For many years, wellness meant the treatment of disability or illness in order to restore a level of health. Over the last few decades, the definition has expanded past a reactive perception to the insight that wellness can be proactive – a process that keeps one healthy and active, preventing or slowing decline. Among others, the International Council on Active Aging has identified seven dimensions of wellness: physical, social, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, vocational, and environmental. The concept advances the belief that someone who is fulfilled in each of these dimensions will experience a sense of wellbeing and, perhaps, lead a healthier life.
In order to provide a robust, beneficial wellness program for our residents that follows this model, senior living professionals should understand each dimension and its importance.
The physical health of our residents often determines how independently they are able to live, impacting not only where they choose to reside and what activities they participate in, but how they feel about themselves, as well. Physical health, or the lack of it, can be a strong influencer of other dimensions such as social and emotional wellness.
Emotional wellness is achieved when an individual experiences a feeling of balance within his/her own world and the world at large. Even when experiencing loss or challenging times, an individual can foster peace through the support of friends or participation in peer groups.
Social interaction is an important part of wellness. Studies of older adults at the University of Rochester Medical Center Recent revealed that increased socialization had beneficial influences such as: potentially reduced risk for cardiovascular problems, some cancers, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis; potentially reduced risk for Alzheimer's disease; lower blood pressure; and reduced risk for mental health issues such as depression.
Intellectual stimulation is important to wellbeing as it keeps our brains active and alert. Creative activities keep the synapses in our brains in better working condition. Ronald Kotulak, author of Aging on hold: secrets of living younger longer, states “… mental training in old age can boost intellectual power, help maintain mental functions like problem solving and reverse memory decline.” (ElderlyParents.com)
Spiritual health is more than just being a part of a faith group; it is finding meaning in living. Older adults with much life experience behind them have typically suffered much loss, including loss of a self-identity which was rooted in their roles at work, as parents, as leaders in the community, etc.
Similar to spiritual wellbeing, vocational wellbeing means achieving a sense of purpose through use of one’s personal skills. An older adult may experience self-fulfillment through employment, volunteerism, mentorships or application of their hobbies for worthwhile purposes.
Often when we think of environmental, we think of the green initiative; however, from a broader perspective, environmental wellbeing occurs when people are in balance with the environment.
The broader definition could include everything from recycling efforts and tree plantings to taking walks or hikes in nature. No matter what our age, we benefit from the out-of-doors.
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