Why Is It Important?
- People with a sense of purpose live longer. Deriving meaning from life’s experiences contributes to successful aging.
- A sense of purpose helps lessen the damaging cognitive effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Researchers believe it relieves stress, promotes resilience, decreases depression, and lowers
San Diego Home Caregivers offers the following ideas as a starting point to nurture meaning and purpose in the lives of older adults:
Tutoring: Many schools could use volunteer tutors for young children. Older adults can assist with reading skills and serve as a mentor.
Bring a Smile to Someone’s Day: This helps satisfy the basic human instinct to love another.
- Assemble care packages for veterans or the homeless with individual-sized toiletries, snacks, etc.
- Work on coloring pages or other simple crafts together, letting the senior know they will be donated to a local domestic crisis facility to brighten up someone’s day
- Find a senior friend who could use a daily phone call to cheer him/her up
Help a Cause: Research organizations that benefit those in need—the homeless, veterans, animals, women and children in poverty or crisis. See if these organizations have volunteer tasks that older adults or those with cognitive impairment could assist with. For example:
- Organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving have ribbon campaigns that require cutting, folding, and stapling lengths of ribbon to cards for distribution
- Animal shelters are often seeking donated towels that can be laundered and folded at home; or, bake homemade pet treats together, sort and package to be delivered to the shelters
Lifelong Learning: What type of things interest your elderly loved one? Some communities even have classes that are offered free or at a reduced charge to seniors.
- Look into local classes offered for older adults
- Check out your area’s senior centers for fun learning activities
- Documentaries on TV or a streaming service can be a great way to learn
Encourage Participation in Activities: Allow the person to assist with as many tasks as possible around the home, acknowledging how much his or her help is needed and appreciated.
- Shell beans or peas
- File papers
- Sort and fold laundry
- Set the table
Celebrate a Legacy: Help an older adult honor and celebrate his/her accomplishments and adventures through:
- Working on a scrapbook together
- Recording an interview of the person on camera or microphone
- Helping the person write a memoir
Sources: University of Minnesota, PsychCentral, Sageminder, Boyle PA, Buchman AS, Wilson RS, Yu L, Schneider JA, Bennett DA. Effect of Purpose in Life on the Relation Between Alzheimer Disease Pathologic Changes on Cognitive Function in Advanced Age. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2012;69(5):499‑504. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.1487, Boyle PA, Barnes LL, Buchman AS, Bennett DA. Purpose in Life Is Associated With Mortality Among Community-Dwelling Older Persons. Psychosomatic medicine. 2009;71(5):574-579. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181a5a7c0.