Residents of Erickson Living communities experience daily opportunities to be with others. From engaging in a conversation with a neighbor over dinner to having an exercise buddy in the fitness center, social connections are an enjoyable staple of life for residents.
Jeff Watson serves as Erickson Living's Director of Operations for Resident Life. With the company since 1997, he is a published author and has taught collegiately both domestically and abroad. In a recent interview with The Tribune, Jeff discusses the benefits of having personal life networks such as family and friends as well as how Erickson Living communities foster this sense of connection.
Q: Studies have shown that social engagement contributes to overall health and wellness for older adults. Why do you think this connection is so important?
Jeff: Scientists tell us that we are "hard-wired for connection." Even the animal kingdom shows this deep instinct for bonding—from bee hives to prairie dogs. If animals are so clearly social, it is no surprise that humans also have a keen sense of connection. We are designed to be together and experience our lives together.
Q: How does moving into an active senior living community, such as those managed by Erickson Living, improve seniors' lives?
Jeff: Erickson Living communities drive down stress and this can be life-enhancing! According to renowned psychologist John Cacioppo, "prolonged loneliness can be as harmful to our health as smoking or obesity. Conversely, healthy connections can help keep us going longer and stronger." Erickson Living communities are designed specifically to combat social isolation and to build social connections.
Q: We understand Erickson Living has created the Embrace Wellness program at its communities. Can you share how this program contributes to helping residents achieve optimal wellness?
Jeff: Yes, this outstanding program highlights holistic well-being in our communities. Our vitality in life bubbles up from at least seven sources: physical, social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, occupational, and environmental. We are all happily beating the Embrace Wellness drum—from community TV programs to presentations, from newsletter articles to discussion groups. Indeed, it has created an energizing philosophy that emphasizes eating wisely, exercising daily, learning consistently, and relaxing meaningfully; this enhances life!
The program aligns our community's offerings with these dimensions of wellness. Residents have access to a multitude of engaging programs and activities including fitness, entertainment, healthy dining, learning experiences, as well as opportunities for socializing, volunteering, and leisure activities.
By focusing on the quality of life, the quantity of life (longevity) usually gets a very big boost! We want to foster a strong, prevention-rich, wellness culture on every Erickson Living campus.
Q: What are some of the more popular ways in which residents socialize and stay active on campus?
Jeff: The culture on campus has so much richness in terms of social wellness. Residents are engaged in a variety of meaningful activities, from being with their peers, organizing and participating in clubs and activities, and serving others by volunteering in and outside the community.
Our groups and activities tend to fall into six exciting buckets: leisure, fitness, learning, spiritual, entertainment, and giving. Two are particularly popular for residents: leisure (hobbies, games, recreational leagues, etc.) and fitness (workouts in the gym and indoor pool, groups for yoga, meditation, stretch-and-tone, walking on our nature trails, etc.).
These opportunities for socializing and staying active promote healthier living and longevity while fighting the adverse effects of isolation, a problem that many seniors face when choosing to live alone in their house.
Q: Many of the community's amenities have safely reopened, and residents are enjoying clubs and activities on campus, with distancing and other precautions in place. Why is now a good time to move to an Erickson Living community?
Jeff: Now is a great time to move to an Erickson Living community and enjoy our maintenance-free living and vibrant retirement lifestyle. Again and again, we hear residents say they wish they had moved sooner because they've discovered how easy and enjoyable life is at the community. They don't have to deal with house maintenance, weather-related repairs, or the risk of being alone when one of life's challenges arrives. Plus, since amenities such as restaurants, pharmacies, activities and social opportunities are conveniently located on campus, they can stay active all year long in every season.
And I can't stress this enough. After such a prolonged time of self-isolation and distancing, it's important to feel connected to others. The former Surgeon General of the United States, Vivek Murthy, recently described that "loneliness is a growing health epidemic and that rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s." Erickson Living communities can be an island of social happiness against an all-too-frequent ocean of isolation.
One of the greatest things about living in a community is that we can continue to encourage the people around us and to draw joy from them. This is the essence about the power of community living.
There's never been a better time to move to an Erickson Living-managed community. If you're interested in learning more about the Erickson Living lifestyle, please visit www.EricksonLiving.com.