Researchers have long established how social standing within communities can impact life quality. As residents within Assisted Living Communities (ALCs) engage with other residents and form social groups based on similar abilities and interests, their life quality can also be impacted. For instance, those with higher social standing within their community tend to report greater co-resident relationships and activity involvement. A study that received a Silver 2021 Innovative Research on Aging Award from Mather Institute has further attempted to understand which individual factors influence perceived social standing within ALCs.
A survey of 200 participants between the ages of 51 and 100 from 21 ALCs collected quantitative data about individuals’ perceived social standing within their ALC as well as information about their health, cognitive abilities, extraversion, demographics, activity attendance, and relationships with other residents, staff, and visitors. To measure perceived social standing, respondents were asked to rank their social standing on a ladder relative to others within their ALC. The survey also collected qualitative data through an open-ended question asking residents to comment on hierarchies within their ALCs.
Quantitative analysis suggested that residents who perceived themselves as having high social standing were more likely to report greater physical and mental health, and more co-resident and resident-staff intimacy, and were more likely extroverted as compared to residents with low social standing. Qualitative analysis further indicated that interpersonal factors, prosocial behaviors, health, and ability impacted social standing.
Researchers concluded that residents with advanced social skills, outgoing personalities, and health factors supporting social ability may be more likely to develop high social standing within their ALC. Researchers ultimately proposed that ALCs should develop resident-, staff-, and community-level interventions to help address potentially damaging social dynamics within communities. Resident programs targeting communication skills can enhance their ability to engage with others of differing sensory and cognitive abilities. Staff training targeting how to engage in positive interactions with all residents can help residents with all health and social abilities feel valued. Results ultimately provide insight on how to minimize inequalities associated with social standing within ALC social hierarchies.