What makes residents of a Life Plan Community happy – truly happy? What sort of things can community operators be aware of to ensure that their residents are enjoying their best possible lives? These questions, and many more, were explored in the year-three findings of the Age Well Study. This five-year study, conducted by Northwestern University and the Mather Institute, released their 2021 findings in a free report that’s downloadable at TheAgeWellStudy.com.
“The Age Well Study is a fascinating look at how residents thrive in a Life Plan Community, and it’s very exciting to see the results year after year,” says Jeanie Tini, Director of Marketing and Sales at The Estates at Carpenters, a Life Plan Community in Lakeland, FL that offers Lifecare. “At The Estates at Carpenters, we’re always looking for new ways to boost our residents’ health and well-being, and learning about happiness and life satisfaction for those who choose Life Plan Communities is incredibly beneficial.”
In the first year of the Age Well Study, health and wellness of residents were studied. Year two of the study focused on factors that contribute to residents’ physical health and well-being. The most recent study – year three – focused specifically on happiness among Life Plan Community residents. Researchers looked for associations between residents’ happiness and life satisfaction alongside individual personality traits, communal factors, resources and behaviors.
“Overall, it was discovered that residents who were satisfied with their daily life and leisure activities had high overall happiness,” Jeanie says. “At the same time, residents were happier and more satisfied when they had a good sense of community belonging. This is great news for our industry, as it points to factors that can truly help us improve happiness, health and well-being to our present and future residents.”
What Constitutes Happiness?
Happiness is a subjective thing, meaning that the residents in the survey evaluated happiness and life satisfaction based on their personal experiences rather than objective criteria. Since people set their own standards for what it means to be happy and satisfied, it can be hard to measure exact markers. Nonetheless, we know that happiness is important because it feels good, and it’s associated with things like better mental and physical health, greater creativity and more positive social interactions.
Happiness is based on many factors, including genetics and personality, situational factors, and day-to-day thoughts and behaviors. It should come as no surprise, then, that some people are naturally happier than others, although it’s possible to increase happiness through meaningful activities. But the study warns us that pursuing activities solely for the sake of happiness may not have the intended consequence – and may decrease one’s happiness. Instead, engaging in meaningful activities, helping others, cultivating feelings of gratitude, and other activities of more intrinsic value may ultimately be more effective at increasing one’s happiness.
What Increases Happiness Among Residents in Senior Living?
One exciting takeaway from the study is that average happiness and life satisfaction for residents in Life Plan Communities are overwhelmingly near the top of the range. Even the respondents who scored the lowest still have happiness and life satisfaction scores above the scale midpoints.
Here are a few takeaways from the study about demographic trends:
- Women reported greater happiness than men.
- Residents aged 90 and older reported lower happiness and life satisfaction than younger age groups.
- Respondents with a higher number of chronic diseases tended to report lower happiness as well as lower life satisfaction.
- Individuals with a college degree or more education reported higher life satisfaction compared to others who didn’t have a degree.
- Higher household income respondents had higher life satisfaction and happiness.
- Married or partnered respondents had higher life satisfaction compared to others.
While there’s nothing that can be done about an individual’s personal demographics. There are some interesting takeaways when it comes to aspects that communities can affect. Here are some of them:
- Residents with a higher sense of perceived control were happier and more satisfied with life.
- Individuals with a strong sense of purpose are goal-directed and feel their life is meaningful.
- Residents with a greater sense of purpose in life were happier and more satisfied with life.
- Residents with greater loneliness were less happy and less satisfied with life.
- Residents with a greater sense of socialness and belonging were happier and more satisfied with life.
- Individuals with better self-reported health claim greater happiness and higher life satisfaction.
- Residents who indicated that they have healthier diets tended to be happier and more satisfied with life.
What Does This Mean for You?
“The findings on happiness show that happiness ranges greatly from person to person and is very dependent on the individual,” says Jeanie. “There are many ways to move forward in positive ways for those in senior living and especially Life Plan Communities to gather information from residents and work to improve life satisfaction and happiness.”
Here are some of the ways that communities can improve their residents’ experiences:
- Solicit feedback from residents on their needs and interests and offer a variety of programs to support those areas.
- Provide additional social support in order to reduce loneliness and depression.
- Educate employees on the signs and symptoms of depression and loneliness.
- Support residents’ physical wellness, as that contributes to their health and happiness.
- Support residents’ social connections and help them find ways to connect with family and friends.
About The Estates at Carpenters
The Estates at Carpenters is a Life Plan Community offering worry-free independent living, assisted living and high-quality skilled nursing care and rehabilitation. For over 35 years, The Estates has provided older adults in the area with an active, engaging lifestyle filled with abundant choices and the amenities and services that make life easier. A lifestyle designed to keep older adults healthy and well today – and tomorrow.
For more information on The Estates or to RSVP to an upcoming event, contact Jeanie at 863-279-4503 or visit our website.