There’s a common misconception that older adults should only join retirement communities when their health is deteriorating or they’re no longer able to care for themselves. That negative connotation has led to another incorrect assumption: that retirement communities are for the unhealthy. In reality, joining a retirement community-whether for assisted or independent living-is one of the best things seniors can do for their health, no matter their current bill of health. Here are five ways retirement communities can improve health in older adults.  

1. Socialization

One of the biggest health benefits of living in a retirement community is in the name itself. The community offered by assisted or independent living can have a huge effect on the overall mental, physical, and emotional health of older adults. Research shows time and time again that socializing and keeping an active social life provides physical and mental health benefits, including decreasing the chance of dementia and boosting one’s immune system. For seniors, who often experience the loss of loved ones and friends, depression can quickly set in. With a connected community to rely on, seniors can starve feelings of loneliness and even lengthen their lives.

2. Access to Healthcare

Regardless of how healthy a senior is, common aches and pains-and even minor illnesses-that come along with aging will persist. Having easy, onsite access to healthcare from professional nurses, doctors, and therapists takes the responsibility and stress of having to seek healthcare away from seniors. With that off their minds, they’ll be free to focus on living their lives to the fullest. Living in a retirement community allows seniors to customize their living set up with as little assistance as they like, but still have the safety net of healthcare professionals on-hand in case of emergency or as they need more assistance.

3. Mental Stimulation and Personal Growth

For many seniors who have already enjoyed a fulfilling career and/or busy family life, retirement can be a hard adjustment. The lack of a daily purpose and mental stimulation can lead to decreased emotional and mental health. Retirement communities solve this problem by providing a diverse set of options for mental stimulation and personal growth. From art, music, and dance lessons, to game and card competitions, plus access to other educational opportunities like classes and lectures, there’s never a dull moment. Furthermore, many communities provide chances for residents to take advantage of local enrichment through live performances and museum visits.

4. Spiritual Connectivity

In addition to improving mental and physical health, retirement communities can also improve spiritual health in seniors. As we age and experience more loss, it’s natural to have questions about what’s beyond life on earth. Connecting seniors who may increasingly be having these questions to spiritual counselors, pastors, or priests can provide a huge sense of relief, support, and an outlet for their uncertainty. For many seniors, attending church, Bible study, or other spiritual gatherings is a huge part of their lives. When they begin to have difficulty transporting themselves to church or to meet others in their spiritual community, it can have a major negative impact on their spiritual and mental health. With onsite access to spiritual communities and resources they won’t have to sacrifice their spiritual wellbeing for their physical safety.

5. Controlled Diet and Exercise

We’ve all heard it a million times. A nutritious diet and regular exercise are key to maintaining good health. As we age, both become increasingly more important. Most retirement and independent living communities employ dietitians and nutrition counselors who can help residents identify how to get all the nutrients they need through their diet. Dining plans offer seniors healthy, flavorful, and diverse meal options so they can enjoy a well-balanced diet without having to worry about cooking. Similarly, keeping an active lifestyle has been proven time and time again to increase life expectancy and lower the risk of major diseases and illnesses. Regular exercise can help with everything from arthritis and insomnia to heart disease, cancer, and dementia.

Retirement communities make physical fitness a priority for residents by offering a diverse range of ways to get active. From dynamic group exercise classes to state-of-the-art fitness facilities and outdoor activities like hiking and sports, there’s something for everyone to fall in love with, making exercise seem less like a chore and more like a fun activity.