Life plan community residents who are more extroverted are generally happier than their peers — and that held true even as the Covid-19 pandemic forced senior living residents to shelter in place.
That’s according to the latest findings from The Age Well Study. The ongoing, five-year study is conducted by Mather Institute in partnership with Northwestern University and a variety of senior living industry organizations.
Senior living providers can use the study’s results to better support residents and help them achieve greater happiness and life satisfaction, according to Mather President and CEO Mary Leary.
“It may include offering programs to help residents learn and grow optimism and resilience, which is a learned trait,” Leary told Senior Housing News. “[Or] continuing to find ways to enhance engagement … and supporting residents in pursuing a sense of purpose.”
The latest results are based on the responses of nearly 4,200 residents at 122 life plan communities throughout the United States. Responses were collected between January 2020 and May 2020, as the senior living industry was navigating the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. Much of the report’s data was collected in the early part of 2020, according to Mather.
The study showed that residents of life plan communities were still relatively happy even as the pandemic intensified last year. According to the study, 92% of residents were either “very satisfied” or “completely satisfied” with the place where they lived. The surveyed residents also reported rating their average overall happiness as 5.8 on a scale from 1 to 7, and their overall life satisfaction as 5.9 on the same scale.
The study examined 18 factors potentially related to happiness. Personality traits such as extraversion and agreeableness were associated with greater happiness and life satisfaction among life plan community residents, according to the study. Other characteristics associated with greater happiness and life satisfaction include optimism, a sense of belonging and a healthy diet.
On the flip side, traits such as neuroticism and feelings of loneliness were associated with lower happiness and life satisfaction. And some traits, like openness to experience and conscientiousness, didn’t seem to impact resident happiness or life satisfaction either way.
Mather released its first Age Well findings in 2018 with a report studying wellness among life plan community residents. Subsequent releases analyzed how life plan communities excel at promoting wellness, and the common behavioral traits linked to a greater sense of wellness.
The study’s year-three results were especially notable given that some of the responses were collected during the early, chaotic days of the Covid-19 pandemic, as communities across the country shut their doors to visitors and residents self-isolated in their rooms.
But for life plan community residents, the pandemic did not coincide with significant loss of happiness or life satisfaction, at least during the months between January and May. For Leary, this is evidence that these and other senior living communities continue to play a valuable role in the national Covid-19 effort.
“I think some have questioned whether the pandemic will be the demise of the senior living industry,” Leary said. “The results of the study give us great hope and confidence that there are so many benefits of this type of lifestyle, and that communities should continue forward believing in this concept.”
Looking ahead, Mather will study the impact of Covid-19 in future Age Well analyses. The organization is adding new, pandemic-related questions to its upcoming survey, according to Cate O’Brien, assistant vice president and director at Mather Institute. Like in the past three reports, the upcoming Age Well release will also include some new areas of interest for study.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to share this good news with prospective residents who might consider senior living in their future,” Leary said.