Throughout our adult lives, we strive to find a meaning and purpose. We see this in twenty-somethings struggling to define themselves as adults, separate from their parents. Many people question life’s meaning in middle age. Finding purpose in life after 60 can be particularly challenging. At this stage, people are looking at retiring from the jobs that gave them meaning. Their kids, if they had any, are adults themselves. Perhaps they are grappling with declining health or a chronic condition. The experience of a loss of purpose in life not only has mental health impacts but physical health impacts as well.
Finding purpose again is vital to a sense of well being. So how do you go about finding purpose in old age? How can you promote joy and a sense of purpose in the older generation, as a friend or family member? We’ve got some ideas for you!
People who found a lot of meaning in their work may feel adrift as they approach retirement. However, just because you are 65 or older, you don’t have to quit your job. You can keep working if that is what you want. On the other hand, you might want to take stock and consider whether starting a new career would be meaningful to you.
However, you don’t necessarily have to find your meaning in paid work. Lots of people look forward to retirement because there are creative projects they want to pursue. Or they want to travel. Or they want to spend more time with friends and family. If you are feeling a loss of purpose in life, take stock. What brings you joy? What makes you feel excited and passionate? Brainstorm ideas, then make plans to bring them to fruition.
For most people, their purpose and meaning in life is tied to their relationships. Raising a family or spending time with friends have been the source of their sense of purpose. While you might not have kids to raise yourself, you may have grandchildren. Try to find ways to connect with them and be part of their lives. Having close relationships with grandparents can be a huge boost to a child’s sense of well being and stability. It can also be a big help to parents who may feel overwhelmed with juggling family, work, and other demands.
Friendships and marriage are another important source of meaning. However, many older people have to deal with the loss of these relationships. Facing loss and yet being able to reach out and make new friends are both vital to finding meaning and purpose as you age.
Many older adults combine their need to contribute to the wider world and their desire for connection with others. They may volunteer to be mentors in their former profession. They may start support groups or get involved with existing groups to deal with their own losses, support others going through a loss, and form friendships. Others may find a lot of joy in starting a blog, reflecting on their life and sharing wisdom with others. Teaching a class or giving a talk are also great ways to find meaning and purpose.
Younger friends and family members should remember that they can help their loved ones with finding purpose after 70. Focus on ways you can build connection with them. Ask them about their life experiences and work. Ask them for advice. Don’t assume they don’t want to join you on adventures and new experiences. If mobility is an issue, think ahead so you can do things together.
Older adults, their families, and their friends can all work together to create community and opportunity that gives purpose and meaning to every member.
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