Guest Columns

Do life plan communities really help people age well?

Share this content:
Catherine O'Brien
Catherine O'Brien

As senior housing professionals, we're well aware of the many opportunities that Life Plan Communities offer residents. The programs, amenities, services, and health care provided create an opportunity-rich environment that we believe supports wellness. It's a big part of the reason we do what we do.

But this widely held belief has not yet been proven. In fact, very little research has been done to support the notion that the opportunities to find fulfillment provided in a Life Plan Community, and the sense of community, can actually impact health in a positive way.

This raises questions like “Is it better for an aging parent to stay in their home?” “Will they be happier or more fulfilled living in a community?” “Will they take advantage of the amenities?” And most importantly, “Will all of those factors impact their physical and mental health positively?” In a nutshell, does living in a Life Plan Community actually help older adults live healthier lives?

Answers to these questions could be an important component in helping individuals and families who may be considering a Life Plan Community make their decision more easily. These answers would also inform our industry.

That's why Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging, partnering with Northwestern University, has launched the landmark Age Well Study, a five-year study to determine the effects that living in a Life Plan Community have on residents' health and multiple dimensions of wellness. 

The study is also supported by LeadingAge, American Seniors Housing Association, Life Care Services, Novare, Ziegler, and NIC.

How the study will work

The Institute will recruit Life Plan Communities nationwide to participate in the Age Well Study. Participating communities will invite residents to take a survey about their health and wellness every year for five years. The Institute will provide support materials to help enlist and engage participating residents, and will handle distributing and collecting the surveys after the first year.

Participating communities and organizations will receive an annual report on key findings, such as quality of life, self-reported health, and additional health-related measures. If more than 50 of their residents participate, they will also receive a one-page brief specific to their community. At the end of the five-year study, each participating community will also receive a copy of the full report. The benefit to communities is invaluable, as is the benefit to the industry as a whole.

Details available in webinar

To help communities decide if they might like to participate in the study, the Institute will host a 30-minute webinar about the study on Thursday, November 16 at 1:00 p.m. CT. It will offer Q&A, and will cover how and why organizations can take part.

Cate O'Brien, Ph.D., is the assistant vice president and director at Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging. Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging is the research area of service of Mather LifeWays, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to serving older adults. In addition to research like the Age Well Study, the Institute has done applied research on brain health, resilience, workforce wellness in the aging services, perceptions of aging, and trends and innovations in aging services. 

For more information about the study or to register for the webinar, visit matherlifewaysinstituteonaging.com/agewellstudy or contact Cate O'Brien, Ph.D., at cobrien@matherlifeways.com or (847) 492.6803.

Guest Columns

Guest columns are written by long-term care industry experts, ranging from academics and thought leaders to administrators and CEOs.

ALL MCKNIGHT'S BLOGS