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Being Healthy Versus Being Well

September 5, 2023

healthy aging advice for seniors

When someone greets you in passing and asks how you’re doing, do you take a moment to actually consider your response? Or do you automatically say, “Fine, thanks,” and think nothing of it?

Although a quick, courteous reply is often the appropriate choice, you can still use the opportunity to think about how you truly are doing.

“I’m Doing Very Well, Thank You.”

What does it mean to be healthy? And what is healthy aging?

Many people think of health in terms of their physical status. They would say being healthy is being free of illness or disease.

Some might also include mental health and emotional health, which in the medical field are sometimes combined and referred to as behavioral health. Others might add spiritual health as a component of overall health.

If you’re in good shape in all of these ways, then you’re well, right? Maybe, but let’s take it a bit further. Let’s explore the concept of well-ness.

Wellness is more than a state of being in good health, even if you take mental, emotional and spiritual health into account.

Pfizer (yes, the pharmaceutical company) offers the following definition of wellness:

The act of practicing healthy habits on a daily basis to attain better physical and mental health outcomes, so that instead of just surviving, you’re thriving.

While this definition focuses on physical and mental health outcomes, it also addresses a couple of salient points. First, it implies that we play an active role in our own wellness, and second, wellness is about growing and flourishing.

In short, it’s about more than being healthy as we age. It’s about aging well. If you’d like to take a deeper dive, the National Institute on Aging offers some excellent healthy aging tips. 

A Holistic View of Wellness

At Emerald Heights, we encourage and make it easy for residents to enrich their lives. We support their endeavors through a holistic approach that encompasses seven aspects of wellness.

Naturally, fitness is one of those aspects. We offer activities and classes for all residents, regardless of their level of ability, to maintain or improve their physical well-being. And, like nearly everything that goes on in our community, there’s a social element to our fitness classes and activities — because maintaining social connections is so vital to healthy aging.

With an emphasis on fresh, locally sourced foods, dining at Emerald Heights also combines the social and physical aspects of wellness. Getting together with friends and neighbors for lunch or dinner is a guaranteed good time.

Along with physical and social wellness, we believe there are spiritual, environmental, emotional, intellectual and vocational components to wellness. By combining them all into a deeply satisfying lifestyle, our holistic approach covers all the bases on how to age well.

Collaborative, Intentional, Resident-Driven Programming

Something we believe sets us apart from other senior living communities is how closely our staff members and residents work together to make Emerald Heights a place where everyone feels welcomed, included and valued.  

The teams who lead our various departments collaborate to ensure activities and programs are developed with these intentions in mind. Several key committees include both staff and residents so that a variety of perspectives shape the personality and culture of our community.

Nicole McCarthy, director of resident services, says one of the things she liked most when she interviewed with us before accepting her role in December is that Emerald Heights “feels like a home, even though the campus is huge.”

To illustrate her point, she notes the artwork that hangs in our hallways — a group of residents decides what is displayed. Another resident group creates floral arrangements to beautify the common areas and atriums. There are resident committees that enjoy maintaining the nature trail and planting flowers around the campus.

“The residents are so active and invested in the community, and it runs well because of that,” Nicole says. “They want it to succeed.”

The volume and quality of the interactions between staff members and residents also add to the home-like feel you’ll find at Emerald Heights. At many events, you’ll see the staff having as much fun as the residents.

“It’s like family,” Nicole says.

A Prime Example: Our Fun & Fitness Games

Each July, we have our own version of the Summer Olympics. It’s a week full of fun, complete with an opening and closing ceremony. The games this year ran the gamut from lawn bowling, water volleyball and musical chairs beach ball to an outdoor scavenger hunt, brain games, balloon badminton and a bucket brigade relay.

While there’s some friendly competition, the real focus is on having a good time. The range of activities, and the modifications that can be made to many of them, ensures all residents have lots of opportunities to participate.

During the games, residents help each other and cheer one another on. Staff members do more than encourage and assist — one of this year’s back-to-back noodleball events in the pool was specifically for employees.

The video recap we played at the closing ceremony captured a lot of silly moments and the joyful essence of the weeklong event. We’re already looking forward to next year’s Fun & Fitness Games!

Exercise for the Brain

Our newest fitness specialist, Chris Wilson, has created a class called Brain Games. It combines the intellectual and social aspects of wellness into a lively, team-structured activity designed to fortify residents’ cognitive capabilities. Groups of 3-5 residents compete in timed rounds to solve a variety of puzzles, mazes, riddles and trivia questions. As with our Fun & Fitness Games, the primary purpose is to have fun.

We offer plenty of other stimulating educational events and activities, such as:

  • Classes, lectures and presentations (live and remote) by guest speakers on a broad array of topics
  • Streamed documentaries and movies every week on our in-house TV channel
  • Resident-led book club discussions
  • Trips to local venues, including museums, live performances and docent tours

Connecting With Others for Spiritual and Emotional Wellness

Along with weekly worship services and community prayer meetings, Chaplain John Waltner facilitates support groups for partners of people who have Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, Parkinson’s disease or other health challenges.

Chaplain John also oversees a program called Faiths in Our Neighborhood. Each month, he invites a local guest speaker who represents a different religion or world view to come give a talk at Emerald Heights.

Recently, Chaplain John invited speakers from Braver Angels. The organization helps people learn how to respectfully communicate with others who have different viewpoints.

Vicky Neil, trips and events coordinator, also plans activities for residents who are interested in learning more about diverse cultures. Sometimes, new friendships blossom, especially when residents discover they share common ground. At the very least, residents typically gain more insight into, awareness of and appreciation for others who live in and beyond our community.

We Take Wellness Personally

Each person’s journey to wellness is different, Nicole notes. We make a point of getting to know new residents as soon as they move in, learning “what aspects of wellness they would like to improve upon, build on or share with others,” she says.

Then, as residents continue living in our community and their needs change, it’s up to us to find ways of keeping them engaged in what makes them happy.

We hope you’ll take some time to explore all of the dimensions of wellness. The more you expand your wellness awareness, the more likely you are to thrive. Eventually, when someone asks how you’re doing, maybe you’ll enthusiastically reply, “I’m doing very well, thank you!” If you’re interested in learning more about our multifaceted approach to wellness and how easily you can increase your wellness quotient as a member of our community, let us know. We’ll be happy to arrange a time for you to come visit.

Featured Image: Jake Johnson Pictures, 2021