Happy older couple.

MN Impact: Researchers Use the Vital Involvement Construct to Improve Senior Care Facilities

September 4, 2019


Research will lead to improved programs for senior care facilities that will improve overall health and wellbeing of seniors.   


Each day 10,000 baby boomers turn 65—a trend expected to continue through 2030. Whether living in an assisted living facility, residential nursing home and in their own home, it is vital we provide the elderly with the tools and freedom, and also the support and opportunities, to pursue a happy, healthy life.

What has been done

Helen Kivnick and her team are committed to improving eldercare by focusing on what an individual can do rather than their limitations. The Vital Involvement (VI) construct suggests that with supports in the environment, even fragile elders can add value to family and community, and can, in doing so, require fewer expensive care-related services.

The team conducted a study to measure the influence of the Art—Wellness—Vital Involvement in Aging program (AWVIA) on low-income older adults living in subsidized senior housing. AWVIA includes Vital Involvement Practice (VIP) plus professionally implemented arts programming, in this case Songwriting Works. This three-month study compared VIP (control) to VIP+music in 10 subsidized senior housing sites where residents had experienced VIP for the previous three years. They collected quantitative data pre- and post-intervention for 276 participants, to measure community, physical health, cognition, emotional and fulfillment of personal values.


Analysis revealed significant positive effects of VIP+music intervention on an array of measures spanning physical, emotional, cognitive and social engagement dimensions, including outcome metrics that improve residents’ chances of thriving in an independent living setting. Compared to control subjects, participants reported an improved sense of community, higher community trust and engagement, improved physical health, more physical exercise, improved word recall and less hopelessness and signs of depression.

Additionally, non-participating residents at the intervention sites also experienced a significantly higher post-intervention sense of community. This last finding suggests that appropriate VI-based interventions involving far less than a building’s entire resident population can influence a perceived sense of community throughout the building.