Like cream and sugar
I’ve always tried to devote my actions, words and decisions to happiness. I can’t say that I’ve succeeded every time, but I can say that I’ve never given up trying. In fact, I’ve based my entire career on this very principle in order to create residences that “make people happy”. But lately, we’ve been asking ourselves, what do we really know as a society about what makes you truly happy? The more we searched, the closer we came to a disturbing revelation: that there’s little to no evidence on the subject. It thus became imperative to us to correct the situation, which is why the launch of an extensive study on happiness makes us especially… Happy!
I deeply believe that, consciously or not, everything we do in our lifetime – the decisions we make, the people we surround ourselves with – is done with the innate desire to be happy. But this happiness is fragile and dependent on a significant number of more or less complex variables. That said, wouldn’t it deserve to be studied more, in order to be created more often?
This is what motivated Professor Mélanie Levasseur and a team of researchers from different universities, to design a major study of the key elements influencing happiness among the elderly based on their living environment. Supported by The Luc Maurice Foundation and launched at the VÜ residence in early June, we hope this study will enable decision-makers in our society to better understand the needs, desires and aspirations of seniors; and ultimately, to put concrete measures in place to offer them more apt choices in terms of living accommodations.
From reaction to prevention
The lack of data on the happiness of the elderly is problematic. In my opinion, this is what leads both public and private organizations to make decisions based on anecdotal and non-scientific cases. In addition, socially, we tend to take concrete actions to change things chiefly when a crisis arises. We are reactive rather than forward-looking. It’s this lack of planning and diligence that hurts our society – especially the most vulnerable of us.
And so, faced with a lack of action (and even awareness) with the aging of the population and its imminent challenges, we must collectively encourage and support initiatives aimed at anticipating their needs. However, we will have to be patient. Even if some preliminary findings will be determined earlier, conclusions of this study will only be revealed within three years.
Research to the rescue
For me, this Quebec study on the happiness of seniors gives me a breath of hope; and I dare to hope that it will be seriously considered by the various players in the field. The solution lies in knowledge and, consequently, in understanding what seniors really need and want in terms of accommodation. The solution also lies in finding answers and acting on this knowledge. And yes, I still dream of a society that is less navel-gazing and more responsive and aware of inequalities to make the necessary decisions, and above all, to act accordingly.
With the increase in life expectancy, it’s critical that we work together to offer more accommodation choices. But above all, choices that correspond to the different realities and preferences of seniors. It is our responsibility, our societal duty, to ensure that we as humans age happily.
In the longer term, the results of this study will certainly influence the quality of services offered to seniors; along with an outlook on preserving and increasing their level of happiness. Let us not forget, however, that although outside help greatly facilitates the task, we must also see happiness in the little things in life. We should choose to be fundamentally happy! As one of the residents of the VÜ who was at the launch of the study so aptly put it: “Happiness is like cream and sugar. When you don’t have any more, you worry.”
The study by Professor Mélanie Levasseur (and a team of five other researchers specializing in various aspects of aging), will involve the participation of 2,000 seniors. It will aim to:
- Compare the happiness, fulfilment, ageism, social participation and community integration of seniors living in a conventional home and in a seniors’ residence;
- Explore the happiness, fulfilment, ageism, social participation and community integration of seniors based on where they live.
Listen! (French only)
Entrevue avec Pre Mélanie Levasseur à Vivement le retourdisponible sur Ohdio
Read! (French only)
Communiqué de la FMSS de l’Université de Sherbrooke
Entrevue dans le magazine L’Adresse du Regroupement québécois des résidences pour aînées (RQRA)