Finding New Purpose in Life as We Age  

As we age, our life goals shift and change.

Through early- and mid-adulthood, careers and parenthood provide focus and purpose. As children leave the nest and retirement looms, it’s important for older adults to seek meaningful ways to stay engaged. In fact, there’s a growing body of research that suggests having a sense of purpose can improve physical and mental health and overall quality of life.

Here are some research-backed ideas that can help you find purpose, stay connected and add zest to everyday life.

  • Volunteering: Finding a cause you’re passionate about and donating time to the cause is a positive way to make a difference and stay connected to your community. Research shows volunteering decreases the risk for depression and may reduce stress levels.
  • Adopting a Pet: Animals provide companionship and so much more. Having a dog to regularly walk can help you stay physically active, while more than 75% of pet owners say their animals are a stress-reducer. Nearly as many say their furry companions provide purpose.
  • Gardening: Not a pet person? Caring for and nurturing plants could provide some of the same benefits. Properly maintaining a garden is a great way to fit low-impact exercise in, making it good for your physical health. Studies about gardening and plants have shown benefits ranging from reducing blood pressure to positive effects on mental health. Plus, gardening gets you outside and the fruits and veggies you grow can contribute to a healthy diet. Working the soil in a community garden can also help you make new friends.
  • Joining a Club or Group: Research points to social connections as an important part of maintaining cognitive functioning and physical health in older age. You could look at group fitness options, clubs at local senior centers, study groups through your place of worship or start your own morning coffee crew or Friday night card game gang.
  • Taking a Class: When you were younger, did you dream of playing an instrument, creating great works of art or writing a novel? Now is the perfect opportunity to pick up a creative pursuit. Look for local community-based offerings geared toward seniors or take an all-ages class to expand your circle and exposure to new people. Plus, creative outlets have been shown to benefit mental acuity.
  • Meditating: Carving out time for daily meditation could be good for your brain and how it works. Enhanced cognitive functioning related to attention and memory has been studied with promising results. Not sure how to start? Listen to our podcast about mindfulness and then use the guided meditation that goes with it to see what you think.

How do you stay engaged and find purpose? Share your ideas in the comments and tell us about the value your chosen activities add to your life.

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Photo credit: adamkaz

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