Mary Leary headshot
Mary Leary

Soliciting feedback from residents about their needs and interests, offering a variety of programs, educating employees on the signs and symptoms of depression and loneliness, and providing residents with access to mental health resources are steps that life plan communities can take to try to increase resident happiness, suggest findings of the third year of the Mather Institute’s Age Well Study.

Life plan community residents who are satisfied with their daily life and leisure activities have a strong sense of overall happiness, and residents are happier and more satisfied when they have a greater sense of community belonging, found the study, which is a partnership between Evanston, IL-based Mather Institute and Northwestern University.

Overall, 92% of residents of life plan communities, also known as continuing care retirement communities or CCRCs, reported being “highly satisfied” with their living arrangements. Communities that provided opportunities for residents to strengthen optimism, resilience and feelings of community belonging contributed to their happiness, according to the study results.

The researchers looked at self-reported levels of happiness and life satisfaction, personal characteristics, psychological resources, social and communal factors, and physical health. They found that extroversion and neuroticism tended to be most strongly linked to well-being one way or another — high levels of extroversion were linked to greater happiness and life satisfaction, whereas high neuroticism was associated with lower happiness and life satisfaction. Conscientiousness and openness to new experiences were not significantly related to resident happiness or life satisfaction, results that differ from previous research.

“We’re excited to see the Year 3 findings on how happiness affects multiple areas of health and to contribute research that can help others make the connection between various personal behaviors or traits and emotional wellness,” Mather President and CEO Mary Leary said in a statement. “The associations presented in the results provide valuable insights to life plan communities about the importance of developing and customizing programs and other resources for residents, and to the residents themselves.”

The five-year Age Well Study is the only national longitudinal study to evaluate the effects of living in a life plan community on residents’ health and well-being. Year 3 survey findings are based on responses from 4,191 residents in 122 life plan communities across the country between January and May 2020. 

In the first year, study results showed that life plan community residents’ health and wellness compared favorably with similar community-dwelling older adults. The second year of the study found that a community’s amenities, affiliation, location may provide advantage to residents. The third year focused on factors associated with resident happiness and life satisfaction. 

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