The happiness formula: why community living is key to avoiding loneliness in later life

After a year that reinforced just how important feeling connected to others is for our health and wellbeing, taking steps to avoid social isolation has never been more important. Learn how community living provides that – and more.

It goes without saying that feeling lonely doesn’t feel great, but what you might not know is just how much of a health risk it can be. The fact is that, as well as being unpleasant, research has linked experiencing loneliness to an increased risk of different health problems and diseases – some of them, such as heart disease and depression, pretty serious ones.

On the other hand, research also confirms that people with strong social relationships are more likely to be healthier and live longer.

Unfortunately, according to the Australian Loneliness Report, one in four Australians regularly feel lonely. Even more concerning is the fact that all on its own, 2020 has left a lot of older Australians feeling that way, with a survey showing that almost one in three people aged between 60 and 85 felt isolated from family and friends during the coronavirus pandemic.

But, interestingly, it was quite a different story for residents of Ingenia communities. A separate survey conducted around the same time as the one mentioned above, not only found that nine out of 10 Ingenia residents had a positive outlook on life, one in two of them were still regularly attending COVID-safe community social events.

It takes a village

Nicole Jentz, Ingenia’s General Manager of Residential Communities, puts such positive survey results down to several things. “During COVID, our residents were able to draw on the strong sense of community and belonging that they already felt,” she explains. “Simply knowing that they were surrounded by like-minded people, in a community where they’d already established relationships, made a big difference.

“But we were also conscious of implementing new things to help with this, too,” she adds. “For example, we aligned ourselves with a few different charities so that our residents could stay busy, making and creating things for good, to give them a sense of purpose. And, of course, we made communicating any important information about COVID our priority, to help make residents feel safe and so they didn’t have to worry about searching for it themselves.”

Coping with life’s transitions

It’s not just during COVID where community living protects against social isolation – far from it. “Our residents are from all walks and different stages of life,” says Jentz, “and our weekly program of social events really reflects that.

“Some of our residents are still working, and what’s interesting is that while they may not have time or be as inclined to take part in those social activities, groups and clubs at first, when they do retire from work, having those opportunities available can be incredibly helpful. It helps with that transition and fulfils a sense of purpose, which can go missing when you’re no longer working.”

And while research shows how belonging to any social or community group after retirement delivers health and wellbeing benefits equal to those delivered by exercising regularly, the fact that our over 55s communities make them available on-site goes one better.

“Residents tell us that being able to access these clubs and activities at their fingertips makes life easy,” she says. “Many of our residents are still very active outside our communities, but the fact that you don’t have to venture outside the community you live in if you don’t want to, while still being able to lead a very full and active social life, appeals to many people.” And, with research confirming that it’s accessibility that encourages participation in social activities as we grow older, that simply makes sense.

Put yourself first in 2021!

2020 redefined how we live, prompting many people to reconsider what’s really important. While we all have different dreams and aspirations, there are a few values we all have in common – that’s the importance of community, finances and lifestyle.

Download your guide on how to plan for YOUR future.