According to a recent Cigna study, loneliness is at an epidemic level in our country, and its effects on our health rival obesity and smoking. Florida State University confirmed that social isolation increases the risk of developing dementia by up to 40%. Socialization continues to be a key biomarker of health with a variety of health benefits. There are ongoing studies that showcase the importance of socialization and how senior living communities, like HarborChase Senior Living, may be the perfect way to combat loneliness in aging adults.
The Age Well Study
The ongoing “Age Well Study,” conducted by Mather Institute, is a five-year analysis of the impact of living in a Life Plan Community. A life plan community, or a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), offers residents continued services should care needs change. For instance, if a senior joins an independent living community but, over time, requires the services of an assisted living community, he or she has the option to transition to a higher level of care while residing in the same community.
The goal of the Age Well study is to better understand the impact that life plan communities have on their residents.
The first year showed that “Life Plan Community residents report more healthy behaviors and have greater emotional, social, physical, intellectual, and vocational wellness than those living in the community at large.” While the study is ongoing, it is the first of its kind, and it is showing people why these communities are ideal for seniors.
According to the current results, “Nearly 70 percent of older adults surveyed reported that moving to a Life Plan Community has somewhat or greatly improved their social wellness.”
The second year of the study found that six out of ten residents are sufficiently physically active. (For those who are not sufficiently active, health reasons were the most common barrier to physical activity). As the study progresses, the results are becoming increasingly clear; senior living and life plan communities are beneficial to the overall health of seniors.
The Value of Socialization & Social Support
Socialization and social support provide health benefits to people regardless of age. Participating in activities where you find yourself comfortable releases a hormone that acts as a stress reliever. This hormone helps combat depression, promotes a sense of belonging, safety, and enjoyment.
While socialization is a biomarker of health, so is physical activity. Studies have shown that, for some, there is a positive correlation between socialization and increased physical activity. When we surround ourselves with a social group, we are more likely to make smarter, healthier decisions, and less likely to develop chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes.
During a study to discover the effects isolation has on our minds, researchers found that those experiencing isolation are more prone to thinking negative thoughts. Not only does it affect our thoughts, but ultimately, it affects the way our bodies work and can weaken our immune system, leaving us open to developing new chronic conditions.
Dr. Steve Cole, the organizer of the study, stated, “Loneliness acts as a fertilizer for other diseases. The biology of loneliness can accelerate the buildup of plaque in arteries, help cancer cells grow and spread, and promote inflammation in the brain leading to Alzheimer’s disease. Loneliness promotes several different types of wear and tear on the body.”
How Senior Living Communities Help
As we age, many of our socialization avenues can close. This makes finding new socialization sources imperative to our health and well-being.
Senior living communities offer a new channel for aging adults.
Senior living communities, such as HarborChase Senior Living, are thriving spots for seniors that provide social, physical, and spiritual activities.
HarborChase Senior Living communities host frequent social events that connect and engage our residents, as well as excursions to cultural sites, historic landmarks, and popular shopping areas. HarborChase Senior Living’s goal is to learn what each person’s “best day” means to them and to make that “best day” possible all the time.
Senior living communities are finding ways to improve the quality of life and longevity for residents. If you’re interested in joining a senior living community, we invite you to find a HarborChase Senior Living community near you and start celebrating senior living!