Change as we age is inevitable. While some embrace it, others fear the changes that will come with each passing year, afraid that the best years have passed.
Life purpose throughout the adult years if often defined by relationships and responsibilities. A responsibility to raise your children to be outstanding adults. A responsibility to build a successful career and retire feeling like you contributed to the company you invested hours of time energy and effort into. A responsibility to nurture and continually grow your relationship with your significant other.
Having grown, successful adult children, many years of retirement under your belt, and the passing of a spouse leads many aging adults to ask the question, “What is my life’s purpose now?”
So, what’s the secret to living your best life?
What Is Life Purpose (And Why Does It Matter?)
Author and public speaker Richard Leider defines life purpose as, “Who we are and what makes us unique, why we’re here. It’s a source of direction and energy. It’s what gives our lives meaning.”
Studies have shown that seniors with a sense of purpose in life are:
- Less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment
- Less likely to have heart attacks or strokes
- More likely to sleep better
- More likely to experience improved mental and physical health outcomes
- More likely to live longer
Embracing All Life Has to Offer
If you’ve noticed a change in your parent’s mood, desire to participate in activities they once did, or lack motivation to get out of the bed in the morning, empower your parent to find meaning, purpose, and potential despite the life changes they have experienced We all need that encouraging ‘nudge’ from time to time to find the path we’re meant to follow next, especially when life throws us a curveball.
Here are 4 tips for helping your parent re-define their purpose in life.
1. Help your parent embrace change.
Most people avoid change. Fear of the unknown drives us to avoid it. Purpose and perspective go hand in hand. If your loved one recently has in-home assistance to help manage light housekeeping responsibilities, try asking your parent what they will do with their new found free time. If they spent a majority of their time caregiving for a spouse, try asking questions like, “What are some things you used to enjoy doing that you haven’t done in a while?” Encourage your parent to identify what they want this next chapter of life to focus on, rather than the ability or responsibility they have lost.
2. Encourage your parent to try or learn something new — and try it with them!
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to embrace change is to do it with someone else. Ask you parent to pick one thing they’ve always wanted to try, but never have, and try it with them. Perhaps it’s trying Tai Chi for the first time or maybe, it’s taking an art class. Find ways to spend quality time with your parent, while finding an interest you both can enjoy together.
3. Help your parent find a way to contribute to the world.
Giving back is one way your parent can find purpose in life again. If your parent’s happiness has been heavily reliant on roles – being the breadwinner, being a parent, being a caregiver – this may be just the thing they need. For senior volunteer opportunities, check out the Corporation for National and Community Service.
4. Embrace Change with Change.
One key question to ask yourself and your loved one is, “Is change happening to you, or are you influencing the changes that happen in your life?” Take assisted living for example. Seniors who move to a community because they have to find much less joy and satisfaction than those who move because they want to. Take a community like Highgate Senior Living for example, whose mission specifically is to “devote ourselves to helping every resident live a life of purpose”. With an abundance of daily activities, outings like hot air balloon rides or trips to Glacier National Park, and the opportunity to meet others your same age with similar interests, moving can create opportunities to find a new purpose in life that can’t be found staying at home.
For more tips and information about supporting an aging parent, download our eBook What Older Parents Really Want from Their Adult Children.