As we close out our enlightening series on Aging Well, we end on a topic that centers around the very heart of senior well-being: cultivating a strong sense of purpose.
Over the years of one’s life, there’s a pattern of filling various roles that cultivate a sense of purpose or meaning. They are the very motivators to embrace each day and connect with those around us. For many seniors, however, this sense of purpose can diminish as they begin to experience isolation, a loss of independence, or a decline in health. But overall well-being at this stage of life is predicated on the very foundation of staying connected to one’s unique purpose.
For lots of older adults, the key to supporting a healthy sense of purpose is tapping into the power of community. Following are some of the most dynamic ways community living helps seniors recognize and honor their sense of purpose.
Ongoing Engagement & Activity
Seniors who find themselves isolated from the people and sense of purpose that once fueled them are prone to declines in physical, mental, and emotional health. Often, it’s because they’re lacking adequate opportunities for human connection, as they struggle to stay social, active, and fulfilled. Community living fosters the support and space for a senior to regain their purpose by engaging in the activities that interest them.
A sense of purpose doesn’t have to be stagnant. In other words, you don't have to choose just one path. Your personal efforts could be as simple as the friendship developed with neighbors, or being the shoulder someone else can lean on. Alternately, it might involve learning a new skill, joining a club, attending educational events, or cooking for family and friends.
Whatever the case might be, this renewed sense of purpose supported by community life makes all the difference in sustaining a senior’s overall well-being. It’s the access to community touch points—in the form of ongoing engagement and activity—that cultivates a continued connection to one’s inner purpose.
Outlets for Deepened Spirituality
Whatever one’s spiritual beliefs, outlets for deepening them are critical for catering to a sense of purpose. Spirituality is intrinsically linked to human meaning and purpose, and there are so many different ways to celebrate it.
In senior living communities, religious and spiritual services are often included in campus calendars and prioritized as an important aspect of residents’ daily lives. Many communities offer on-site church, prayer, and reflection services that encourage seniors to get involved and meet others who share common beliefs. In addition, there are organized memorial services to honor those who have passed through prayer, hymns, and exchange of comforting words. Even scheduled yoga classes can help connect seniors with their spirituality and, therefore, strengthen their sense of purpose.
Community living honors religious and spiritual wellness by offering opportunities for residents to celebrate their spirituality in any way they feel compelled to do so.
Support System for Independence
For lots of older adults, a senior living community is the support system they need to live more independently, which in turn enables them to seek out their individual passion or purpose (a major contributor to aging well!)
Community living and personal independence are highly correlated. The ongoing availability of community and social interaction cultivates mental and physical health, which in turn facilitates a senior’s capacity to live more independently—as opposed to requiring increased assistance with daily routines and activities. It all comes down to making independence more attainable through the very act of living among a community that helps you thrive.
For those who welcome the kind of support associated with living in a senior living community, the result is often greater energy and enthusiasm for living an enriched and purposeful life. It’s the very thing that affords them the connection and sense of purpose they require to age in a healthy, happy way.
Options for Volunteering
As seniors come to terms with the reality that their career and caretaking years are behind them, they may experience a waning sense of purpose. But the truth is there is so much meaning to be found every day, especially when opportunities for applying oneself become available and accessible. In a community setting, options for volunteering your time are abundant, which can greatly reinforce a senior’s connection to their sense of purpose.
There’s no shortage of ways to engage in activities that benefit a good cause. From participating in food drives and embracing fundraising activities to spending time at non-profits where the interpersonal connection is needed, volunteering is a wonderful avenue for overcoming feelings of uselessness at this stage of life. For some, it may amount to cooking for a shelter, knitting or sewing for the needy, or visiting the sick. The specific task is not nearly as important as the feelings of purpose and satisfaction they derive from this kind of activity.
Services like transportation and coordinated events make the act of getting involved as a volunteer much easier and attainable. It’s another way community living helps to unite seniors with a healthy sense of purpose.
The Search for Meaning
Whether or not you’ve recognized the importance of purpose before now, there are immense advantages to prioritizing this aspect of aging well. In fact, research has shown that seniors with a sense of purpose are less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, mild cognitive impairment, disabilities, heart attacks, and strokes, and are more likely to live longer than people without this kind of underlying motivation.
Each person, no matter their age, has something very important to contribute, and it’s vital to connect to that part of oneself. Seniors who reside in a community setting often find that discovering their personal calling is that much more tangible, and they experience a renewed ability to share their purpose with family, friends, and fellow residents.
For additional tips on senior health and lifestyle issues, check out our blog. To find out how United Methodist Homes provides a wealth of offerings and opportunities to support the health and well-being of our residents, contact us today or schedule a complimentary visit now.