Senior Guidance

Senior Living: How to Find Your Purpose in Older Years

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Senior Living: How to Find Your Purpose in Older Years

When we are young our purpose is to learn how to live on this planet. We are taught how to walk, talk, eat, use the bathroom, and brush our teeth and hair to name a few things. Then we are sent off to school to learn what everyone else is learning. While in elementary school we learn how to get along with others, read and write and we are asked what we want to do when we grow up. Some of us think we want to do what our parents do for a living because that’s the only thing we know. Nowadays kids want to be the next “famous person or athlete”. We are being set up for failure with unattainable goals because we really don’t understand our purpose in elementary school.

As we move along through our teen years we are sometimes confused and even angry about our purpose. As young people we struggle with our identity of who we are supposed to be and even what our sexuality means. As teenagers we feel we are able to make our own decisions yet we cannot support ourselves and have to depend on the adults in our lives.

In our young adult years we are pressured to possibly choose a mate, have children, go to college, and take on a mortgage. When we add on a car payment we feel like all of these ideas are now supporting our purpose. However, we are never really in touch with our main purpose as humans: happiness.

Reaching mid-life we start to shift in our lifestyle. We may be experiencing empty nest syndrome, our 2nd or 3rd marriage, grandchildren, a lack of getting hired for a new job because of our age. We now might be facing regrets of things we did not complete in our younger years, or how we lived our life up until now. Everything we were taught is false and no longer works in the society we are living in. We have gone from “Leave it to Beaver” episodes to reality television. During this stage in life is where we really start searching for our purpose.

Some of us may have reached the “sandwich generation” - meaning we are taking care of children or grandchildren while also caring for our elderly parents. This may feel like your purpose right now and it may possibly be. However, remember that you cannot serve this purpose without taking care of yourself first. In order to give the best care for others, you must remember to eat properly, get enough sleep, meditation or prayer, exercise, and some fun time for yourself. Try searching out Meet up groups for people that are in your same circumstance. Look for new things to try, give yourself a respite and go out to lunch or dinner. After refueling yourself you will be at your best to give to others you care about.

Most of us do not want to end up in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. In order to do that we need to create a different lifestyle than our parents had, creating a lifestyle that is more mindful and makes us more aware of our actions. Using our creativity to think outside of what we know and search for alternative ideas to help us on our path. We become more mindful when we learn to break free from the pattern that we have created all of our life that no longer is useful to us.

Some of you may ask; how can we create a new way of living during our older years?  The phrase may come to mind: “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!” If you wake up and you are dreading another day of getting up and doing nothing you may want to create a new routine. If your time awake consists of just watching nonstop television it might be time to create a new habit for yourself.

Another routine I see for older adults is just sitting around waiting or gossiping. If we are not mindful we fall into the trap of always talking about our illness, aches, and pains. These are some of the negative aspects of aging. We all may know someone who is just “waiting to die”. The reason might be because they have lost their sense of purpose. Yet there are also those who are suffering with an immense amount of pain. This stops their sense of purpose and makes them just want to end their suffering. There is no way to see the light or any form of happiness if you are in pain or suffering.

Imagine though if seniors regained their sense of purpose, their will to live! If they had the will and drive to get out of bed in the morning and had a sense of being of service to others. Much of the pain they are suffering from would dissipate because their mind would not be stuck on why am I still living? What did I do to deserve so much pain? Our minds can control or create our pain. It’s learning new tools like meditation and mindfulness that help subside the negative thinking and bring on a new way of living with a purpose and positive outlook.

Recently I had a conversation with a 91 year old woman. She is absolutely stunning with her beauty and style. She asked me what possibly could be her purpose at 91 years old. I told her to show her beauty to the world. Every day she takes the time to get dressed in very stylish clothes, she always has her hair perfect and her make-up is flawless. She said “you mean I don’t have to be twenty something to be beautiful?” I told her no, that her purpose is to teach the world you can be absolutely beautiful at 91 years old! She then asked me; “well when are they going to start listening?” We shared in some laughter and she went on to tell her friends that day all about her new purpose for living. It caught on like wildfire because I could hear the chatter of her friends asking each other what their purpose could be. It helped them step out of their over-thinking and into a new purpose for that day.

Using your body to the best of its abilities can help you find your purpose in your senior years. It might be walking in a walking group, learning yoga or meditation. It might be spending time with your grandchildren and chasing them around the park. When is the last time you have been in a pool? Try checking out your local community center or senior center for aquatic aerobics. A new activity I see baby boomers participating in is conscious dance or ecstatic dance. There is a course that you can take to complete this and become a facilitator for your community. However, if you would just like to be a participant, conscious dance is just moving your body to the music with no thinking. There is no right or wrong way to do it. I believe the only rule is no talking while dancing.

Learn to expand your outlook on life as you get older. If you were always raised a certain religion, study other religions or learn about spirituality. Many people are carnivores; learn what it’s like to be a vegetarian or vegan for a few weeks.  I encourage you to think outside your comfort zone and learn new things to find your purpose at whatever age you are now.

Many of us have been married or in relationships. It may be possible at this time in your life that you are single and really feel you do not know your sexuality. This is a great time to expand your knowledge on learning about sexuality and sensuality. There are many Meet up groups on Sex Positive or workshops on Tantra. If you have kept your sexuality hidden for years or fear sexuality as you age, these educational classes may be a good place to start.

If you are retired and are financially able to, you might want to travel. Traveling and learning about other cultures and people might give you a new sense of purpose. As you go about to other foreign lands and meet all kinds of new people you may find a new purpose daily. You can set your goals to try new foods, learn a new language, become a resident in this other country for a month and learn about their music and culture. There are all sorts of adventures waiting to happen in your senior years!

Our real purpose in this life is to be happy. Unfortunately, we cannot buy happiness. Happiness comes from inside of you. If you are miserable all the time while in your senior years, all that does is produce more misery all around you. If you are always sick, then you will always feel sick. However, if you can remove the thoughts of being sick or being unhappy and practice abundance and happiness, it will generate more of the same.  This practice is called The Law of Attraction. This is a wonderful concept to learn about and practice to bring a more positive spin on your life.

What you think about, you bring about. "Manifesting" is a way to learn about your style of thinking. You have this gift to choose mind over matter and become happy. If things are not working in your life, guess who put it there? We need to stop blaming “them” and quit being the victim so we may take responsibility for our own happiness. We are the captain of our ship. We truly have a choice of how we want our life to go.

Begin by noticing if you are angry or upset all the time. Do you notice yourself having expectations of others? Expectations influence how one perceives every part of life, and they’re also affecting ones emotional and mental well-being. My definition of expectations is something like this:

What ones attracts into their life and what ones sees in others is largely defined by their expectations. And on the other side of it all, when one has expectations that are not fulfilled, it can lead to feelings of anger, frustration, and even depression.

What keeps these expectations in place is the ego mind, that little voice inside your head. When expectations have become a routine or normal part of your life, the ego regards them as safe and familiar. It is up to you to recognize when you are holding expectations. If the situation is not living up to your expectations or you are far enough along on your journey to recognize you are doing this, then you may practice “allowing.” That is, allowing people to be where they need to be in their life. Realizing we are not in charge of another person’s journey, we cannot expect them to behave the way we feel is right for them. Letting go of expectations of others may cause feelings of a stress free life which will bring you, in your senior years, what we strive for as humans: happiness.

Imagine the amount of happiness you could bring into your senior years by just allowing others to simply be. It is a practice and it does take time and patience to learn this new skill. Nevertheless, imagine it as a tool to bring more happiness into your life. After all, happiness is our purpose of why we are here.

If we are still alive there are lessons we still need to learn. Those lessons might be to become more compassionate, loving or kind. Is it possible we are still living and finding our purpose because we need to be an instrument of wisdom to someone else? If you put the thoughts out into the world that you have no purpose, you are going to live out the rest of your days struggling. Try waking up and possibly doing a meditation or prayer and ask God or the Divine; how may I be of service today - and watch your world expand.

Leigh Hurst - AuthorAbout the author:

Leigh Hurst holds an Associate's Degree in Psychology and a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work with a minor in Gerontology. She is currently on a sabbatical from working on her Master's Degree in Gerontology.

When she started her business Awake & Aging, it was to teach people about conscious aging. After rebranding the business to Purposeful Living Healing Center, it focuses on conscious aging, enlightenment, holistic healing, sound healing and energy work. She also teaches students from Universities about Gerontology in person and via Skype.

Leigh has a passion for engaging people in her lectures. Public speaking is one of her passions. "It is a joy to watch people expand their thinking and become the best humans they can be."
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