For many older Americans, a senior housing community is more than just a place to live: It’s a place to be alive. For older adults living on their own, a time often comes when they feel they are simply “treading water.” Life may have occasional social engagements, a certain daily rhythm, but it can often lack direction. This is when individuals often seek or wish for a different mode of living that gives life a greater sense of meaning again.
Senior living offers the opportunity to pursue new experiences, new knowledge, and new relationships. In a vibrant community, older adults can rediscover a new purpose to life. This comes about not by accident, but through the very deliberate efforts of a community’s leadership to create an environment that fulfills the unique life needs of each individual in the community. At Vitality senior living communities, this happens on three distinct levels through a renewed focus on life, purpose, and energy.
Life: The Social Scene
When it comes to quality of life, one cannot overrate the importance of social contacts. Healthy friendships, even casual acquaintanceships, all contribute to a foundation of wellness and personal satisfaction. In this regard, being part of a community can make a positive difference.
In a community of peers, older adults are more readily able to construct and maintain the social ties so vital to mental and emotional health as well as a sense of purpose. Informal social occasions are a constant in senior living, where culinary opportunities and other casual encounters ensure daily contact. Moreover, formal social moments as well as other gatherings and get-togethers keep neighbors in contact with one another.
Many senior living communities also take a proactive role in encouraging residents to maintain connections with family and friends outside the community, through on-site social events, digital engagement, social media, and many other means.
Purpose: The Mental Landscape
Just as social ties help encourage a renewed sense of life, intellectual and creative pursuits can drive a feeling of reinvigorated purpose for persons of any age.
While striving to forge a vibrant and rich community for residents, the best senior living communities address this need in a number of ways. Some help create a sense of purpose through art and music classes. Others deliver experience-based enrichment, with opportunities for residents to engage in creative pursuits and discuss the ideas of the day.
This enrichment component may have a playful element as well. Community members might cook together, they might sing with one another, or experience a unique destination together. However the impulse is expressed, the general idea is to nurture a sense of purpose that is deeper, richer, and fuller for older adults who otherwise risk finding themselves on the periphery of life’s varied experiences.
Energy: Beyond Just the Physical State
A purpose-filled life isn’t just about the heart and the mind. The body factors in too, and senior living communities can play an integral role in ensuring that, whatever an older adult’s level of ability or interest, he or she finds a suitable outlet for physical engagement in order to enjoy and maintain a level of personal energy and health.
Physical activity may take a range of forms depending on the community, the individual's health, and interest level. Wherever an older adult may fall on the spectrum, senior living leaders generally put a strong emphasis on making sure everyone experiences an appropriate level of engagement, one that fosters renewed energy. This emphasis on physical wellness helps ensure long-term health and also contributes to emotional well-being.
Of course, energy derives from more than just one’s physical state. Spiritual and social experiences also factor heavily in a person’s overall energy. Activities such as yoga and tai chi activate both body and mind, as can nature walks and meditation. Energy is enhanced when a positive physical state is combined with social opportunities and a sense of spiritual well-being. Assisted living is uniquely positioned to bring these diverse factors together.
Key Ingredients to Finding Meaning
Life, energy, and purpose: Together, these three elements help determine an older adult’s quality of life. Yet all are vulnerable when an older adult lives in isolation. It’s hard to stay engaged in any of these arenas without the support and encouragement of a vital and participatory community.
For many in senior living communities, meaning and purpose are the direct outcome of environment. Because they live in a place that puts a high value on these fundamentals, they are more able to engage and interact. Community leaders nurture the well-lived life and encourage residents to seek out the paths that most empower and fulfill them.
Not all communities do this to the same degree however. In selecting a senior living community it’s important to take a good look at the staff and engage with various individuals to understand the tone and tenor of the resident experience. Such first-hand exploration is key in discovering the community that best and most effectively fits the unique needs of each and every individual.