Wellness Real Estate: Health, Happiness … and Homes

By Martha Michael

Living Well

Unless you just re-watched the award-winning biopic Erin Brockovich, it may be awhile since you thought about the environmental impact of where you live. Not so for residents of “wellness communities,” where developers bring in a healthy profit while residents profit through the health benefits of their housing developments.

Developing Wellness Communities

This multibillion-dollar trend includes planned communities such as Serenbe, a Georgia development built with the health of residents in mind. Sometimes described as a Utopian neighborhood, Serenbe was designed to support the physical and emotional needs of residents, according to an article on FastCompany.com. It’s surrounded by 40,000 acres of forest and 15 miles of trails. There is a farmers market, a spa, a bookstore, and children’s features such as secret treehouses built into common areas.

North America’s wellness real estate market is worth $52.5 billion and is growing by 6.4 percent annually. More consumers are looking to these housing developments to combat preventable chronic diseases. It’s a shift away from the leisure golf communities that grew in popularity among baby boomers.

“There’s a health benefit coming out of almost every household,” claims Serenbe founder Steve Nygren, “whether it’s the kids don’t have asthma and have less allergies, or people have gotten rid of their antidepressants. … We’re having (families) and retirees move here even just because of the air quality.”

How You Live

Aside from where your home is situated, some of the features of these health-conscious developments serve to remind people how their lifestyle choices can benefit or deter them. According to an article on Departures.com, some sustainable real estate communities follow the One Planet Living model, which links healthy amenities to well-being.

They typically include farm-to-table options and encourage biking, hiking and mass transit in lieu of individual driving. There’s a demand by millennials for additional green space and walkable access to work, not car-centric living that became popular in the mid-20th century. Where there are fewer outdoor fitness options, communities such as The Blairs in Silver Spring, Md., is a tobacco-free development that encourages the use of stairs and includes a two-story gym and an urban farm.

The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion created a report reflecting and prescribing changes in environmental health factors moving forward. The Healthy People 2020 Environmental Health objectives isolated six areas of analysis:

  • Surface and ground water quality
  • Toxic substances and hazardous wastes
  • Outdoor air quality
  • Infrastructure and surveillance
  • Homes and communities
  • Global environmental health

The report says that 23 percent of deaths worldwide and 26 percent of children’s deaths are caused by environmental factors -- and are preventable. Our exposure to hazardous substances through our food, water, soil and air are partly responsible. Issues such as manmade disasters and occupational hazards add to the ongoing concern about natural threats to life.

Health and Happiness

George Mason University completed a study finding that disruption from disease is a key factor in decreased happiness. More specifically, the researchers found that the decrease in happiness correlates to the degree one’s illness is debilitating, according to an article in Science Daily.

“Previous research found that many serious medical conditions, including cancer, have a surprisingly small impact on happiness, while certain other conditions, such as urinary incontinence, seem to have a lasting negative effect on happiness,” the report says.

When facing the challenge of an illness with no cure, the best you can do is cope with its symptoms. And based on the study, maximizing happiness involves minimizing its debilitating effects.

Chiropractic care is a treatment option in which structural damage to your body can be assessed and compromises to your health prevented. A chiropractor can treat the causes of musculoskeletal pain and disabilities related to daily activities by using manual therapies and other natural remedies. And by reducing the debilitating effects of a person’s condition, a chiropractor contributes to a greater level of happiness in the life of the patient.

Wellness real estate may be on the minds of architects, developers and home buyers, but a gateway to your own health and happiness is probably more important to you. With attention to where and how you achieve wellness, words like “lush” and “tranquil” can be terms that describe your disposition as well as your housing development.

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