Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Communication is Seen as Key to Quality of Life

Photographer: Bill Branson
Quality of life is affected by many factors. For older Americans, declining capacity, health issues, and isolation can significantly deteriorate quality of life. According to Dr. Richard Besdine, Professor of Medicine, Director of the Center for Gerontology and Healthcare Research, Director of the Division of Geriatrics in the Department of Medicine at Brown University and former President of the American Geriatrics Society, the matrix of factors that impact our quality of life as we age include physical and mental health, interpersonal relationships, functional status, social life and participation in activities, and financial health. Key factors to a good quality of life according to Dr. Besdine include:
  • Absence of distressing physical symptoms (eg, pain, dyspnea, nausea, constipation)
  • Emotional well-being (eg, happiness, absence of anxiety)
  • Functional status (eg, capacity to do activities of daily living and higher-order functions, such as pleasurable activities)
  • Quality of close interpersonal relationships (eg, with family members)
  • Participation in and enjoyment of social activities
  • Satisfaction with medical and financial aspects of treatments
  • Financial health
  • Sexuality, body image, and intimacy

In 2013, the Pew Trust conducted a large scale study to determine what people of different ages saw as the most important of these functions and capabilities in maintaining a good quality of life as
we age. One might suspect that physical health and concerns over dementia topped the chart, but suprisingly the ability to communicate with others was ranked the most important factor to maintaining a good quality of life across all generations, more so even than long and short term memory, being able to dress and feed oneself, living without severe or long-term pain, or feeling that one is doing something worthwhile with one's life. Fully, 93-95% of respondents, regardless of age, ranked communication as extremely or very important

Retirement communities who want to remain competitive need to provide easy access to social life and communication tools for their residents. Increasingly, older adults are retiring from jobs that required the use of email, websites, social media, and other digital communications tools, and who are comfortable using these tools in their personal life. While older adults may not like change in their favorite programs and platforms, they are increasingly tech saavy and expect digital tools to be part and parcel of their life. Indeed, among adults who use social media, seniors spend the most time online of all age groups. Retirement communities can no longer rely on paper or phone to communicate with their residents, and many prospective residents will be looking for digital tools to easily keep in touch with neighbors, community activities, dining halls, and maintenance and other staff.


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