Redefining a Sense of Purpose in the Senior Years

Search online for “activities for seniors” and you’re guaranteed to find numerous crafts, games, memory stimulation puzzles, and naturally, the requisite bingo. What you will not find, unless you really search much more, are the significant, beneficial activities that bring meaning to our lives. And yet, if you ask older individuals what they would most like to do, most of them won’t choose bingo, crafts and games. What they want most of all is to feel useful.

The University of Minnesota details how the most vulnerable times in our lives are the first year of life, and a person’s first year after retiring. Losing the sense of purpose discovered in a fulfilling profession can lead to significant health issues – and even an earlier mortality rate, if that awareness of purpose isn’t redefined in some way to enable the individual to encounter an ongoing sense of being useful.

One tremendously successful program, the Baltimore Experience Corps, pairs seniors with young kids in schools that are understaffed, offering them the invaluable chance to mentor, assist with reading capabilities, and serve as a warm and nonjudgmental buddy to the children. And they’re helping themselves in the plan as well. As Michelle Carlson, Ph.D., of the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shares, “By helping others, participants are helping themselves in ways beyond just feeding their souls. They are helping their brains. The brain shrinks as part of aging, but with this program we appear to have stopped that shrinkage and are reversing part of the aging process.”

When helping seniors who have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it can take a bit of creativity to find stimulating activities that enhance their sense of purpose and meaning. Home & Hearth Caregivers of Hinsdale offers the following ideas to help get you started:

  • Consider local and national organizations that help those in need – veterans, the homeless, animals, women and children in poverty or crisis, etc.
  • Determine if these organizations have any volunteer opportunities that older individuals or those with cognitive issues could assist with, such as:
  • Organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have ribbon campaigns that necessitate folding, cutting, and stapling measures of ribbon to cards for distribution.
  • Pet shelters and humane societies are often in need of donated towels and blankets that can be cleaned and folded at home; or older individuals and family members could prepare homemade pet treats together, or perhaps even take dogs for walks together or spend time with kittens.
  • Assemble care packages for veterans or the homeless with individual-sized toiletries, snacks, etc.
  • Work on coloring pages or other easy crafts together, letting the older adult know they will be provided to a local domestic crisis facility to brighten the day for women and children.
  • Make sure the older adult has opportunities to help with as many chores as possible around the home: sorting and folding laundry, shelling peas, setting the table – letting the person know how much his or her help is required and valued.

Hinsdale IL dementia care experts, Home & Hearth Caregivers, provide services that go beyond just providing care in the home; our caregivers are dedicated to helping older adults live lives filled with meaning and purpose. For more tips and suggestions on helping older adults maintain the highest possible quality of life, contact us any time at 800-349-0663.

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6432 Joliet Road
Countryside, IL

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