For the Health of it—There's No Place Like Home: The Research on the Benefits of Senior Living Communities

Guest Contributor Christie Norrick, MSW, Project Manager, Leonard Schanfield Research Institute

As they say, “home is where the heart is,” but where we make that home as we age is what matters. A wide variety of options exist, like assisted living, independent living, senior living, aging-in-place, nursing homes, affordable housing, and continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). With so many choices, it can be overwhelming to figure out which is the right setting to make a home in one’s later years.


Regardless of what setting in which a person ages, the key determinant of the appropriateness of any housing is that the environment must “fit” the person. This theory is termed Person-Environment Fit, and researchers define this as the degree to which personal or individual characteristics match with the characteristics of the environment. As an example, living in one’s own home alone requires a certain degree of physical health to walk, climb stairs, and perform activities of daily living (ADLs), in addition to considerable cognitive health to ensure safety. For someone with advanced dementia, the environmental demands may exceed the person’s capacity, necessitating a move into a supportive living environment where personal and environmental factors are more aligned.

Even if someone has high physical and cognitive capabilities to remain living in one’s house, the research points to many benefits of moving into a senior living community, such as Tamarisk NorthShore (featured in this issue). In a study of over 4,000 residents in 81 senior living communities across the country, researchers from Mather Institute found a resident’s ability to participate in leisure activities was associated with higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction. Other research finds that senior living residents have higher levels of social cohesion and community belonging—considered important contributors to happiness—compared to people living in their own home.

An additional benefit of senior living communities is their access to healthcare and wellness services. Over a two-year period, 96% of older people who moved into senior living reported their health was “excellent” or “good,” compared to only 73% of those who remained in their own home. Further studies have noted higher rates of life satisfaction and self-reported good health among residents of senior living communities compared with non-residents. Because there are opportunities to participate in preventive care and receive help with services such as transportation, nutritious meals, and medication delivery, senior living residents have numerous supports to age well. In fact, 90% of residents reported that they are completely or very satisfied with their senior community.

The decision to move from one’s home into a retirement community can be a difficult decision. But the research is clear: choosing a home in which to age that best supports your needs is one of the best things you can do for your health!

CJE SeniorLife provides many options for senior living on a continuum of care that includes independent living, assisted living, and memory care. Also, our Care Managers can advise and help find the appropriate “fit” for your needs. Contact 773.508.1000 or visit cje.net for more information.