“For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment.” This powerful quote comes from the well-known book, Man’s Search for Meaning, by the revered Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl. It touches on the human nature of finding purpose and meaning in one’s life—a challenge that can become more elusive as we age. In one of our recent articles, we discussed The Undeniable Link Between Having Purpose & Aging Well, which explored some of the fundamental reasons why it’s important for seniors to stay connected to their sense of purpose.
There’s no shortage of reasons why older adults have a difficult time maintaining a strong connection to their inner purpose. With career goals set squarely in the rearview mirror and an empty nest on the road ahead, it’s no surprise that many seniors begin to lose some sense of purpose in their day-to-day lives. But 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.
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Heart disease continues to rank as the number-one cause of death in the United States, impacting millions of Americans every year. And if you think you don’t have to be concerned about issues like cholesterol once you hit a certain age, think again. People age 65 and older are much more likely to suffer a heart attack, have a stroke, or develop heart disease and heart failure. Heart disease is also a major cause of disability, meaning it can limit one’s activity and significantly erode a senior’s quality of life.
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common degenerative neurological disorder (after Alzheimer’s disease), affecting an estimated one percent of the population over the age of 60. With upwards of one million Americans living with Parkinson’s, it’s become a critical area of research and study and a particularly relevant topic for seniors. Many living with the disease or concerned about a future diagnosis wonder about whether it’s possible to minimize symptoms and/or progression through lifestyle changes, like diet and exercise.
As we age, changes are happening in many different areas of our bodies, and the brain is no exception. Research tells us that certain parts of the brain shrink, particularly those critical to learning and other complex mental activities. Inflammation may increase in response to injury or disease, and communication between neurons in certain areas of the brain may not be as effective. These types of changes result in potential impacts on cognitive function, even for healthy seniors.
The housing market is booming. After a year of pandemic-style living, it seems homes are flying off real estate listings in a matter of hours—that’s if they even make it there at all. Mortgages reached historic lows, and the demand for housing is at an all-time high. In fact, the National Association of Realtors recently reported the median sales price of homes to be up over 17 percent since last year.
As people age, the relationships they forge and maintain with friends become more important than ever. Having people to connect with socially and personally isn’t just fun; it’s actually fundamental to promoting a healthy lifestyle throughout the aging process. And while certain transitions and circumstances at this stage of life can make creating and sustaining active friendships more challenging, there’s no denying that these special bonds are instrumental for seniors.
Over the last 30+ years, the field of interpersonal neurobiology has emerged as a framework for studying the effects of relationships on the human mind and body. It’s an area focused on the fundamental role of human connection in our lives. Whereas important aspects of physical and mental health, like diet and exercise, have long been recognized as leading contributors to a long and healthy life, many researchers, scientists, and medical professionals are now acknowledging interpersonal relationships as an undeniable influence on living and aging well.
At least 14 million Americans aged 65 and older live with diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes, according to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Ranked as the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, this disorder involves difficulty processing sugars from food, which can lead to dangerous levels of sugar in the blood. Diabetes is particularly concerning for the senior population, who are at increased risk for specific complications.
Guilt, by any measure, is one of the most difficult feelings senior caregivers face when transitioning a loved one from home to a care facility. Family members who find themselves up against this decision do not typically go into it lightly, often laboring over the question of what’s best for the senior in their life. Many times, the move is dictated by unforeseen circumstances or newly emerged medical conditions that make it impractical to care for the loved one at home. Whatever the case, both the decision and the logistics of placement can leave a caregiver riddled with an overwhelming sense of guilt.
It could be argued that no widespread experience has shed greater light on the universal need for face-to-face contact and personal connection than the global pandemic. Amidst this seismic threat to public health, people around the world have been rattled by overwhelming fear, stress and social isolation. For many, this reality has been accompanied by an unmistakable appreciation and longing for the kind of interaction that used to mark our everyday lives before the onset of COVID.