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How to help elderly discover purpose in life

This is an article most people won’t bother to read beyond the title. But there are some, who live and work with the elderly people day-in & day-out. This article is for the people who understand that those living with a continued sense of purpose live a longer, healthier life. This article is for the people who know that a majority of senior citizens today lack a clear purpose in life, and as a result, tend to slip into melancholia and depression easily. Lastly, this article is for anyone who helplessly watches their elderly loved ones suffer due to the lack of purpose in life and wish to help them find one. Here are some small, easy ways to help elderly discover purpose in life.

Help elderly get engaged in a small daily practice

senior male doing yoga

Imagine following a steadfast daily routine for almost 30 years, and then suddenly, one morning, all of that is lost. You no longer have to choose your professional attire for the day. No longer do you have to make a checklist of tasks to tackle at work. You no more have to achieve a certain daily target to get that promotion. Imagine, all day, every day, you worked hard to fulfill your purpose – get that car, buy that house, pick that furniture, and what not.

Now suddenly, your routine has slipped away from your hands – and you don’t know what to do with all those empty moments that seem to endlessly stretch your day. You don’t know which task to take over, and for what. You don’t know what to accomplish anymore. It’s hard, isn’t it?

The same happens to elderly people who retire. Leading a meaningful life after 60 becomes a challenge in itself, and they often find themselves rubbing their hands in anticipation of something exciting ahead in day – except that exciting moment never arrives and eventually, their enthusiasm dissipates, replaced by a sense of purposeless existence.

To help elderly discover purpose in life, start by getting them engaged in daily practice. It could anything – from a 10- minute morning yoga session to maintaining a journal of random thoughts that cross their minds. One of the best ways to motivate seniors is to help them start meditation. Not only will this small daily practice encourage inner reflection, but also help them pick the needle of purpose from the haystack of inner dialogue.

Make the elderly feel needed

ask the elders to tutor your child

A sense of purpose in life acts like the driving force of existence. But what drove your sense of purpose into existence? Look back in life, and you’ll find that until now, a majority of work that you undertook or accomplished gave you a sense of satisfaction only because you were able to bring real difference in others’ life through that work.

In short, your sense of purpose was driven by the fact that you were needed by others. And so, as long as you feel the need to be there for others, you continue to feel a sense of purpose in life.

But it’s not the same case with the elderly. They don’t need to be the breadwinner in their family anymore. They are not required to drive in profits at work anymore. It’s simple – they are not essentially needed by anyone, which forces them to face their own existential crisis.

The best thing you can do to help elderly discover purpose in life is to make them feel needed. Maybe you can ask them to babysit for your kids while you’re at work. Or you can ask the elders to tutor your child. The best thing – help them volunteer at orphanages or any NGO of their choosing – and watch as a sweet smile return to their faces (with a good amount of purpose).

Motivate seniors by helping them create

Motivate seniors by helping them create

Did you know that you can improve the life of parents and help them lead a meaningful life after 60 just by helping them create something?

Ask your elderly parents if there was something they wanted to do in life, but couldn’t until now, because… life happened?

They will certainly come up with something – maybe they want to learn a musical instrument, tap their feet more often, or paint like Picasso.

Whatever it is, tell them to take it up now. Actually, don’t just tell them, encourage them, support them and guide them to take up that long-forgotten hobby of theirs and start all over again.

Do you know how satisfying it is to begin something with a newfound sense of purpose? For instance, when an elderly person turns a new leaf in life and sets out to learn Japanese, can you imagine the intense sense of purpose that drives the person to pass each level in the language? Can you imagine that spark in the eyes of a senior citizen when he/she sets out on an exciting journey of striking the right musical note? That spark is the profound sense of purpose.

So, if you wish to motivate seniors post-retirement, the best way to do it is give them the gentle push they need – to begin from square one – not to always complete the task at hand, but to simply try.

Let curiosity help elderly discover purpose in life

Curiosity is magic

Curiosity is magic. A curious mind notices no limitations. Curiosity is the fuel that has ignited many terrific fires of purpose in one’s life.

Imagine if no one was curious enough to understand what lies beyond our planet – would the 1969 Apollo Mission then take place? How would mankind discover fire & light without the curiosity to look past darkness? Curiosity has, since times immemorial, opened the doors for purpose to step in, so that humanity can embrace discovery, experimentation and innovation.

So, if you find that the elderly in your life struggle to lead a meaningful life after 60, ignite a spark of curiosity in them. Feed their curiosity. Push their curiosity beyond the boundaries.

For instance, if they are wondering about how beautiful, ripe tomatoes grow, feed their curiosity by encouraging them to grow a tomato plant in the garden. You have no idea how that small, simple act of growing a fresh ripe tomato will fuel the elderly people’s sense of purpose.

The next thing you know, they loved growing tomatoes, and now they are planning to expand their garden by growing more fruits and veggies!

To improve the life of parents who suffer from a lack of purpose in life, plant a seed of curiosity in their minds and watch their wonder give birth to a newfound sense of purpose in life.

Let the elderly tell their story

Let the elderly tell their story

When a woman in her 30s decided to hold a get-together in a unique manner, she never imagined the surprise coming her way.

At a get-together, the woman asked everyone in her family to come forward with a secret they’ve never shared with anyone. When the elders in the family began speaking, the woman was spellbound with their funny, inspiring, motivating and reflecting tales of a bygone life.

One senior-aged lady of the family revealed how she went against her family to study in a University and how tough it was to create a place for herself as a police officer in a male-dominated world! Needless to say, similar stories emerged from other elders present in the house, and the young ones were inspired to reflect on their own lives.

That’s the power of a genuine story. That’s the power of a real tale interspersed with the fabric of experience. And that’s why all tales that are forged in experience have a purpose to serve. And who better to perform the role of a storyteller than the elderly around us?

Why not encourage seniors document their life stories, so that not only do they find a sense of purpose by doing this, but also help the young blood in the family find access to experience whenever they require.

Maybe the elderly can pen a novel, record weekly podcasts describing a particular episode from their life, or simply pass it down orally to future generations.

Help the seniors get back to work

senior woman doing remote job

One of the best ways to motivate seniors and help them discover purpose in life is to help them get back to work.

Advanced technology is dominating the world today, and thankfully, that has given rise to the concept of remote jobs. Companies nowadays are recognizing the talent and experience that retired employees bring to the table.

So, if you wish to improve the life of  parents, help them get back to work. With the emergence of remote jobs, elderly citizens have to no longer tackle the difficulty of commuting to work at an old age or even face the obstacles that health pose (remote jobs offer great work-life balance).

So, elderly people can now regain their sense of purpose in life without compromising on their health or well-being!

Remember that daily routine we spoke about in the first point? Well, now they can have the routine and the purpose back, and they don’t even have to trade their happiness for that!

There are a million ways to help elderly discover purpose in life. All you need to do is stick to them and encourage the elders in your life to do the same.


Dr Prem Jagyasi (c)

Dr Prem is an award winning strategic leader, renowned author, publisher and highly acclaimed global speaker. Aside from publishing a bevy of life improvement guides, Dr Prem runs a network of 50 niche websites that attracts millions of readers across the globe. Thus far, Dr Prem has traveled to more than 40 countries, addressed numerous international conferences and offered his expert training and consultancy services to more than 150 international organizations. He also owns and leads a web services and technology business, supervised and managed by his eminent team. Dr Prem further takes great delight in travel photography.

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