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Why Are Life Plan Community Residents Happier?

An older couple smile and do a twirl in the kitchen and dining room area

At our fingertips, we have reams and reams of information to help us make more informed decisions. However, that also makes it difficult to sort through it all and can lead to analysis paralysis, causing us to make no decision at all. With all the retirement options out there — 55+ communities, independent living, Life Plan Communities or just staying put where you are — how do you know which one will help you achieve your goals? Now there’s help. According to the Mathers Institute’s landmark Age Well Study, older adults who choose a Life Plan Community report more happiness and greater quality of life than those who don’t.

What Is The Age Well Study?

Designed in collaboration with Northwestern University, the Age Well Study is the only national longitudinal study evaluating the impact of living in a Life Plan Community on residents’ cognitive, physical and psychosocial health and well-being. When the survey was launched in 2018, it focused on three components of health:

  • Self-reported health
  • Physical activity
  • Healthy diet.

Year One Results

Right from the start, the Age Well Study compared the wellness outcomes of older adults living in Life Plan Communities vs. the Community-at-Large. 5,148 residents from 80 Life Plan Communities participated in the survey and here are some of the results:

  • Self-reported health: On average, Life Plan Community participants rate their health between “good” and “very good.”
  • Number of chronic conditions: Life Plan Community participants have on average about two chronic health conditions diagnosed by a doctor, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. The number of chronic health conditions is significantly lower for residents of Life Plan Communities compared to older adults in the Community-at-Large.
  • Mood: Overall, Life Plan Community participants’ mood were generally positive over the last 30 days, and they tended to experience a more positive mood.
  • Optimism/pessimism: Overall, Life Plan Community participants have higher levels of optimism and lower levels of pessimism than the comparison group, which suggests they have a positive outlook on the future.
  • Stress: On average, Life Plan Community participants experience fairly low levels of stress, which suggests that they feel capable of handling current challenges in their lives.
  • Intellectual wellness: Intellectual wellness involves expanding knowledge and skills through a variety of resources including creative activities which contributes to maintaining cognitive function. 96% of Life Plan Community resident respondents reported reading a book or newspaper at least once per week.
  • Social wellness: Social wellness emphasizes creating and maintaining healthy relationships by talking, sharing interests, and actively participating in social events. 69% of residents reported that moving to a Life Plan Community “somewhat” or “greatly improved” their social wellness.
  • Physical wellness: Physical wellness refers to regular engagement in physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet, and appropriate utilization of health care, as well as engaging in healthy behaviors such as getting enough sleep and maintaining personal safety. The average number of chronic health conditions reported by Life Plan Community residents was fewer than 2.

Year Three Results

In 2020, the study focused on factors associated with resident happiness and life satisfaction, including better physical and mental health, along with more positive social interactions. 4,191 residents from 122 Life Plan Communities participated in the survey. Here’s what the study found:

Social/communal factors and happiness and life satisfaction

  • Loneliness: Residents with greater loneliness were less happy and less satisfied with life
  • Sense of community: Residents with a greater sense of social cohesion and community belonging were happier and more satisfied with life.
  • Religiosity: More religious residents were more satisfied with life, but religiosity was not significantly related to happiness.
  • Spirituality: More spiritual residents were happier, but spirituality was not significantly related to life satisfaction.

Health and happiness and life satisfaction

  • Self-reported health: Residents with better self-reported health described greater levels of happiness and higher life satisfaction.
  • Physical activity: Greater physical activity was associated with greater happiness, but it was not related to life satisfaction.
  • Healthy diet: Residents who indicated that they have healthier diets tended to be happier and more satisfied with life.

Satisfaction with life domains

Approximately 92% of respondents were highly satisfied (either “very satisfied” or “completely satisfied”) with the place where they live, 90% were highly satisfied with the city or town where they live. Most respondents were also highly satisfied with their daily life and leisure (85%), financial situation (82%) and family life (79%). Respondents reported lower satisfaction with health, with 60% highly satisfied.

Satisfaction with senior living community and happiness and life satisfaction

91% of respondents were “completely” or “very” satisfied with their senior living community.

Overall Age Well Study Findings

The latest report from the study examines changes in the health and wellness of residents over five years compared to older adults from the community at large. The findings include:

  • Life Plan Community residents continued to report better physical, emotional, intellectual, social and vocational wellness than their community-at-large counterparts.
  • From Year 1 to 5, social contact significantly increased for residents.
  • Overall engagement in intellectual activities significantly increased for residents (including increased writing and attending educational classes and lectures) and decreased for older adults in the Community-at-Large.

See The Benefits Of a Life Plan Community For Yourself

While having all the information in the world is helpful, nothing beats firsthand experience. Come see the advantages to an active and engaging community like Galleria Woods. You can schedule your personal tour using our Community Assistant chat feature or contact us here.