Belonging to a supportive, caring community has a positive impact on an individual’s overall health through good times and adversity,* whether it be a neighbourhood, cultural or faith community, or a retirement residence, according to Ontario’s Alliance for Healthier Communities (AHC).
The power of a strong, supportive community, where people pitch in and help each other practically, emotionally and socially, also enables vulnerable individuals and the entire community to respond better, adapt and recover from adverse events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, advises McMaster University.*
Here are some important ways in which community living and social connections can provide positive, protective health benefits:
- Vital social connection and engagement.
Social connection and engagement are associated with better physical health and a stronger immune system for older adults, improved mood, and a lower risk of dementia,* according to Psychology Today. Social connections also help individuals bounce back from stressful situations, while adding meaning and purpose in life,* advises HealthLink BC. Even during quarantine situations, retirement residence staff check in with residents regularly and engage with them through “in suite” entertainment like daily puzzles, riddles, and crosswords. Staff can help set up video calls and other virtual visits with family and friends too.
- Community belonging boosts physical and mental health.
Living in a vibrant community gives people a sense of belonging, which reduces the risk of mental health issues, lowers heart disease mortality, and contributes to better overall health,* says AHC.
- Resilient communities come together and adapt.
Resilient communities protect and support the health and well-being of vulnerable members in adjusting and coping with adversity.* Some key traits of resilient communities when dealing with big challenges are: showing strong leadership, fostering social cohesion, communicating clearly, educating effectively, planning and implementing effective responses, and valuing positive thoughts and mental attitudes,* report McMaster University researchers.
- Never being alone.
Retirement living means that even when residents are apart from family and friends, staff can give them comfort, compassion, and the reassurance of human connection. Attentive, well-trained staff also monitor and help residents with personal care, medications, and other specialized services to fit their needs. If an issue arises, residents always have access to staff, giving residents and families peace of mind.
- Easy access to well-balanced, nutritious meals.
While it is especially important now for older adults to eat regular, nutritious meals to protect and strengthen their immune systems,* suggests Harvard School of Public Health, some older adults living alone may not be able to access good food easily or safely. Living in a retirement community that offers residents nutritious, tasty meals makes regular healthy eating easy. Staff can set up meal video dates for residents to enjoy dining with family or friends too.
- Assuring safety and well-being.
A community that follows diligent infection control and prevention measures, and enhanced workplace safety processes, protects the health and well-being of residents and staff.
*The following sources are references for this blog in order of appearance:
Alliance for Healthier Communities. “The belonging guide: exploring the importance of belonging to good health.” (2020), online: http://www.communityhealthandwellbeing.org/resources/belonging_guide
McMaster University. “Community resilience: responding to and recovering from disasters.” (2020), online: https://www.mcmasteroptimalaging.org/blog/detail/blog/2020/05/06/community-resilience-responding-to-and-recovering-from-disasters-together
Psychology Today. “The health benefits of socializing.” (2016), online: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-mild-cognitive-impairment/201606/the-health-benefits-socializing
HealthLink BC. “Social connections.” (2018), online: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/abl0295
Harvard School of Public Health. “Ask the expert: The role of diet and nutritional supplements during COVID-19.” (2020), online: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2020/04/01/ask-the-expert-the-role-of-diet-and-nutritional-supplements-during-covid-19/