Research Continues to Find Benefits of Retirement Communities

By Brad Breeding | MyLifeSite

Are you on the fence about whether you think living in a retirement community (such as a continuing care retirement community [CCRC] or "Life Plan" community) is right for you? Do you think remaining in your current home is the better path to happiness during your retirement years? If you fall into either (or both) of these categories, this post is for you!

Research has found that anywhere between 80 to 90 percent of seniors say they want to "age in place"—that is to say, remain in their existing home for as long as possible, versus opting to move to a retirement community. And with the services and technology that are available today, staying in their home is a viable option that works for many people.

New research suggests that, on the whole, residents of retirement communities, such as Life Plan communities, are substantially happier, healthier, and have a greater overall sense of wellbeing than their counterparts who opt to remain in their current home. A recent study conducted in the United Kingdom (U.K.) supports this theory.

>> Related: Will Aging in Place Soon Become a Thing of the Past?

Increased sense of wellbeing in a retirement community

Spearheaded by ProMatura International, a data and customer insight provider for the senior housing industry, and the Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO), an industry organization representing retirement communities in the U.K., this was the largest study of its kind ever conducted in the U.K.

It examined a total of 2,799 current residents from 81 different retirement communities in the U.K. run by 15 operators, as well as 1,111 seniors who were considering a move into a retirement community, but had not yet definitively made the decision to move. The researchers found that, as compared to those who had not yet moved to a retirement community (but were considering it), those who had already moved into a retirement community:

  • Remained healthier for longer
  • Were more active
  • Reported less loneliness
  • Felt a greater sense of security
  • Enjoyed life more

(Note: The publicly available version of the report doesn't go into much detail on the methodology they used to come to some of their conclusions, but hopefully they will release a more detailed report soon.)

Some additional interesting findings of the study:

  • 90 percent of retirement community residents believed they had moved into the community at just the right time in their lives; a mere 4 percent said they wished they'd waited a little longer to move.
  • Respondents had lived in the retirement community for an average of 4.5 years, and nearly three-quarters said that, in that time period since making the move, their health had been the same or had even gotten better.
  • A huge majority (89 percent) of residents said they were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their retirement community.
  • Retirement community residents were from 2 to 5 times more likely than non-residents to be participating in an array of activities such as social events, trying new activities, getting together with friends, eating with other people, exercising, and spending time with family more frequently than they had in the past.
  • A whopping 93 percent of retirement community residents reported that they felt there was a safety net in place for them if something went wrong, as compared to only 40 percent of non-residents.

The quality of life factor

All of these stats are fascinating to me and seem to bolster the theory that, while many people think they will be happier remaining in their current home, the reality is that many of those who choose a retirement community may actually be happier and healthier in the long-term.

In fact, the data points within this research that I found to be perhaps most revealing were related to happiness and enjoyment of life.

The study found that a significantly larger proportion of retirement community residents reported that they had "often enjoyed life" in the past week, as compared to the non-residents (70 percent vs. 48 percent). A majority (55 percent) of retirement community residents said that their quality of life was higher now than a year ago, four times more than non-residents. And in fact, over a third (36 percent) of non-residents reported that their quality of life had declined in the previous year.

>> Related: New Study Shows CCRC Residents ARE Happier and Healthier

Shared findings about retirement community life

While this ProMatura/ARCO study was conducted in the U.K., I believe these statistics are not vastly different than what would be found in a comparable study of retirement communities in the U.S.

Case in point, the five-year AgeWell Study, conducted by Mather LifeWays (a not-for-profit organization that focuses on improving the lives of older adults) in partnership with Northwestern University, had similar findings about the health and happiness of Life Plan residents in this country. I wrote about the AgeWell Study last year.

If you're debating whether a retirement community, such as a Life Plan community, is the right place for you, studies like these should reinforce your confidence that moving to one of these communities would be a positive experience—one that can actually increase your physical and mental wellbeing, while also providing an increased sense of support and security.

But it's also important to keep in mind that the improvements to health and happiness noted by the retirement community residents in these surveys may not have come overnight. In fact, many new residents of Life Plan communities report that when they first made the move, they experienced a transition period that required a great deal of emotional adjustment. But residents also tell me that once they settle into their new home and begin developing relationships, things improve—in many cases, ultimately leading the positive changes in overall quality of life revealed by these studies.

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