How appropriate: Researchers have found a critical connection between having a sense of purpose and living a longer, healthier life. A study published in 2012 in the Journal of American Medicine found that senior adults with a sense of purpose were 2.4 times as likely to remain free of Alzheimer’s disease than those who scored low on the study’s “purpose scale.” An earlier report in Psychosomatic Medicine found that those with a sense of purpose also were more likely to live longer.
For many senior adults, finding their raison d’etre can be challenging. With their children grown and their careers behind them, they struggle to define their new roles within their families and their communities.
But as Ecclesiastes (and the late, great Pete Seeger) remind us: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” Seniors may no longer have the same role they had in their younger days, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have new, equally important roles. In fact, senior adults bring a depth and breadth of life experience that can make them valuable contributors in so many ways.
So how do we engage seniors to ensure they have a sense of purpose, a reason to live?
In our homes, we can be intentional about including them in family discussions and decisions and creating opportunities for them to share their thoughts and experiences. Taking things a step further, we can encourage them to become involved in the community, whether it be volunteering for a favorite cause, or campaigning in a local political race, or serving on a committee at church.
The key, truly, is in that word, “engage.” It is critical that the individual find a connection to the activity and that it has real meaning to him or her. To get started, check out these resources for ideas and activities in your area: