One of the most pressing topics in senior care today is figuring out new ways to help seniors age with purpose.
Seniors who feel like they have a sense of purpose are more likely to have a positive outlook of the future, which is in turn associated with better physical, mental and spiritual health.
They're less likely, too, to develop chronic illnesses like heart disease, obesity, Alzheimer's disease or other dementia disorders, or to experience clinical depression.
“Purposeful individuals tend to be less reactive to stressors and more engaged, generally, in their daily lives, which can promote cognitive and physical health,” Washington University professor of psychological and brain sciences Patrick Hill told the Washington Post.
At the sold-out TriHealth Refresh Your Soul conference on positive aging on March 12, presented by the Alzheimer's Association of Greater Cincinnati, a variety of acclaimed senior care and family caregiving experts will discuss purposeful aging in depth with attendees.
Today, in anticipation of those discussions, let's examine three ways that seniors in Cincinnati and the surrounding Tristate can age with purpose.
1. Keep working
Who says you have to retire at 65? Pursue an encore career or passion project! Many of your peers probably are — or are considering it.
According to a study first reported on by CNBC, approximately 80 percent of Americans over the age of 50 were planning to either keep working or pursue a second career after the usual retirement age of 65.
And they're not just doing so because they anticipate higher medical costs and falling purchase power — they're often doing so because they simply want to keep working. They derive a sense of fulfillment from staying active and feeling productive.
""The retirement of my grandparents' generation — where once their pension and Social Security checks start coming, they sit and watch television and go to the post office every day and that's it — is not the Baby Boomer generation's idea of retirement," retired human resources professional Zac Alexander told CNBC.
To the Boomers, he said, "Retirement is getting out there, seeing what you didn't get to see when you were 25 years old, and having a life."
2. Keep learning
Who says you don't need another college degree? Why can't you travel to places you've never been before? Why shouldn’t you read up on topics that fascinate you?
There's a growing movement of seniors who pursue "encore educations." And many universities offer free or discounted enrollments to older people to do just that.
Engaging one's natural curiosity may have demonstrable health benefits, too. Seniors who pursue lifelong learning — or who at least stay active — are less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease and other dementia disorders.
3. Help others
Maybe you want to volunteer in the classroom through an organization like Episcopal Retirement Services' Council on Lifelong Learning and Engagement, or volunteer in the community through a non-profit organization.
Maybe you want to mentor younger people in your former line of work and impart your wisdom to help them advance their careers, or to advance the profession itself.
Maybe you want to run for office, work at the polls, or volunteer with a watchdog group to help ensure good local, state and national governance.
Or maybe you just want to make a positive difference in your family members' and friends' lives, by providing daily child care, emotional support, or other assistance that makes your loved ones' lives easier.
Regardless of who you help or how, engaging in altruism provides a powerful sense of purpose for individuals of any age.
Aging with purpose only requires believing in your own value.
Seniors contribute in our community every day. You have something to contribute, too. If you internalize that message and allow yourself to believe it, you can live it. You can maintain your sense of purpose — and your wellbeing — long into your golden years.