Do you have the budget blues? Are you looking for a way to enhance the happiness of residents living in your community but you are dealing with an ever-shrinking budget? Well, look no further.
Research indicates that investing in mental health has the most impact on happiness AND is associated with the lowest cost. Dr. John Helliwell from the University of British Columbia presented 6 key variables of happiness at the UN in New York on the 2017 International Day of Happiness.
And what are these variables? Generosity, social support, trust, perceived freedom to make life decisions, GDP per capita, and healthy years of life expectancy.
What struck me right off the bat is that the first 3 of these six variables are elements that could be enhanced in senior living—at no cost.
First, generosity is free. Helping residents give back to others is something that can be built into any social calendar. To shift the focus from entertainment and distraction, to where and how they can contribute is doable. If opportunities to give back isn’t already built into your social calendar, consider adding it in.
Second, social support is free. As social beings, we have a fundamental need to be connected, and feeling connected has positive consequences for mental health. Cruwys et al. (2014) for example, argue that loneliness and depression can be understood as conditions that result from the lack of purpose, and a study among community-dwelling older people found that feelings of uselessness was associated with increased mortality.
What better purpose can there be than to support our fellow beings? Those that live in our communities. Are residents given regular opportunities to provide social support to one another? If not, set up a peer support group. Peer support groups are fantastic at reducing social isolation.
Third—you can see where I’m going with this—trust and the building of trust is also free. What builds trust? Building trust within an organization is based on caring about people. Leadership within any organization needs to make this a priority. I know from personal experience that trust also happens to be a by-product of being surrounded by generosity and social support.
So I believe these three variables can easily be used as a cost-effective approach to improving happiness in senior living. Thank you Dr. Helliwell for pointing out these variables. How hard can it be to to foster generosity, social support and trust?
And, best of all—no budget, no problem.