“Health” and “wellness” may sound like two words for the same thing, but the truth is a little more nuanced than that. Most people, when they say the word “health,” are specifically speaking to physical health – staying in shape, eating well and generally living a healthy life. But wellness is a much broader state that encompasses not just physical health but all other levels of health as well.
“A wellness-focused lifestyle is one that takes care of the whole person by nurturing and maintaining the 8 Dimensions of Wellness,” says Courtney Robinson, Community Relations Specialist for Abe’s Garden Community. “Making sure that all dimensions are cared for is absolutely crucial to living a high-quality life, especially as we get older.”
It wasn’t until recently – within the past few decades – that the idea of whole-person wellness was adopted as a given in the medical profession. The foundation of the dimensions of wellness was developed by Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute, and originally included six dimensions. The philosophy expanded to include eight (and in some cases, nine) dimensions, which are used to generate a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle.
According to the National Wellness Institute, wellness is defined as “an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.” In other words, it’s more than just becoming and remaining physically healthy, and it’s not a destination. Rather, it’s a journey that’s dynamic, ever-changing and ever-growing.
“Wellness is being in a complete state of well-being physically, mentally, socially and emotionally,” says Courtney. “You can’t just focus on one dimension and ignore the others. It’s essential that a wellness-focused lifestyle contains aspects that touch and fulfil every dimension in order to promote the best possible existence.”
The 8 Dimensions of Wellness are as follows: physical, intellectual, emotional, social, environmental, spiritual, vocational and financial. Each dimension is interconnected to the other, and each one is equally important in pursuing optimal health.
“We intrinsically understand the importance of serving the whole person in the pursuit of optimal health, which is why our independent living lifestyle has such a strong focus on wellness,” Courtney explains. “We offer all sorts of wellness programs that help touch on all aspects of health and wellness. This allows us to empower our residents to create their own definition of retirement living, find their optimal wellness and live life to the fullest to ensure they love where they live.”
In honor of National Wellness Month, we’ve put together some definitions and descriptions of the 8 Dimensions of Wellness, as well as how everyone – from children to adults to seniors – can take steps to improving their overall wellness.
The first dimension, and the one that most people think of when you say the words “health” or “wellness,” is physical wellness. This simply means caring for your body and living a healthy lifestyle. Eating well, exercising daily, getting rid of unhealthy habits, making sure you get enough sleep – those are all aspects of physical wellness. Examples of ways you can improve your physical wellness are adopting a healthier diet (eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and reducing your intake of sugar), eliminating things like smoking and alcohol from your diet, getting approximately 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily and setting up your bedroom so it becomes a haven for sleep (not too hot or cold, dark enough, quiet enough).
Intellectual wellness involves keeping your mind active, engaged and curious, no matter what age you are. Studies have shown that continuing to stimulate the brain can help seniors keep cognitive function, even if they are experiencing dementia or other cognitive illnesses. Some examples of fulfilling intellectual wellness include taking a class, learning a new hobby, teaching yourself something like a new language or an instrument, doing a form of art or joining a book club.
Emotional wellness can also be referred to as “mental health.” Having good mental health, a positive outlook and low levels of stress in your life help keep you happy, grounded and provide a sense of overall wellness. It’s a lot easier to have emotional wellness when you’re doing things you enjoy, you’re engaged with others and you’re in a living situation that meets your needs. Emotional wellness can be improved and nurtured through meditation, support groups, joining a spiritual community and seeking out activities in your life that can help reduce stress.
Staying socially active is incredibly important for us as we age, as humans are naturally social creatures. Social wellness is a huge component in both emotional and intellectual wellness as well. This includes having a strong support system, the opportunity to engage with others (old friends and new) and being close to the people who matter most to you. Social wellness can be greatly enhanced by joining interesting clubs, carving time out of your schedule to meet up with friends and family on a regular basis and, for seniors, joining a senior living community where there is a lively and full events calendar.
The environment in which you live – from your own private living space to the community to the world around you – definitely impacts your overall wellness. Being outside is an integral part of providing a balanced sense of self and health. At the same time, “environment” also means the community in which you live, which is where you spend the majority (if not all) of your time. Examples of ways individuals can boost their environmental wellness is through recycling, gardening, donating time to important causes, sitting on the resident board of their community and the like.
Whether or not you’re a religious person, spiritual wellness is an integral part of overall health. Finding a connection to your faith or your inner values expand our awareness and help us define our sense of purpose. Having strong spiritual wellness helps us accept our situations, allows us to get through difficult times and boosts our sense of peace and harmony. Ways spiritual wellness can be nurtured is through meditation or participating in a religious community.
Even if you’re retired, you don’t have to stop working. In fact, continuing to “work” can be a very important part of your wellness plan. Being able to use the knowledge and experience you’ve gained over the years provides a sense of purpose and worth. Some examples of how individuals can increase their vocational wellness is through mentoring, consulting or even starting a new business or career. Volunteering can also be a facet of vocational wellness.
Financial wellness, in a nutshell, means having enough money to live well and do the things you want. Money is one of the top stressors for individuals at every age, so it makes sense that having strong financial solvency helps boost your overall wellness. One way that seniors can help boost their financial wellness is by moving into a senior living community that provides maintenance-free living and a continuum of care – both of which provide monetary value as well as peace of mind.
Focusing on wellness as a journey with multifaceted dimensions will help you better approach an overall plan that engages, uplifts and fulfills your whole person. Doing that is the best way for seniors – and anyone – to remain healthy and happy throughout their lives.
Love Where You Live!
Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Do I love where I live?” If you ask that question of the residents of Abe’s Garden Independent Living, Nashville’s premier retirement community, the answer would be a resounding, “Yes!” For 60 years, Abe’s Garden Independent Living (formerly Park Manor) has served Nashville’s seniors by providing a community designed to support an active, independent, secure and hassle-free lifestyle. Located on seven spacious acres in the desirable Nashville neighborhood of Belle Meade, we’re proud to provide a lifestyle our residents love each and every day.
Our apartments and dining room have been renovated, and our programs, events and activities have been reimagined and refocused on enhancing the total well-being of mind, body and spirit. In fact, Abe’s Garden Community is establishing a replicable model for senior life that is focused on brain health, wellness and purposeful living.
This commitment to enhancing the lives of seniors is why we are held in such high regard by our surrounding community and are known as the premier retirement community offering independent living and assisted living lifestyles.
Abe’s Garden Assisted Living provides peace of mind that simply can’t be matched living alone at home, with support and individualized care when needed. Residents have access to a vibrant, wellness-focused lifestyle rich with opportunities to nurture friendships and enjoy all the possibilities Abe’s Garden Community offers. Our assisted living lifestyle promotes independence, dignity, well-being and fulfillment.
For seniors requiring memory support, Abe’s Garden Community’s campus is home to the prestigious Abe’s Garden Memory Support Center of Excellence, which is committed to elevating the standard of care for those with dementia by studying, implementing and sharing best practices in care, design and engagement. Abe’s Garden Memory Support Center of Excellence has been internationally recognized as a groundbreaker in design for individuals living with dementia.
At Abe’s Garden Community, your continued independence is our top priority. Enjoy living life as you choose … in the comfort and privacy of your own apartment while having the peace of mind of knowing help is available if and when you need it.
For more information, please call 615.997.3030.