Goal Setting: Seniors Living Lives of Purpose

January 7, 2020

As children, we dream audacious dreams.  Astronaut ballerina veterinarian? Sure!  Years pass and we realize that dreams turn into goals and plans.  In midlife, too often our dreams and plans are not even our own.  They are modified by the demands placed on our lives or, in other instances, we work toward the goals of others to advance our careers.

Suddenly, we are on the other side of childhood and midlife and almost unexpectedly, we get back our time to dream again.  But too many seniors aren’t encouraged to return to the unencumbered dreaming and goal setting enjoyed by the young.

Senior years can be the perfect time to check some things off the old bucket list and get out to do new things and push toward enrichment. But really? As seniors?   Absolutely! Seniors can even press rewind and attempt some of the goals they put off in their younger years.  While it may take the support of folks beside them, new aspirations can be achieved.

Why goal setting matters

Encouraging goal setting in seniors is also a winning strategy for checking in with your loved one.  Have conversations with your parents grown stale?  Being able to follow up on a newly set goal with mom or dad can bring new vitality to your relationship.  Conversations around goal setting can also help you communicate about cognition and social activities in a meaningful way. 

The process of setting a goal and following through on the steps is a powerful mental exercise.  Knowing what tasks are needed to complete a plan gives seniors a renewed sense of purpose, direction, and accomplishment.  It retrains the senior to tap into their emotional and intellectual resources and reignites their passion for being a part of the community. 

Goals also help create new routines.  When seniors have more structure in their lives, they tend to be more active and engaged.  Without goals and the plans required to accomplish them, seniors can easily become bored and isolated.  Because reaching larger goals requires us to act in a meaningful way over a long period of time, working a plan encourages seniors to make decisions, monitor their progress and have something to look forward to.

What kind of goals should seniors set?

  1. Goals that encourage social activity. Take opportunities to make new social connections or enhance existing ones. Think about activities like volunteering or joining a book or craft club.
  2. Goals that encourage physical activity.  Find new, appropriate ways to challenge the body with movement to stay healthy. Whether it’s a ten-minute walk or a water aerobics class, there are dozens of local programs geared to helping seniors be physically active.
  3. Goals that support mental health. Develop small but powerful disciplines that inspire. The key is regular exercise for the brain! Some suggestions to help you get started:
    • Write a daily gratitude journal.
    • Do a challenging crossword or Sudoku puzzle.
    • Create an autobiography by writing one fond memory every day.
    • Read an inspiring passage or devotional work every morning.

  4. Goals that support mastering new skills. It’s never too late to learn. Ever wanted to try painting? Quilting? Playing piano? It has never been easier to learn new skills!

There’s really no right or wrong goal for seniors – even those with special needs or physical limitations.  What matters is that as a caregiver to an aging adult, you encourage them to select a goal that lights them up and launches them forward with a renewed sense of purpose.

How caregivers can help senior goal-getters:

  1. Manage expectations with realistic goals.  Goals should always push past comfort zones but keep it realistic.  A senior who has been sedentary or who faces mobility challenges needs to start a gentle exercise plan.
  2. Stay aligned through purpose.   Keep everyone on the same page around why this goal is enriching and exciting for the senior.  Make it a talking point for everyone who engages with the senior.
  3. Monitor motivation and achievement.  Using a journal or calendar to keep track of progress can be another layer of the senior’s success.  These acts of writing down events can help with recall and cognition as well.
  4. Finding community resources.  If the aging adult in your life needs assistance to accomplish some of their goals, you can utilize resources, such as Golden Harmony’s trusted companions who can be part of the plan to get action items done.
  5. When a compassionate group of caregivers rally around a senior who has big dreams it enriches the experience for everyone.  Encouraging aging adults to set goals that expand horizons improves both physical and mental health.

    If you are the caregiver of an aging adult, this is a great time to encourage the senior in your life to chase a goal they set aside or to develop new ones.  Seniors feel more engaged with the world when they are pursuing a new outcome even if they need the help of others to get things done.  By encouraging the senior in your life to set goals and make the necessary plans to accomplish them, you are motivating them to live life on their own terms and have a life they can really be excited about. 

Or give us a call at: 919-426-7522 We would be pleased to spend some time discussing how we can assist the senior in your life!