Before retirement, opportunities to get involved, socialize, and make friends are plentiful. Whether you belong to the PTA or play on the company softball team, participating allows you to build connections with other community members.
In later years, however, it seems as if there are fewer opportunities to bond and engage with others, which is unfortunate because for older adults, being part of a community isn't just nice; it's a vital part of staying healthy and active.
Happier and healthier
A growing body of research shows that older adults who belong to a community have stronger social connections and are more engaged, happier, and healthier.
In a Mather Institute Age Well Study, researchers surveyed 229 people living in life plan and continuing care retirement communities (CCRC). Researchers compared their responses with those of 229 older adults from the community-at-large. The CCRC residents reported having better health than those in the community-at-large. They also reported less depression and less stress.
Another study explored how community life impacts seniors' health over time. Researchers found that the percentage of CCRC residents who reported being in good or excellent health increased over two years, while it decreased among respondents from the community-at-large.
Taking advantage of the benefits
Residents at Erickson Senior Living communities, a network of CCRCs across the country, find they reap the same benefits.
In 2020, Lynn Cummings suffered a major cardiac event. As she prepared to leave the hospital, her cardiologist inquired about her daily routine, including the physical demands of the house that she and her husband Gary had lived in for 32 years.
"Basically, we had the wrong answer to every question the cardiologist asked us about our house," says Gary. "He started by asking if we lived in a one-story house, and the answer was 'no.' Then, he asked if Lynn could stay on one floor, but the bathrooms and bedrooms were upstairs. We realized that we needed to move right away."
The Cummings decided to move to Fox Run, the Erickson Senior Living community in Novi, Mich. Now, Lynn avoids stairs entirely.
While Lynn's health issues precipitated the move, the Cummings quickly discovered that they gained much more than a suitable community and apartment home layout for Lynn's recovery. Community life at Fox Run offered many benefits they didn't even realize they needed.
"We were friends with the neighbors in our old neighborhood, but we would only see them when we got the mail. So, we needed to make an effort to see people," says Gary. "But at Fox Run, you step outside your door and see community members right away."
Easy to take part
"Here, you feel embraced," says Lynn. "There is a closeness that really exists within this community. I consider it a very beautiful thing to have a good size coterie of friends."
Since moving to Fox Run, Lynn says she feels more at ease and engaged. "I thought I was busy before, but here, it's so easy to be part of things that interest you. You're compelled to just go ahead and do it."
Gary agrees. "When we were in our house, it was the just two of us. But here, the two of us are getting to know other people, and the interactions are priceless."
'I am part of this community'
Nancy Levine has also found a lot to like at an Erickson Senior Living community.
"It improves my mind to be a part of this community," says Nancy, who moved to Devonshire at PGA National in West Palm Beach, Fla., seven years ago. "I go on trips with the groups here, participate in cultural programs, and enjoy our own movie theater."
"I know this is the right place for me," she adds. "I came here to live my life to the fullest, and I certainly do."
Nancy, who maintains an incredibly active schedule, says one of the best parts of belonging to the Devonshire community is the social aspect of eating at the on-site restaurants.
"I have a gentleman friend, and we eat with other couples a few times a week," she says. "Also, I eat with my lady friends, so I have the best of both worlds."
Nancy says she has also continued her involvement with activities outside of Devonshire. "Everybody has a different idea of how they want to spend their day," she says, noting that the community allows for people to be as busy as they want to be, on or off campus. "Everybody has a choice. I am involved in this community, and it's wonderful."
From an abundance of organized activities to more casual social interactions, being part of a senior living community is a great way to connect, thrive, and improve your health.
To learn more about how the Erickson Senior Living lifestyle can contribute to bettering your health and well-being, find a community near you!