and we have a really good time. I play music if they want to play music… and it just kind of sets the mood and everything when they’re in here. So I would say the biggest thing is really just kind of coming to their level, just really not making it so much about the exercise, but bringing the exercise into the conversation in ways that they’ll willingly do it while we’re just conversing the entire time. And before they know it, the 30-plus minutes has already passed and they’re in shock.”

What does an average week look like at the community when it comes to fitness?

“On Mondays we do the stretch and strength class, which is where we incorporate tether bands. And then I always have a big wagon full of pink Pilates balls, so we always use those in the class.

And then on Wednesdays we have the strength and balance class that actually incorporates one pound dumbbells. So it’s giving them a variety, one day they’re having the tether bands, the other day they’re having the dumbbells. And then both days we’re still incorporating the Pilates balls.

And then on Fridays, we actually do what’s known as noodlecize. And we use foam noodles, like the ones you would take into a swimming pool, and they’ve been cut down in size, and we actually do a whole plethora of exercises with those. And there’s just so much you can do with them from chest presses to bicep curls, actually doing arm bike motions, doing rowing motions. And we do all of those on Fridays and that one’s really become pretty popular.

And then I do have one-on-ones for personal training, and it’s tailored towards their specific needs, whether I’ve worked with a physical therapist or whether I’ve worked with their doctor to find out what they’re looking for or if they just tell me what they want to do.”

What’s your favorite success story you’ve had so far with someone’s fitness?

“I would say my biggest success story for an individual would be one of the residents here, she actually just turned 95 and when I first started working with her, she was in a wheelchair, but she always wanted to walk. She knew that by herself it would be a little hard outside of walking inside her room, but she wanted to be able to get up out of her chair, be able to walk up and down the halls with me. And that’s something we’ve actually been doing now consistently for the last four or five months.

And with the help of a gait belt, it’s made it a lot easier. We also use her walker and she’s been able to walk up and down these aisles, able to do full turns to go the opposite way… And I think that’s just probably one of the best success stories is really just seeing them go from someone who was in a wheelchair but now has the confidence to be up to walk. And we just keep going. We just keep going and seeing how far we can go.”

Along with the physical aspect, fitness can also benefit mental health as well. Have you seen gains among residents in that way?

“I’ve noticed a positive social aspect where if they were all in the group class together, they tell other residents about it, trying to encourage them to come try it. It’s a lot of fun. And I think that’s been the best thing I’ve seen is I think it really does help their overall confidence. I think they’re happier.

I definitely notice they feel like it’s that sense of accomplishment, whether it was in the class or it was for a one-on-one, and they give that off to the other residents because then some residents who I haven’t interacted with that much, I’ll interact with them, want to know, ‘so-and-so told me you have these classes. I’m thinking about trying it out’. And I always tell them, yeah, come to the classes…And then they feel like they have kind of support group in a sense.

And I think that’s what’s just been really positive, and they take that throughout the day. The group that goes to class, they’re all in the dining hall together. That’s something for them to talk about to tell others about. And then every once in a while, I’ll get a new person in the class who came to class because of one of the other residents said, ‘I noticed that they just seem a lot happier’. They realize their true potential. And I think that’s the thing is regardless of age, regardless of anything, it’s like they all have the potential. So it’s just a matter of just kind of unlocking it for them.”

To learn more about fitness, contact the Prestige community nearest you to learn about their offerings, and schedule a visit to experience it yourself!