Last year, Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging recruited communities to participate in the first national longitudinal study to evaluate the impact of living in a Life Plan Community on residents’ health and well-being.

The study, dubbed the Age Well Study, is being conducted by our researchers with support from Northwestern University, and measures residents’ self-reported health and wellness metrics through a survey taken annually for five years. We compare their survey results to a demographically similar sample drawn from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) conducted by the University of Michigan.

As of this month, the first year’s findings are in, and they spell good news for Life Plan Community residents.

Year 1 of the Age Well Study examines 2018 survey responses from more than 5,000 residents in 80 Life Plan Communities across the United States. Our initial results show:

  • Life Plan Community residents tend to have greater emotional, social, physical, intellectual, and vocational wellness than their community-dwelling counterparts.
  • Residents report significantly more healthy behaviors than community dwellers (not just more exercise).
  • 69% of residents reported that moving to a Life Plan Community “somewhat or greatly improved” their social wellness.

It should come as no surprise to those in the industry that the initial findings reflect positive benefits of living in a Life Plan Community. Here at Mather LifeWays, we’re committed to creating ways to enhance the lives of older adults, and this study reaffirms that goal and will add value to our industry as a whole.

One participating community, Kahala Nui in Honolulu, agrees. CEO Pat Duarte told us, “Our residents and staff have enjoyed participating in the Age Well Study and know that the information it will provide will be invaluable, not only for the industry, but for our community specifically. We look forward to receiving our report and know it will help our staff, residents, and future generations.”

Based on interest we’ve received recently from communities that would like to participate, the Institute is opening the Age Well Study to additional participants. As a benefit of participating, Life Plan Communities will receive information and insights, including an individual report summarizing their own resident data and a full copy of the final report. The deadline to register is Friday, November 30, 2018.

The Age Well Study is open to additional participants until November 30. Interested Life Plan Communities can visit theagewellstudy.com for details. 

For the remainder of the five-year study, our researchers will continue to focus on three areas:

  1. Whether moving to a Life Plan Community makes a difference in residents’ health and wellness, and which aspects of the community have the most impact on their well-being.
  2. Residents’ beliefs about how living in a Life Plan Community has affected their health and well-being.
  3. Different factors that may predict which residents will thrive in a Life Plan Community.

Many of the questions on the Age Well Study surveys mirror those in the HRS study, so that answers can be compared. These questions will address these specific aspects of respondents’ well-being:

  • Psychosocial characteristics, including optimism, loneliness, spirituality, sense of purpose, quality of life, and stressors
  • Health behaviors and outcomes, including activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living, and self-reported cognition, physical activities, social activities, and health problems, including chronic conditions
  • Personal characteristics and demographic information

The Institute on Aging is completing a detailed report on the first-year findings that will be published in January 2019.Those interested in receiving copies of the report can email agewellstudy@matherlifeways.com, or check theagewellstudy.com in January 2019.

We’d like to thank all the communities who participated in Year 1, and to encourage others to participate in this landmark research. We’re excited to share the results and look forward to Year 2!

Cate O’Brien, PhD, Assistant Vice President and Director of Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging, is overseeing the five-year Age Well Study.