New National Study Finds Active Senior Living Communities Enhance Residents’ Wellness

ORLANDO — A new study of residents in Continuing Care Retirement Communities, like Westminster Communities of Florida’s active living communities, finds that residents are healthier and more optimistic, they learn more, have more personal connections and feel a greater sense of purpose than older adults in the community at large.

This report covers the first year of a five-year study, which is being conducted by the Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging, in partnership with Northwestern University. Mather surveyed more than 5,000 residents in 80 communities throughout the United States, and compared the responses to the same surveys conducted among similarly situated older adults who do not live in CCRCs.

Living in a community seems to improve not just the residents’ physical health, but their overall health. They reported being more satisfied with their life, have more physical activity and volunteer more often. Individuals pursue more intellectual activities, including readings, games and education, volunteered more often, and even use social media more regularly.

One factor that seems to make a difference, according to the study, is the emphasis on multi-dimensional wellness programs, like Westminster Communities of Florida’s My W Life program for wellbeing of body, mind and soul. “One potential explanation for these favorable outcomes across domains is that they may be the result of the opportunity-rich environments of Life Plan Communities,” the report states. “The wide array of resources, programs, and amenities available in Life Plan Communities may offer a “just right” environmental fit for residents. Such resources span the [six dimensions of wellbeing defined in the study], the availability of which provides residents with a level of support in initiating and sustaining healthy behaviors that may be greater than that experienced by their community-dwelling counterparts.”

Residents who choose a Westminster community know that there will be a plethora of opportunities for wellbeing, from lifelong learning classes on American history to yoga and Zumba, plus volunteerism, spiritual wellness opportunities and so much more. Studies dating back to a comprehensive U.S. Health and Human Services study published in 1997 have found that seniors living in Continuing Care Retirement Communities also live longer.

In an interview with McKnight’s Senior Living discussing the survey, Mather LifeWays CEO Mary Leary said, “I was delighted to see so many positive outcomes associated with living in a life plan community — the positives go much deeper than the six main dimensions of wellness included in the study… I can’t say I was surprised. The data quantifies what we already felt would be true.”

To learn more about the Age Well Study and read the first-year report for yourself, go to the Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging Web site.

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