An active program calendar full of opportunities for resident social engagement can often demonstrate overall business health of a senior living community to potential residents and investors. But can social engagement programs positively affect the bottom line of a senior living business? The answer is a resounding yes.
1. Social residents live longer
A study published in April 2013 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America showed that seniors who are isolated – either by conscious choice or by circumstance – have increased mortality rates. In contrast, seniors who engage with peers and their greater community as a whole feel less isolated, are less depressed, and live longer than their less socially connected and engaged counterparts. While some residents will prefer socialization that comes in the form of dining together or joining a group activity, senior care teams need to also provide ways for the more introverted or shy resident to feel connected to their peers and friends who live outside the walls of the facility.
Technology courses in email and social media are great ways to equip seniors with the knowledge of how to socially engage with family and friends who live far away. For residents who already know the in’s and out’s of technology, communities should focus on having tablets and reliable network access readily available.
2. Social residents show less cognitive decline
Older adults who socialize and have a support network of friends or family are less likely to develop cognitive decline, as per the U.S. News and World Report. Intellectually “sharp” residents make safer decisions and require less clinical interventions, which can save senior care communities money on extra staff supervision.
3. Social residents experience a higher quality of life
Several studies have proven that older adults who maintain connections with friends and family are healthier in general. Specifically, a study by Statistics Canada followed seniors who engaged in at least one social activity throughout the week. As the number of activities they participated in increased, so did the quality of life for the sample group. Active and social seniors demonstrated increased self-esteem, decreased loneliness, and increased life satisfaction.
Senior care communities that offer opportunities for meaningful social interactions are demonstrating that quality of life is a core value of the community. Residents who are experiencing meaningful relationships and a higher quality of life tend to stay in place for longer, increasing resident retention and occupancy rates.
Social engagement is much more than an activity calendar full of yoga classes and trips to the movie theater. Potential residents are looking for WiFi connections and ways to access social media and other digital communication and engagement applications in order to feel connected to their family, friends, and greater community as a whole.
Senior care executives must work with experienced team members to find the right mix of traditional social activities combined with new age, digital ways to stay connected, informed, entertained and engaged in life.. Once a senior care community is able to keep the majority of residents socially connected and engaged, the bottom line will reflect that effort.
How does your community encourage social connectedness and engagement for your residents? What barriers have you had to overcome along the way?