How Intentional Focus on the 8 Dimensions of Wellness Can Improve the Lives of Seniors

Ask your aging loved one these questions to help them identify the things that they need to live a fulfilled and healthy life.

How Intentional Focus on the 8 Dimensions of Wellness Can Improve the Lives of Seniors

We all know there’s value in living a healthy lifestyle. But sometimes being motivated to do so is the hardest part.

Plus, there’s more to health and wellness in older age than eating right and exercising. Herein enter the eight dimensions of wellness.

The 8 Dimensions of Wellness for Seniors

If you want to help your parents or an aging loved one live well in old age, you might be driving them to medical appointments, learning about their health conditions, or running to the pharmacy to pick up their prescriptions. While physical health plays an important role in wellness, there are actually eight dimensions of wellness that affect how your loved one feels.

Wellness is a holistic approach to health. When tailored to older adults, the eight dimensions of wellness include developmental, cognitive, physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, vocational, and contextual wellness. Here’s what each one looks like:

  • Developmental wellness is characterized by hopeful and realistic perceptions of aging.
  • Cognitive wellness emphasizes engagement in learning and confidence in your ability to expand your knowledge and skills.
  • Physical wellness encompasses your perceptions of being physically healthy, including diet and exercise behaviors and caring for your health.
  • Emotional wellness involves being hopeful about the future and exhibiting resilience when challenges arise.
  • Spiritual wellness is about having a sense of purpose and meaning in life as well as engagement in spiritual or religious activities.
  • Relational wellness involves having a strong support network, feeling connected to other people, and having a sense of belonging.
  • Vocational wellness is defined by a sense of meaning and purpose based in life pursuits.
  • Contextual wellness is shaped by perceptions of adequate financial resources, safe and cohesive neighborhoods, and satisfaction with the overall physical environment and community.

How Each Dimension Is Connected

These 8 dimensions of wellness are all interwoven and correlated with one another.

When one dimension suffers, others suffer, too. For an example, consider how if your older parent is struggling with depression, they may not just feel it emotionally but might also feel physical fatigue. Another example: If your loved one wrestles with feelings of anxiety, they might also experience gut-health issues or have difficulty breathing while they’re feeling overwhelmed. 

But when your loved one thrives in one area, other areas will thrive, too. For instance, if your loved one participates in a water aerobics class, they enjoy the physical benefits of building strength and improving circulation as well as the social benefits of meeting other people and the emotional benefits of relieving stress.

This is why it is important to support your aging loved one in making sure all aspects of their life are healthy and fulfilled. A key part of wellness, especially for seniors, is a sense of empowerment: Each day we wake up, we make choices  that can have immediate or long-term effects on our well-being. By empowering your loved one to take personal responsibility for their day-to-day choices and intentionally focusing on the 8 dimensions of wellness, they can identify what areas of their life are fulfilled and healthy and what areas need improvement and attention.

For example, they might be financially fulfilled and fulfilled by volunteer work, but they may be lacking meaningful social relationships and socialization. Identifying this can allow them to prioritize their social needs and work toward balancing their lifestyle. Perhaps they schedule a Zoom call with a friend and make an effort to ask how they are doing and communicate to them how they are feeling and more.

Check in with Each Dimension of Wellness

If you want to help your parents or aging loved one live a happy and healthy life, invite them to think of wellness as being healthy in many dimensions of their lives. Here are some questions you can ask them to help prioritize their wellness and be aware of their needs and how they are to be met.

Developmental Wellness

  • Are you hopeful about the process of growing older?
  • Are you realistic about the challenges associated with later life?
  • Do you believe that you are resilient and possess many strengths?


  • Do you strive to learn new things and exercise your brain?
  • Do look for ways to use your creativity and critical thinking skills?
  • Do you listen and consider the perspectives of others?


  • Do you eat at least five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily and drink water regularly?
  • Do you exercise at least three times a week?
  • Do you wake up feeling rested?


  • Are you able to express and communicate your feelings?
  • Can you recognize stressors in your life and know how to deal with them?
  • Are you able to adapt to change?


  • Do you have a sense of meaning and purpose in life?
  • Do you take time alone to think about what’s important in life — who you are, what you value, where you fit in, where you’re going?
  • Do you make time for relaxation in your day?


  • Do you have a strong network of people who support you?
  • Do you participate in various social activities?
  • Do you have a sense of belonging?


  • Do you use your strengths to provide resources like time, money, or love to others?
  • Have you found your calling in this chapter of life, whether it’s in the form of a continued occupation, part-time work, or volunteering?
  • Do you participate in work that is consistent with your values, goals, and lifestyle?


  • Are you satisfied with your current financial situation and that your future will be secure?
  • Do you have a living space that supports your well-being and is conducive to positive emotions?
  • Can you adapt to a new living context when additional support is necessary?

Intentionally focusing on the 8 dimensions of wellness can help your loved one identify what their core health values and needs are as well as the things that they need to live a fulfilled and healthy life. It can also help them to identify the things that they need to do to be fulfilled developmentally, cognitively, physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, vocationally, and contextually or whatever other needs they have. 

To learn tips, activities, and habits that support each aspect of wellness, download our eBook Living a Healthier, Happier Life: A Guide Exploring Healthy Aging in Older Adults. With the right information, supports, and resources, your aging loved one can become the healthiest, happiest person they can be.

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