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Novel Intervention in Senior Housing Communities Increases Resilience and Wisdom and Lowers Stress Levels

The Raise Your Resilience method focuses on gratitude, positive attitude toward aging, and value-based activities  

The United States Census Bureau estimates that by 2060, nearly one in four Americans will be age 65 and older. As America turns gray, there are numerous stressors, like health issues, the loss of a spouse or loss of independence, that negatively impact older adults. Resilience improves the ability to cope with these stressors; however, only about a third of older adults score high on resilience measures. In a recent study, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine developed a novel method to enhance resilience and reduce subjective stress in residents living in senior housing communities.

The multi-site study, published in the February 5, 2019 online issue of International Psychogeriatrics, used an intervention called Raise Your Resilience (RYR) and found an increase in resilience as well as wisdom,  and a significant  reduction in  the level of daily stress experience by the seniors.

“The increase in the score on a scale to measure wisdom was a pleasant surprise. Psychosocial interventions are beneficial to older adults, but few have been implemented in the senior housing community setting,” said senior author Dilip V. Jeste, MD, senior associate dean for the Center of Healthy Aging and Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “We found the senior housing communities to be excellent sites for a group psychosocial intervention.”

RYR addresses topics such as gratitude, savoring, and fighting aging stereotypes, and involves value-based activities like empathy, compassion, and self-compassion.

For example, group members were asked to record one event each day that made them feel happy or grateful and one activity that made them feel proud. “Satisfaction with the intervention was quite high among the participants. Most of them completed their diary on most days, which was remarkable”, said Danielle Glorioso, LCSW, executive director of the Center for Healthy Aging at UC San Diego.

The study involved a one-month control period and a one-month intervention period. Participants were then followed for three months post-intervention. The study was conducted in five senior housing communities across three states - California, Illinois and Arizona. Eighty-nine participants were recruited for the study, with an average age of 85.  Three-fourths were female and almost all the participants were white.

RYR was delivered in three, 90-minute sessions by residential staff who were not licensed therapists but were trained by the researchers. Most psychosocial interventions require specialized therapists with advanced education to conduct the intervention – an expensive and often impractical component to a treatment approach. “Our intervention can be easily duplicated at a low cost,” said Jeste. “Which suggests a high potential for its implementation and dissemination across similar communities nationally.”

When compared to the control period, RYR participants had significantly lower stress scores and higher wisdom scores during the intervention period with significantly higher scores in resilience post-intervention. “Our results show that something can be done to in a practical way to to empower the seniors,” said Jeste.

Future steps include studies with a more diverse group of participants from racial/ethnic and socioeconomic perspectives, and use of technology-assisted interventions.  

Full study: The DOI is

Co-authors include Emily B. H. Treichler, Ellen E. Lee, Tsung-Chin Wu, Xin M. Tu, and Rebecca Daly from UC San Diego School of Medicine, and Catherine O’Brien and Jennifer L. Smith from Mather Institute, Evanston, Illinois, USA.

This research was funded, in part, by the Mather Institute and by the National Institute of Mental Health T32 Geriatric Mental Health Program (grant MH019934 to DVJ [PI]), and an R01 grant (R01MH094151-01 to DVJ [PI]), and the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging, UC San Diego.

Media contact: Michelle Brubaker, 858-249-0456,


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