When my mother-in-law passed away in 1993, my father-in-law moved to Leisure World in Laguna Hills, CA, 45 miles south of Los Angeles—one of the largest senior living communities in America with 18,000 residents age 55+.
It was great for him because he found a sense of community dedicated to longevity and health, many new friends and eventually remarried. With so many active living residents that they actually changed the name to Laguna Woods; they were not living “leisurely” any more.
On Sunday, August 31st, Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” discussed The Leisure World Cohort Study from 1981: Activities and Mortality in the Elderly. That study followed the activities of over 8,300 women and 4,800 men for 28 years or until death. Dr. Claudia Kawas, a neurologist and professor at University of California Irvine, discovered the Cohort Study and followed up with 1,600 of the men and women who were still alive today.
What’s The Secret To Their Longevity?
Some of these findings might surprise you, but these are why active seniors in their 90s are now the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population and expected to quadruple by 2050:
- Non-smokers live longer: This is a no brainer for most seniors.
- Exercisers live longer: Time spent in active activities resulted in significantly lower mortality risks (15-35%) compared with no time for exercising. This could be 15 minutes three times a day, or 30-45 minutes once a day.
- Other activities were also beneficial: Book clubs, board games, card games, and socializing with friends were all beneficial to keep your mind and body stimulated.
- Alcohol is OK – in moderation: Up to two drinks a day helped many people relax vs. non-drinkers.
- Vitamins: Most seniors eat a balanced diet so vitamins don’t make a difference. The majority of folks in their 80s and 90s already take lots of other pills.
- Coffee is OK: One to three cups per day was recommended.
- Gaining a few pounds is good, too: This was contrary to what doctors thought.
- High blood pressure = Lower risk of dementia: This was another surprise.
- Sex is great: A rich social life puts a smile on the face of many active residents.
Sense of Community Can Work Wonders.
Back to my father-in-law. He’s gone now. But the 18 years he lived in Laguna Woods gave him a new lease on life. He knocked the golf ball around whenever he could; he and his wife played bridge a few times a week; took frequent trips; and frequently hosted friends for cocktails and dinner.
He wrote a whole new chapter to his life’s story at Laguna Woods. That’s why communities like this have earned a sterling reputation for keeping the “active” in “active living”.
SGD is the Bay Area advertising, marketing and branding agency specializing in seniors and boomers. We’ve repositioned, rebranded and relaunched senior living communities in California, Kentucky, Maryland and Virginia attaining an occupancy rate of 90% or more in very competitive markets, despite recessionary times.
About the Author: Gil Zeimer is a Creative Director / Copywriter at SGD Advertising specializing in senior / boomer, healthcare, lifestyle, financial, travel / leisure and technology brands since 1984.