National Study Points to Wellness Benefits of Life Plan Communities

Residents of life plan communities say they have greater levels of wellness than older adults in home- and community-based settings.

That’s according to newly released first-year results from the Age Well Study, a collaboration between the Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging — the research arm of Evanston, Illinois-based senior housing provider Mather LifeWays — and nearby Northwestern University.

The ongoing, five-year study asks residents of life plan communities, or continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) as they’re also commonly known, about health and wellness metrics through an annual survey. Specifically, life plan residents were surveyed on 24 wellness measures, including emotional, social, physical, intellectual and vocational wellness.

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The results were compared to the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), which tracks similar measures for home- and community-based seniors and is conducted at the University of Michigan. The Age Well Study’s first year includes survey responses from more than 5,000 residents who reside at 80 life plan communities in 29 states.

In short, the survey showed life plan residents reported healthier behaviors than their home- and community-based peers. In fact, 69% of residents said that moving to a life plan community “somewhat or greatly improved” their social wellness.

“We know that life plan communities offer opportunity rich environments with programs, services, amenities and health care, which support wellness,” Mary Leary, president and CEO of Mather LifeWays, told Senior Housing News. “We think that they’re in an environment that constantly is promoting health and wellness.”

Mather LifeWays currently has two life plan communities and a rental independent living community, and is developing a $460 million life plan community in Northern Virginia.

Overall, a study like this one is important because it helps illustrate what exactly seniors stand to gain by moving into a life plan community, Leary said. To date, the Age Well Study is the only national longitudinal study aimed at examining the impact that life plan communities have on residents’ health and well-being.

“We’re hoping that [other senior living industry] organizations will be able to present fact-based benefits to prospective residents going forward,” Leary explained. “We’ll have actual data that shows if you move to a life plan community, you’ll have the opportunity to live a healthy life.”

The Age Well Study’s first-year findings are still being compiled, and are set to be published at the beginning of next year in January. Life plan communities can still participate in the study’s remaining four years, as long as they register by Nov. 30.

Written by Tim Regan

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