cover from Mather year 4 report

Cover detail from “The Age Well Study: Stress & Resilience Among Residents of Life Plan Communities During the Pandemic, Year 4 Report.” (Credit: Mather Institute)

An openness to new experiences, high-quality relationships with children, meditation and living in a smaller community were some of the things that have helped life plan community residents be more resilient and less stressed during the pandemic, according to the latest results of the Mather Institute’s Age Well Study, released Tuesday.

“Our latest findings can be used to inform the development and customization of programs and resources to alleviate residents’ stress and cultivate their resilience as we continue through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mather President and CEO Mary Leary said in a statement. The study, she added, “also teaches us the importance of an individualized approach when aiming to promote wellness within senior living communities.”

The Age Well Study is measuring life plan community (also known as continuing care retirement community, or CCRC) residents’ self-reported health and wellness metrics through a survey taken annually over five years. The fourth year of the study fell during COVID-19, enabling the Evanston, IL-based Mather Institute to explore how residents responded to the pandemic and learn what made them more or less resilient.

The study found that:

  • Residents, on average, exhibited low levels of stress and high levels of resilience during the pandemic.
  • Those who were open to new experiences and exhibited higher levels of extroversion and agreeableness were less likely to exhibit stress and more likely to exhibit resilience.
  • Residents who maintained quality relationships with children exhibited greater resilience.
  • Residents who meditated during the pandemic were less likely to exhibit stress.
  • Residents who lived in smaller communities were less likely to be stressed compared with residents of larger communities.

“The Year 4 findings illustrate how many critical factors can impact emotional wellness, especially during times of stress,” said Cate O’Brien, vice president and director of the Mather Institute. “The results provide insights about the importance of relationships, community and mindfulness to the resilience and well-being of older adults.”

The study, which the Mather Institute says is the only national longitudinal study to evaluate the effects of living in a life plan community on residents’ health and well-being, is entering its fifth and final year. Results of the first year of the study, released in 2018, showed that life plan community residents tend to have greater emotional, social, physical, intellectual and vocational wellness than their counterparts in the community at large. The second year revealed that residents with higher scores of “openness to experience” and “extroversion” reported the highest levels of healthy behaviors. The third year found that residents are happier and more satisfied when they have a greater sense of community belonging.

Year 4 findings are based on survey responses from 3,441 residents in 122 life plan communities across the United States. Survey results are compared against a demographically similar sample drawn from the Health and Retirement Study conducted by the University of Michigan. The Mather Institute’s research partners include Northwestern University, the American Seniors Housing Association, LeadingAge, Ziegler, Novare, Life Care Services and the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care.

The Year 4 report is available for download at

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