An intervention program designed to strengthen seniors’ coping skills has proven successful in five senior living communities, say its developers.

About 90 adults with an average age of 85 took part in the Raise Your Resilience program study, conducted in residential communities in California, Illinois and Arizona. The program addresses topics such as gratitude and ageism, with activities that emphasize values such as empathy, compassion and self-compassion. Residential staff trained by the researchers delivered the intervention over one month in three 90-minute sessions.

Aging is associated with daily stress that can negatively impact well-being, wrote study lead Dilip V. Jeste, M.D., a geriatric neuropsychiatrist from UC San Diego School of Medicine. RYR participants had significantly lower stress scores and higher wisdom scores when compared to a one-month control period prior to intervention. They also had significantly higher scores in resilience post-intervention. 

Senior living communities are an ideal setting to encourage positive mental health interventions, according to Jeste. The RYR program is a low-cost option for empowering seniors in these settings, as existing staff can be trained to run the intervention without specialized therapists, he explained.

“We went directly into the actual environment in which many older adults reside and face their everyday difficulties,” he said.

In psychology, wisdom is defined as a personality trait that includes emotional regulation with positivity, empathy and compassion, self-reflection, decisiveness amid uncertainty, and spirituality. Resilience includes traits and behaviors that help people cope with and recover from adversity.

Full findings were published online Wednesday in International Psychogeriatrics.