Supportive Communities for Healthier Aging
Benefits of Community Living
Maintaining or starting a healthful lifestyle often has a better chance of success in a supportive community. A household of one or two people may not have the ability or motivation to shop and prepare three healthy meals a day. Living in a community that provides healthy dining options is a great option. A fitness center with staff trained to work with older adults and a range of activities to flex the mind can also lead to healthy aging.
Avoiding isolation is another critical benefit of living in community. According to one study cited by AARP, the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Research has shown some other techniques that facilitate healthy aging.
Mind Over Matter
According to the American Society on Aging, research has shown that meditation and other mindfulness techniques lead to improvements of attention and memory in older adults. They also help reduce anxiety.
Over the past decade, residents and staff in more than a half dozen Kendal communities have adopted a variety of mindfulness-based practices—including meditation, yoga and tai chi—to reduce stress and enhance well-being.
Everything Is Growing
Gardens have provided health benefits for literally centuries. According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, horticulture therapy helps improve memory, cognitive abilities, coordination, balance and much more.
What’s more, even when people are not involved in gardening tasks, a therapeutic garden can help in healing and emotional well-being.
For example, the horticultural therapy program at Barclay Friends creates a sense of home for residents. It also serves as a catalyst for involvement in other activities. Weekly flower arranging provides opportunities for creativity and socialization. Different gardens were planted with different purposes, from growing vegetables to “memory trees” to remember resident and staff. Many residents also plant and tend their own gardens.
Arts and Music
Music, painting, crafts and other fine arts have tremendous health benefits, in addition to being enjoyable, social activities. Any senior living community you consider should have ways for you to partake as an observer or participant.
Music and art therapies are more intentional use of these activities for healthy aging. The music therapist at Kendal at Oberlin describes music therapy like this: Music therapy helps residents socialize with each other, work on different motor skills, distract from pain or sadness and get physical exercise in disguise.
How can Kendal help people living in its communities maximize their well-being? How can we support individuals in gaining more clarity about what matters most in their lives today and set intentions for living this chapter of life with the deepest sense of purpose?
Kendal has been a leader in learning and research to answer questions like these for many years. We believe one solution is a program we have pioneered with Hebrew SeniorLife, a Harvard Medical School Affiliate, called Vitalize 360.