The PHITNESS Program - Benefits

Compelling research over the last 5 years has linked psychologically healthy behaviors to overall health and most importantly in the senior years. Psychological Transitions has developed a psycho-educational model for residents of assisted living and independent living communities that teaches the skills of psychologically healthy aging. This article describes the program and reported benefits. 


Each stage of human development brings changes and this is especially true of late adult life. Finding the opportunities and rewards in these inevitable changes is a foundation of psychological health. However, unlike the other life stages, there are fewer resources to help seniors make the most of these challenging years, especially those who live in assisted living communities. These residents encounter many stressors and losses and often the losses themselves make coping more challenging. There is little preparation to assist in coping with the emotional and behavioral consequences of the stressors of aging. Too often family and care givers do not even know there are issues until the resident is in significant distress and the situation is a crisis. Suicide is increasing faster among elders than among any other demographic group. There is clearly a gap between the needs and the resources. The gero-psychologists at Psychological Transitions now offer PHITNESS to address this need.

Format of the Program

Each one hour session presents skills and knowledge formatted in interesting multi media presentations and discussions of relevant topics. PHITNESS encourages and empowers seniors to manage their psychological health as well as they manage their physical health. PHITNESS coaches are psychologists who present ideas and strategies that improve living now increasing satisfaction and freeing energy for every day living as well as for major life transitions.

This program is applicable for seniors in residential communities  and focuses on issues likely to occur in the decades of the 60’s 70’s 80’s and 90’s. Psychological health spans the domains of behaviors, thoughts and feelings and each session contributes to each of these domains.

Benefits to Facilities and Staff

Another outcome of PHITNESS is that it raises the awareness of staff of the psychological needs of independent and semi independent elders and of staff awareness of how resourceful and resilient seniors can become with proper coaching. A culture of coping with a common vocabulary and peer empowered and supported strategies emerges from people who have attended the PHITNESS sessions. For example, activity directors report a renewed interest in cognitive strengthening activities after a “Use it of Lose It” session.

Benefits and Outcomes Reported by Residents

Residents have been enthusiastic in support of PHITNESS. They report the continuation of informal social support networks with a focus on “coping not carping” (one resident’s phrase.)

PHITNESS encourages residents to view the psychological health of the residence as their shared responsibility and not just the job of the facility staff. Personal responsibility for psychological health, personal satisfaction, positive feedback from families, and better coping skills are frequently reported results.