Life Plan Community residents may benefit from access to counseling services, but these services are not always readily available. A study in Seniors Housing & Care Journal examined how partnering with a university can address this issue.
A university and a Life Plan Community established a partnership in which the university would offer on-site pro bono counselling services to residents, allowing graduate students to complete a clinical internship in their primary field of study. A licensed professional counselor provided clinical supervision, and the graduate student was on-site at the Life Plan Community for 20 hours per week.
To assess residents’ perceptions of the impact of the program on their mental health and emotional well-being, researchers conducted two sets of 60- to 90-minute focus groups with 23 independent living residents. Participation in counseling was not required to participate in the focus groups.
Insights from residents covered a range of topics, the first of which was defining emotional well-being as one ages. Many residents referenced the importance of maintaining physical wellness and social connection for emotional well-being. There was also a focus on learning to cope with loss and not being able to do the same activities as when they were younger, as well as maintaining positive perceptions of aging.
A second theme of discussion focused on the connection between emotional well-being and community and social relationships. On one hand, Life Plan Communities can reduce social isolation; on the other hand, it can be challenging to live in close proximity with so many other residents. There was also a concern that seeking help for one’s mental health is stigmatizing.
Despite this stigma, focus group participants described the value of professional counselling for Life Plan Community residents. They noted several issues that could benefit from counseling, including the transition to a Life Plan Community, interpersonal conflict within the community, and coping with age-related changes. In the first round of focus groups, residents expressed reservations about the interning counselor’s age and experience; however, by the second round six months later, the resident response was overwhelmingly positive.
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Fullen MC, Wiley, JD, Delaughter PM … and Tomlin CC. Resident perspectives on the integration of a university-sponsored counseling program within a life plan community. Seniors Housing & Care Journal (2020); 28(1), 46-62.