The 7 dimensions of wellness: benefits of an active lifestyle for adults over 55 –

By Abbey Slattery, WRAL Digital Solutions

This article was written for our sponsor, Greystar Overture Cary.

While wellness is typically associated with physical health, a proper wellness plan incorporates not only the body, but also the mind. The seven dimensions of wellness were developed by Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute, in 1976, and include: fitness, wellbeing, spirituality, intellect, social, ecolife and pursuits.

Each dimension connects to the others, making an interwoven system that promotes optimal health and wellbeing.

For senior adults whose health is top of mind, an active lifestyle that promotes these seven dimensions can foster mental, social, and physical health.

“When you tap into all the different dimensions, you get little bits and pieces of everything — it’s more holistic. You’re taking care of so many different aspects, and a lot of times, without even realizing, you’ll notice just how intertwined they are,” said Christine Sammons, community manager at Overture Cary, an active adult community. “Independence is fostered at Overture Cary and you will get to choose what events you are interested in, as well as contributing with ideas as to what you would like to see in the community.”

For adults living in active adult communities, amenity spaces and lifestyle programs support the seven dimensions of wellness.

1. Fitness & Wellbeing

At Overture Cary, fitness classes like water aerobics, a walking group, and yoga lend themselves not only to physical health, but also wellbeing and social life.

Since it’s typical to lose strength and agility as you age, regular fitness can help.

“Exercise makes your mental health better, getting those endorphins. Plus, you feel stronger — it’s very empowering to lift weights,” said Jane Stenhouse, a former personal trainer and current sales consultant at Overture Cary. “For me, it’s very rewarding to see people want to get stronger and then to also see themselves getting stronger. We lose muscle mass so much quicker as we age, and people finally have time to commit to it.”

2. Intellect & Social

Fitness classes and equipment are just one of the amenities provided by an active adult living community. In most cases, communities also offer plenty of activities and events for residents to enjoy, ranging from cooking classes and educational speakers to holiday celebrations and athletic competitions.

For seniors that don’t live in an intentionally active community, this sort of access and activity level is tough to come by.

“We provide the opportunity to bring people together. It gives them that safe place to come and enjoy something — when they move here, you can feel the sense of community,” said Sammons. “You know everybody in the whole building, so you can just walk down the hallway and find friends. We also have everyone wear a name tag for the different events, which makes people feel a little more comfortable and allows residents to get to know each other.”

At active adult communities like Overture Cary, the events and activities are catered specifically to helping the residents achieve those seven dimensions of wellness. For example, guest speakers in the past have lectured on downsizing and organizational tactics, helping seniors who are leaving a house behind as they transition into apartment living. Others have discussed online security and how to avoid scams.

Not only do these classes provide knowledge, but they can also bring a sense of relief or comfort to those in need of guidance.

3. Pursuits

For many senior adults, retirement means leaving behind decade-long careers. Now, they’re left with a lifetime of knowledge and a lack of ways to apply it.

In order to encourage pursuits, retired adults can search out opportunities to teach others their skills. At Overture Cary, for example, the staff tries to intentionally find ways to get residents involved in sharing their knowledge.

“We have some residents that are still full-time workers, but others have helped us with marketing or something that they did as an occupation for years,” said Sammons. “Oftentimes, they’re like, ‘Oh, I don’t mean to point this out, but I did this for 20 years.’ But we want them to point it out so that we can find some opportunities for them.”

For example, according to Stenhouse, one resident used to be a sommelier, and the staff at Overture has enlisted his help in leading a discussion on all things wine. Not only do these opportunities help residents feel more connected to the community by sharing, but it also helps those learning to continue expanding their knowledge.

4. Ecolife

Ecolife primarily focuses on protecting the environment. For adults over 55, that often means taking care of the environment in order to preserve it for their children and grandchildren.

“As much as you can do with this demographic to be green and usage, we do it. It’s simple, little things, like having a water bottle refilling station instead of plastic bottles, or finding new uses for old furniture,” said Stenhouse. “One of the biggest things we hear from residents is that they’re thinking of their grandchildren and what kind of world they’re leaving for them and the footprint. It’s just a different perspective to be mindful of how to be as eco-friendly as possible.”

In addition to encouraging sustainable lifestyle choices, many active adult communities also have community gardens for residents to grow fresh produce and herbs. They’re able to use what they’ve grown to cook fresh, healthy meals.

5. Spirituality

While spirituality doesn’t only include religion, a study from the University of Chicago found that belief in god increases as people age. Practicing spirituality in whatever form a person prefers can help build community and improve mental health.

“Spirituality helps define who you are as a person, and it allows you to belong to something. When you find others who believe similar things, it builds a sense of community,” said Stenhouse. “At the same time, that emphasis on spirituality can introduce people to other religions and ideas. During the month of December, we have someone from the Jewish center come and teach us a Jewish blessing, and people realize we all have more in common than we thought.”

This article was written for our sponsor, Greystar Overture Cary.