franciscan ministries logo

How Happiness Leads to Healthy Aging & Living Joyfully

February 1, 2024

Blog image

During the Great Depression in 1938, Harvard University set out to track the health of 268 sophomores. The study followed these students for nearly 80 years and is, to this day, one of the world’s longest studies of adult life. The scientists who conducted this experiment had one goal: to see if this long-lasting study would reveal how humans could live healthier and happier lives. 

The study went on for decades, even to the point of tracking the children of the original participants, and scientists discovered that those who lived happier lives were more likely to have strong relationships with their families and friends. Those who lived longer maintained healthy, meaningful connections with the people around them. 

This study proves it’s important to discover ways to stay happy for many reasons. Whether we want to maintain good mental health or simply enjoy all of life’s special moments, happiness is truly the key to healthy aging

At Franciscan Ministries, our senior living communities in Illinois, Ohio and Indiana have one mission: living joyfully! We’re sharing how happiness can lead to healthy aging and diving into each key component of finding happiness.

Connections and Relationships

In the previously mentioned Harvard University study, researchers and scientists discovered a strong correlation between happiness and personal relationships, whether with a participant’s spouse, family or close friends. Many participants also had close ties to their community, contributing to those around them by volunteering or working closely with others. 

Humans are social creatures by nature, meaning we all have an innate need for companionship and closeness. In fact, many researchers have determined that humans, as a species, evolved over time to be naturally social as communities became more common with socio-ecological developments.

Loneliness and social isolation are also serious health risks for older adults, affecting nearly one-fourth of seniors over the age of 65. In fact, recent studies have determined that social isolation is strongly associated with higher rates of depression and other serious health issues.

Meaning and Purpose

Think about what “purpose” means to you for a moment. Perhaps earlier in your life, your purpose came from raising your family or excelling in your career. However, after retiring or your children have grown, it can become easier to lose sight of a greater purpose or sense of meaning. 

A sense of purpose refers to a general feeling of happiness and overall satisfaction with yourself and your relationship with the world around you. It can be determined by doing meaningful things with your free time and putting a driving force behind your actions as you achieve your goals and set new ones for the future.

Purpose and meaning have also been shown to have amazing health benefits, such as:

  • Improving self-confidence and esteem
  • Reducing stress levels
  • Improved cognitive function

Health and Wellness

Over the past decade, there has been a dramatic decline in mental health and well-being across the world, leading to shorter life spans and excessive stress. It’s important to understand that many reasons can cause this decline in mental wellness, whether it be the increase in technology that promotes less of an active lifestyle or even the amount of alcohol consumption.

Keeping that in mind, prioritizing a healthy lifestyle and overall wellness is essential for healthy aging and maintaining mental health. While many people assume that wellness is centered around the physical aspects of health, there’s a significant connection between mental and physical wellness. Essentially, the better your physical wellness becomes over time, the stronger your mental health becomes, and vice versa.

To ensure you’re able to keep up a good standard of wellness, here are some ways to take care of yourself both mentally and physically:

  • Eat a nutritious diet
  • Get regular exercise
  • Get enough quality sleep
  • Develop good mental health strategies

How Does Senior Living Promote Healthy Aging and Happiness?

If you or someone you love has been considering making the transition into a senior living community, this decision could be a valid path toward healthy aging and happiness. Not only do senior living communities promote friendships and meaningful connections, but they also provide the tools that every individual needs to enhance their wellness every day. When it comes to finding purpose, senior living communities offer plenty of engaging activities and events that allow each resident to find the enrichment that keeps them driven to reach their full potential.

Franciscan Communities promote healthy aging and active living, and what makes us specifically unique is our dedication to living joyfully. From the moment you visit one of our communities, you’ll see and understand the difference.

To learn more about senior living in Illinois, Ohio and Indiana and how we can help you live joyfully, visit our website or contact a member of the Franciscan Ministries team today.