The level of life satisfaction of older adults residing in assisted living facilities has been tied to a number of factors including depression, social supports, time in caregiving and fear of falling. But less is known about how the environment helps optimize function and physical activity and thereby life satisfaction.
These Robert Wood Johnson Foundation INQRI-funded (Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative) researchers recruited 171 residents from four assisted-living communities in Maryland to participate in their study. Most were female (80%), White (94%) and widowed (80%). Nearly half (47%) screened positive for depression. The researchers found a positive correlation between having friends and experts who encourage exercise and better life satisfaction. They did not, however, find a relationship between overall physical activity and life satisfaction. They noted a negative relationship between time spent in caregiving—helping others or caring for pets or plants—and lower life satisfaction. As expected, fear of falling was experienced by many (75%) residents and related to less life satisfaction.
The researchers suggest that changing attitudes about physical activity among older adults and increasing their social support related to physical activity may be a route to improving life satisfaction of elderly residents in assisted living.