A study conducted at two retirement homes in Nebraska suggests that “happiness training” can have a significant impact on quality of life for seniors.
Professors and students from the University of Nebraska — Kearney implemented a program called the Wonderful Life Project at one senior home, Riverside Lodge, while another home, Northridge Senior Living, was used as a control.
The researchers announced March 2 that after a year of happiness coaching, seniors at Riverside Lodge had maintained their activity levels, while seniors at Northridge had dropped their activity levels by two points on a 20-point scale.
This is significant, they said, because activity levels correlate to happiness as well as self-care ability. “If we can help to manage a decline in activities of daily living, then it really has reaching potential at change and keeping the quality of life for people as well,” explained UNK faculty member Krista Fritson, according to the local ABC affiliate.
Lee Elliot, executive director of the Wonderful Life Project, said this could provide guidance for those in the senior care industry, as more than 75 million Baby Boomers enter care facilities over the next few years. “This is a number we haven’t seen before and there’s a great concern. How [are] we going to be able to afford the health care for these folks? How [are] we going to be able to afford all the resources that are going to be required to care for them?” he said. “Well, one solution would be to reduce the demands because they are better able to care for themselves.”
The Wonderful Life Project began in 2000 at St. Francis Medical Center, where it reduced turnover by about 40%. The program works on conflict resolution, forgiveness, trust, happiness, stress management, fulfillment, life planning, hope and remaining positive in the face of major changes.
“We encourage residents to volunteer for and participate in numerous activities, as well as serve on governing committees,” says Wes Porter, Communications Committee Chairperson, Four Seasons at Elm Tree. “There’s always something going on to keep residents involved. In addition to our standing committees, our volunteers organize trips, in-house functions, and civic projects. They use skills honed before retirement and new skills they learn while working on projects to gain a real sense of accomplishment as these activities come together successfully.”