About the Mather Institute
The Mather Institute is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to serving older adults and finding ways to improve the experience of aging. The institute was created to provide valuable research about senior living and community living. Their areas of interest include brain health and resilience in seniors, as well as employee wellness programs.
About the Study
The Mather Institute is in the process of conducting a five-year longitudinal Age Well study that evaluates the wellness of residents in Life Plan Communities, also known as Continuing Care Retirement Communities. Specifically, it seeks to uncover how personality traits and healthy behavior affect a senior’s overall health and well-being. Researchers have surveyed 5,777 residents from 122 different Life Plan Communities nationwide. Two years into the study, the most recent report offers new and evolving insight into what it means to age well.
About the Findings
As senior living communities look to provide the best possible service and experience for their residents, information about what influences healthy behaviors is invaluable. The findings can be divided into personality traits that help seniors age well and the social and communal aspects that can foster senior health.
The study looked at five personality traits that psychologists call “The Big Five”: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. Life Plan Community/CCRC residents who reported higher levels of openness and extroversion also reported the highest levels of healthy behaviors (physical activity, social activity, healthy diet, meditation/personal contemplation). Conscientiousness also showed a positive correlation with healthy behaviors. While people who reported high agreeableness had lower stress, they were less likely on average to engage in physical activity. People with high levels of neuroticism tended to struggle more with their mental health and eat less healthy diets. The researchers also explored what they term “personal and psychological resources,” which include optimism, perceived control, purpose in life, positive perception of aging, and resilience. Each of these resources had some level of positive correlation with a senior’s healthy behaviors.
Social and Communal Aspects:
The research shows a senior’s sense of connection to their community and to those around them has a significant impact on their healthy behaviors. The study looks at social and communal aspects within five categories: loneliness, social cohesion, community belonging, religiosity and spirituality. Of the five aspects, loneliness had the strongest adverse correlation with health and wellness. Seniors who felt socially isolated tended to be less physically active, have poorer diets, and report higher levels of stress. The other four aspects had positive correlations overall. When residents feel like they have positive connections and share values with their neighbors and friends, as well as to a higher power, they also reported greater levels of health and wellness.
What does the new Mather Lifeways report mean for senior living communities?
The report findings give us smart insight into how to enhance the everyday experiences of The Heritage of Green Hills residents, how to help them live well, age well and love their life here. We can’t affect the seniors’ inherent personalities, but we can create an environment that supports social connection, spirituality and religious practices.
- We offer security and transparency so there’s less cause for residents to worry.
- We will continue to provide delicious healthy dining options, so it’s easy for residents to get the proper daily nutrients and reduce their risk of chronic disease.
- We offer transportation to religious services and provide opportunities for residents to engage with their spirituality.
- We provide fitness options for the most extroverted or introverted residents.
- We create clubs so like-minded seniors can find each other and connect.
- We accept our residents for all the wonderful parts of their unique personalities, and ensure they know that they have a home here.