Research released earlier this year reveals that older adults who live in Life Plan Communities tend to have greater emotional, social, physical, intellectual, and vocational wellness than demographically similar people who don’t live in senior living communities.
From greater life satisfaction to fewer chronic health conditions, the Age Well Study from Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging details positive trends among those who live in Life Plan Communities, which are age-restricted retirement communities offering a host of amenities, services, and opportunities, as well as on-site health care.
One local Life Plan Community is Splendido in Oro Valley, where real-life examples supporting the study results can be seen every day.
Joan Mayer, Director of Repriorment Services at Splendido, isn’t surprised by the study findings. “We offer opportunities across the continuum of wellness—including fitness, of course, but also just about any interest or hobby,” she says. “Residents who move here do as much or as little as they did before—but here, they have opportunities to try new things, and they can plug into a group that suits them, from line dancing to watercolors.”
Resident Kathie Joseph agrees. She and her husband Chuck are passionate about ballroom dancing and host an “open dance time” where other residents can get pointers or just enjoy the music; Kathie also chairs a busy resident committee and is part of Splendido’s needlework group. She uses the on-site fitness center for circuit training three times a week as well as tai chi and yoga classes.
“I’m pursuing things I’d normally be interested in, but it’s much better to do them when you can walk to them—as well as do them with your neighbors,” she says. “It’s a good way to get to know people; you see people on a different level when you’re learning together or teaching. I think that’s what community is all about—sharing knowledge.”
Joan points out that Splendido offers residents “every type of program geared toward socializing, covering every dimension of wellness”—and in addition, residents are welcome to start groups to suit their interests, like the Josephs and their ballroom dancing time. “That’s what creates an atmosphere of inclusion, socialization, and friendliness,” Joan explains. “As residents help to create a program, it makes them want to invite their friends.”
All of this results in a packed schedule for residents to choose from. “I love when they say to me, ‘There are too many things going on here!’” Joan says.
One possible reason that Life Plan Community residents are healthier may be that the services and amenities provided—from housekeeping to on-site fitness offerings—allow them extra time to pursue hobbies and passions, which in turn improve their health.
Kathie agrees, saying, “Dancing is very important to us. I added it up, and we spend about 20 hours a week going out dancing and to lessons. We couldn’t do that if we had to maintain a home. Here, we don’t have to mow the lawn, or worry about the boat and pier, or even prepare meals.”
Intellectual Wellness at Work
One popular offering at Splendido is a resident-generated internal “college,” in which any resident can attend a variety of high-level classes led by resident and outside experts. Called SIPP, for the Splendido Intellectual Pursuits Program, the 11-year-old program is planned and maintained by a committee of volunteer residents.
“Some [new residents] jump right into SIPP—either teaching it, participating in running it, or learning,” says Joan. “Others may pick and choose a few things they’re interested in.” However residents take advantage of it, the Life Plan Community lifestyle can pay off in improved health and happiness.
“I am having so much fun,” says Kathie. “I can do whatever I want. I have real friends here. This is the most supreme retirement you can have.”
More on the Age Well Study
The first year of the five-year Age Well Study compared survey responses from more than 5,000 residents in 80 Life Plan Communities across the United States to demographically similar older adults who live in the community at large.
The Age Well Study is being conducted by Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging and Northwestern University. The Institute on Aging is the research area of Mather LifeWays, which is the not-for-profit parent company of Splendido. Splendido residents were among the 5,000 participants in the study.