• Senior Living

How Senior Living Communities Nurture Mental Wellbeing & Better Mental Health

Dec 28, 2023
Many older Americans experience some form of mental health concerns, with anxiety and depression being the most common. For family caregivers, helping seniors with mental health matters may be overwhelming. Depression and other mental health issues can greatly affect an older person's quality of life.

Many older Americans experience some form of mental health concerns, with anxiety and depression being the most common. For family caregivers, helping seniors with mental health matters may be overwhelming. Depression and other mental health issues can greatly affect an older person's quality of life. A person’s sense of purpose may diminish if they no longer have friends in their neighborhood or cannot drive to and from social activities. Isolation often leads to loneliness and depression. 

In this blog post, we will explore how senior living communities can give back a sense of purpose and belonging, potentially prevent or improve mental and emotional health issues and give residents that social connection they need to thrive. In addition, we will explore the benefits of being proactive in finding a senior community earlier in your retirement. 

The Social Connection

This rings true for all ages, but especially for older adults, that greater social connections will positively affect the quality of life, including physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. Fortunately, in senior living communities, accessing these benefits is about as easy as taking a step outside.  

In senior living communities, residents have many opportunities to build new friendships and join existing support groups. Whether during happy hours, meeting a new friend for breakfast, joining a group fitness class, or engaging in a group activity, older adults will find themselves surrounded by like-minded people, promoting a sense of belonging. Meaningful connections can serve as a source of laughter, joy, and even emotional comfort. All of these can reduce the feelings of isolation and loneliness that can often lead to depression and anxiety. 

Active Lifestyle & Wellness Programs

Senior living communities recognize the importance of staying physically and socially active, offering various health and wellness programs and activities that suit residents' diverse interests and abilities. From art workshops and book clubs to community gardens, field trips, pickle ball, and game days, these programs provide mental stimulation and further opportunities to get out and meet people. 

Research has demonstrated the benefits of physical activity on mental health, especially for seniors. From yoga and tai chi to water aerobics and meditation, these classes provide the appropriate physical exercise in a safe environment, which can lead to a happier and healthier state of mind.

Reduced Stress and Worry

As any homeowner can attest, there are many responsibilities to maintain a home. For older adults, it can quickly become overwhelming, resulting in increased anxiety. In a senior living community, the burden of household chores and home maintenance disappears, allowing residents to focus on what truly matters: their wellbeing and enjoying life to the fullest. 

Mental Activity & Lifelong Learning

The adage "use it or lose it" is well-worn advice for all aging adults and applies to the body and brain. It is never too late to learn, and senior living communities understand the importance of lifelong learning. It is another way older adults can maintain and improve their cognitive abilities and mental outlook. With access to a wealth of educational opportunities and classes, seniors can reignite their passions or explore new areas of interest, contributing to a strong sense of purpose and fulfillment. Learning new things can also improve self-esteem and confidence.

Broadview Senior Living at Purchase College is a university-based community that combines elder care with learning opportunities at Purchase College. Considered a “new era” in senior living this community focuses on lifelong learning and multigenerational connections. Broadview is the only university-based community located within a college campus. This university-retirement model allows residents to take on-campus classes, dine, and socialize intergenerationally. Mentoring here goes both ways. Students can mentor their elders, and seniors can mentor younger students for mutual growth and lasting friendships. 

On-Site Care & Support

One of the most significant benefits of living in a retirement or assisted living community for those with mental health concerns is being surrounded by professional, high-quality healthcare, counseling services, and professional support. Having on-site services ensures that loved ones have easy access to assistance whenever needed. This accessibility alleviates anxiety and worries from aging residents and their families. 

Embracing a Vibrant Future Now

The Family Perspective

The impact of senior living communities extends beyond the residents themselves, touching the lives of their families as well. Family members often witness positive transformations in their loved one's mental health, observing joy and a renewed zest for life. There is a deep sense of relief knowing that loved ones are living their best lives and are safe.

The Senior Perspective

For many older adults, the thought of moving into an assisted living community calls up images of decline. What if making the move sooner, while you're still active and independent, could be the key to maintaining and even enhancing your mental health and overall wellbeing? It may sound counterintuitive, but transitioning to a retirement or independent living community before facing health challenges could be a game-changing decision for many. 

Let’s look at the reasons why moving into a senior community early could make sense for you. 

Structured Social Interaction
Loneliness isn't just emotionally draining; it can have a real effect on mental health. Engaging with peers in meaningful activities avert those feelings of isolation, boosts the mood, and even contributes to cognitive sharpness. In addition, recent studies show that having friends in later years is linked to “higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction.” Joining a senior community earlier can give you a jump on creating lasting friendships. 

Staying Active
Physical activity is directly linked to mental wellbeing. Most independent and assisted living communities offer fitness centers, pools, and walking trails tailored to a range of abilities. Engaging in regular exercise now not only keeps your body in shape but also releases endorphins a natural mood booster.

Access to Professional Care
Even if you don't need them right away, knowing you have immediate access to medical professionals and counselors can be comforting. Early interventions for minor issues can prevent larger problems down the road. The benefit of continuing care models or Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), is that it offers a spectrum of services, from independent living, to assisted living to skilled nursing to memory care, all within one community. This allows residents to transition seamlessly as their needs change over time. 

CCRCs offer residents the advantage of familiarity. Familiar surroundings, consistent social connections and caregivers can help cognitive health as well as emotional wellbeing. Being familiar with surroundings can help seniors live with confidence and foster a sense of stability that is crucial for seniors as they age. 

The Mental Relief of Planning Ahead
Making the decision to move into an assisted living community can relieve the anxiety many older adults feel about what the future holds. Knowing that you've already decided can remove a great deal of uncertainty. You’ll start enjoying your retirement while contributing to a more peaceful state of mind.

Choosing to move into a senior living community while you still feel strong and independent is not about conceding defeat to aging. It is a proactive step, that embraces a lifestyle that actively supports mental wellness. Consider making the leap sooner and start enjoying those amenities, friendships, and security now. 

Supporting the Introverted Senior

For the introverted senior, moving to a community can bring up apprehension, concerns about privacy, personal space, and the anxiety of making new friends or social situations. For many introverts, there is an absolute need to have moments of solitude and smaller, more intimate conversations rather than larger group activities. 
Retirement communities must offer spaces where introverted older adults can relax alone or with a close friend, such as quiet gardens, reading nooks, or private lounges. Additionally, providing flexible social activities that don't exert pressure, like optional group sessions, art classes, or one-on-one mentorship programs, can help introverted seniors ease into community life at their own pace, ensuring their mental wellbeing is nurtured and supported.

Supporting the Extroverted Senior

For extroverts, a move to a retirement community is often seen through a lens of opportunity – a chance to meet new people, engage in various activities, and maintain an active social calendar. Their mental wellbeing thrives on regular interactions, community involvement, and a sense of belonging. Extroverts often do best with group activities, from dancing classes and communal meals to volunteer programs and discussion groups. They also could be community ambassadors or mentors, giving them a sense of belonging and value. 

Looking Ahead to a Happy Future

A community that prioritizes mental wellbeing for seniors can make a world of difference, transforming your life from one of isolation to one filled with compassion, engagement, and care. Starting early on the journey towards a continuing care community is a positive step that ensures a long and healthy retirement.  Be proactive in finding an environment that nurtures your wellbeing best. A happy senior is a healthy senior. 

Life Care Services, An LCS Company, provides services for residents with a wide variety of needs. With over 140 communities across the U.S., we have a place for everyone. Find your community today!

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