*disponible en francais

Ask any person what it means to age well and no doubt their response will include enjoying good physical health.

The comprehensive Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA)* recently confirmed that many seniors are doing just that. Based on the question, “Why do some people age more healthfully than others?” the study found that more than 85 per cent of its 50,000 respondents between 45 and 85 reported good, very good or excellent general health.

When it came to specific health conditions, 34 per cent of respondents said they had high blood pressure, 15.9 per cent were depressed, 15.3 per cent had diabetes, 13.2 per cent suffered from cancer, 9 per cent had heart disease, and 8.5 per cent osteoarthritis, among other conditions.

Healthy aging more than just physical health

As Globe and Mail health reporter André Picard noted in a column about the study, the majority of these conditions can be managed, and overall, the CLSA report is generally positive, helping to combat the negative stereotypes we often see on aging.

However, Picard also pointed out that aging isn’t simply about managing disease.

“As people age, they don’t just need sickness care,” Picard says. “They need communities and services that allow them to keep living, and thriving.”*

Numerous research studies have shown that being surrounded by a community of caring and supportive people—in other words, not being lonely—is important for a happy, healthy aging process. In fact, many studies* are now pointing to loneliness as being a bigger health risk than obesity and smoking. As Picard noted, the CLSA* also found a concerning 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 75 felt socially isolated.

Pursing social connection and community

Being socially connected can present more challenges as we age. Seniors who no longer drive may find it harder to get together with friends; mobility issues may get in the way of people getting out to an activity or social event they once enjoyed; and individuals who have lost a spouse and now live alone might also find themselves managing a combination of grief and loneliness.

One of the advantages for seniors living in a retirement residence is that community support is built in and easily adaptable to people’s individual preferences and needs. With experiences and amenities acting as the catalyst that bring people together, people often find themselves making new friends over shared interests or opportunities to get together. That can lead to richer, more fulfilling relationships and a feeling of belonging—all components of a healthy and satisfying life.

Modern-day retirement living

In the past, seniors’ homes were often seen as an option only when physical health deteriorated. The main purpose of a residence was to provide beds, meals and health services. People often felt that moving meant loss—a loss of health and a loss of independence.

However, today’s retirement residences offer the opposite: active seniors gain friendship and community—and many gain even more independence, simply because supports are in place to make their lives easier and happier. People who previously felt burdened by home maintenance chores—perhaps combined with the challenges getting out for groceries in inclement weather, or managing medications—find new freedom in their move to a residence.

More connectedness, more physical, mental and social supports when needed, and overall peace of mind can all quickly add up to a more fulfilling and healthful life—an equation tailor-made for today’s Canadian seniors.

To learn about the lifestyle in a Chartwell retirement community, click here.

*The following sources provided references for this blog, in order of appearance:
  • Raina, Parminder; Wolfson, Christina; Kirkland, Susan; and Lauren Griffith. The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA). online: <https://www.clsa-elcv.ca/doc/2639>
  • Picard, Andre. “New study aims to provide clues on how Canadian seniors can age healthily.” 2018, online: <https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/article-new-study-aims-to-provide-clues-on-how-canadian-seniors-can-age/>
  • Tate, Nick. “Loneliness Rivals Obesity, Smoking as Health Risk.” 2018, online: <https://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20180504/loneliness-rivals-obesity-smoking-as-health-risk>

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