Finding Purpose in Your Life During Your Senior Years

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Does one’s purpose need to be redefined throughout the course of life or is it defined during the early years? Various theories answer this question with contradictory opinions.
active senior, keeping active, finding purpose, life’s purposeactive senior, keeping active, finding purpose, life’s purpose

The renowned psychologist Erick Erikson postulated that one’s purpose was defined based on various phases in one’s life. Whereas newer theorists like Gene Cohen Ph.D. believes that one’s purpose can be redefined especially during the senior years. The French language uses the term, “Raison d’etre” which is translated to mean, “Reason for being”. Despite various interpretations or your personal theory, individuals need a reason to essentially “get up each morning. “ As children and young adults, our purpose may be more clearly defined due to societal requirements including attendance at school, participation in sports, religious education and part-time jobs. Later in life, due to marital commitments, obligations to family members and significant others and/or career responsibilities, we may not have time to define our purpose based on personal interests. One’s purpose may change due to the development of new technologies, delayed retirements, longer lives, second careers, and adult children returning home. At this same time, economic restrictions, personal health issues and the need to care for others, may result in redefining our purpose but should not restrict the fulfillment of life long goals.

The need to explore, find and enhance your purpose in life is an ongoing part of living. There is no specific formula to find purpose in one’s life, but there are steps you can take;

Don’t retire early – People often look forward to not working and count the days to retirement. Retirement can be a wonderful time but this phase of life should involve a great deal of thought process. Pre-planning for retirement is a helpful step that can involve assessing your financial situation, possibly with an outside advisor. It is also helpful to consider what activities or interests will occupy your time. Often individuals will consult a retirement coach, complete a personal interest inventory, journal or write a preliminary calendar of plans.

Volunteer – Giving back to others can reduce depression, anxiety and at the same time contribute to an individual’s purpose in life. Networking is a way to meet new people as you develop new skills and share many of your passions. Helping others can contribute to building your confidence and self-esteem while you are providing needed services to your community. According to a study conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Services,” The Health Benefits of Volunteering,” showed that states with higher volunteer rates have overall better health and lower rates of heart disease.”

Explore new interests – Retirement and the senior years is a wonderful time to explore interests that you previously did not have time to pursue. Many people feel that finances are a major restriction. There are many free or inexpensive discussions and groups at libraries, senior/adult centers, churches, synagogues, YMCAs and fitness centers.

Ask for advice from others/find a mentor – It is helpful to spend time with someone who has successfully retired and has found a purpose in their life during their senior years which is not solely defined as working. You can attend some of their activities, meet some of their friends and learn about their roadblocks/mistakes.

Socialize – There is nothing wrong with spending time alone but don’t become a solitary individual during your senior years. Your purpose may be to relax, watch television, use the computer, and/or converse with friends on the phone. It is healthy to spend time outside of your home in the company of others.

Assess your strengths and interests – In finding in your purpose; it is always helpful to record your strengths and interests. You may rediscover interests from your childhood or hobbies that you have delayed due to other requirements.

Follow your passions – It is essential to follow your passions in life when discovering or rediscovering your purpose. Don’t put yourself in a predicament that you need to have only one passion in your life or define your passion based on economic goals or the goals of others. According to poet Edward Hirsch, “finding that irresistible thing in your life that you can’t live without can be a struggle, but once you discover it, don’t let go.” Take actions in finding your passions and have fun along the way.

Challenge your roadblocks – Throughout our lives, we often have naysayers that challenge our passions or our purpose in life. Sometimes we can be our own worse critics. We often develop roadblocks or negative thoughts when we are working on pursuing our passion in life. This pattern often occurs throughout our lives. Individuals often find reasons for not pursuing their passions including economics, family obligations and self-doubt.

The senior years are a wonderful time to pursue your passions and purpose in your life.

This is your beginning of a positive self-exploratory process. You may know the path or purpose that you want to pursue or you may begin a new direction. Enjoy the journey as your find and fulfill your purpose.