Senior friends playing chess together

85-Year Harvard Study Finds the Secret to Happiness Later in Life Is Building Social Connection After Retirement

In 1938, a Harvard Study began looking into how to retire and be happy. Researchers asked 700+ people questions regarding their happiness every two years as they entered mid- and late life. Today, as 85 years ago, the top retirement challenge people faced was not being able to replace the social connections that had sustained them during their working years. Trying to figure out how to be happy in retirement has been a consistent goal for nearly a century, and more robust studies are now showing we’re starting to learn better ways to achieve it.

For example, recently concluded research in the Mathers Institute’s landmark Age Well Study found older adults who choose a Life Plan Community — like Edgewood Summit — reported more social connections, happiness and a greater quality of life than those who don’t.

How Life Plan Communities Excel at Social Connections and Life Satisfaction

Designed in collaboration with Northwestern University, the Age Well Study is the only national longitudinal study evaluating the impact of living in a Life Plan Community on residents’ cognitive, physical and psychosocial health and well-being. When the survey was launched in 2018, it focused on three components of overall health:

  • Self-reported health
  • Physical activity
  • Healthy diet

An important part of Age Well Study was documenting what activities and programs had the biggest impact on the components of better health.

Overall Age Well Study Findings

During year three, researchers focused on factors associated with resident happiness and life satisfaction, including better physical and mental health, along with more positive social interactions. Here’s what the study found about the importance of building relationships as we age:

  • Social wellness: Social wellness emphasizes creating and maintaining healthy relationships by talking, sharing interests and actively participating in social events. 69% of residents reported that moving to a Life Plan Community “somewhat” or “greatly improved” their social wellness.
  • Social cohesion: Community residents with a greater sense of social cohesion with those around them reported being happier and more satisfied with life.
  • Community belonging: Residents with a greater sense of being part of a community were happier and more satisfied with life.

The latest report from the study examines changes in the health and wellness of residents over five years compared to older adults from the community-at-large group. The findings include:

  • Better overall health: During the five years of the study, Life Plan Community residents continued to report better physical, emotional, intellectual, social and vocational wellness than their community-at-large counterparts.
  • More connections: From year one to five, community residents reported their social contacts had significantly increased.

Taken together, the Harvard Study and the Age Well Study show the importance of social interactions to not only our happiness but overall health.

See The Benefits of Edgewood Summit for Yourself

Once your working days are behind you, it’s not unusual to ask yourself, “I’m retired, now what?” Choosing a Life Plan Community like Edgewood Summit, with a lifestyle focused on wellness, can help you build new social connections. Our monthly calendar is full of social activities, classes and clubs. You’re sure to find a friend during an oil painting class, be able to cheer on your team with fellow WVU fans at a watch party, make conversation at a tea party and so much more. To experience the benefits of our community for yourself, call us at 304-346-2323 or contact us here.