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Can a Move to a Retirement Community Make You Healthier?

By | 2017-10-31T16:31:13+00:00 March 25th, 2016|

In an attempt to appeal to more members of the Baby Boomer generation, retirement communities are upping their game, providing a huge range of services and activities. Ron Bonvie, a developer who builds 55-and-over senior living communities, notes, “Our [communities'] biggest attribute is a way of life…Many people have said to me, 'It’s like being on a cruise ship 365 days a year.'” Of course, not everyone wants to live on a cruise ship, but this “permanent vacation” lifestyle has more advantages than simply enjoying a good time.

In a recent article in the Boston Globe entitled, “Why living in a 55-plus community may be better for your health,” reporter Jon Gorey explores the inadvertent health perks–both physical and psychological– that seniors often experience as a result of moving to a senior living community, be it a 55-and-over condo complex or a continuing care retirement community (CCRC, also known as a life plan community).

Here are a few of the ways making the move to a CCRC or other retirement living community can make seniors healthier:

Physical activity

Exercise has numerous benefits, especially for aging adults. Keeping fit can help manage weight, regulate blood pressure and reduce the incidence of heart disease, improve sleep quality, and keep bones strong, even slow down age-related memory loss. And the options for physical activity are CCRCs are near-limitless.

Retirement communities are designed to be pedestrian-friendly, so walking is perhaps the most obvious option for getting some cardio, and most communities will also have tennis courts and at least one swimming pool if laps are your thing, but the list of organized exercise classes offered at many CCRCs is impressive. From yoga and Tai Chi to kick-boxing and salsa dancing, if you want to move your body, you have lots of options to choose from!

                >> Related: Adult Swim: Study Finds Senior Swimmers Less Likely to Experience Falls

Additionally, many senior living communities are built near golf courses; this is no coincidence. So dust off your clubs and brush up on your swing!

Healthy dining

Preparing three delicious, healthy meals a day for one or two people is not an easy task. The shopping, the prep work, the time, the inevitable food wasted…many seniors would rather pass. But one of the other top health advantages of living in a CCRC or other retirement community is the facility's food service. And an increasing number of communities are moving away from the ill-reputed institutional-style food.

                >> Related: 5-Stars: Dining Options Evolve at Many CCRCs

With an emphasis on quality, flexibility, and nutrition, today's CCRC dining rooms boast delicious and healthy food, with oversight by registered dietitians and prepared by gourmet chefs trained in top culinary schools. Often the food is locally sourced to ensure peak freshness and flavor, and organic, gluten-free, and vegetarian meal options are becoming more and more common.

Mental stimulation

While physical health is crucial for aging adults, mental health is equally important, and keeping the brain active is key. That's why retirement communities look for a variety of ways to engage the minds as well as the bodies of their residents.

                >>Related: The ‘Art’ of Aging: Four Great Retirement Destinations for Culture

Mentally stimulating activities abound at CCRCs, from bridge clubs to history lectures to music lessons. Most also offer access to transportation with group outings to local museums or theater performances.

Social interaction

 Law professor and author Sharona Hoffman has studied the importance of human contact, especially among seniors, who are more prone to isolation. “There are a lot of studies showing a clear correlation between social interaction and longevity, mental health, and physical health,” observes Hoffman. “By contrast, people who are lonely do much worse. They have more heart problems, higher blood pressure, more insomnia, and so on.”

CCRCs and other senior living communities excel at bringing seniors out of their homes and out of their shells. These communities offer a bevy of organized social activities and nearly every imaginable social club, from book discussion forums, to craft groups, to sports team fan clubs. Many CCRCs even intentionally place mailboxes in the main clubhouse in order to encourage residents to meet neighbors (while burning a few extra calories on the walk).

If you have an interest or hobby, odds are you can find other like-minded residents in the retirement community and start enjoying one another's company!

Healthier and happier seniors

Although a retirement community may not be the right fit for everyone, there are clearly many advantages, and chief among them may be the mental and physical health benefits experienced by many residents. If you would like to learn more about the amenities and services available at specific CCRCs, visit our website to begin your research.

About the Author:

Brad Breeding is president and co-founder of myLifeSite, a North Carolina company that develops web-based resources designed to help families make better-informed decisions when considering a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) or lifecare community.