The Power of Purpose: Avoiding Senior Isolation

by Justin Barnes/
The Power of Purpose: Avoiding Senior Isolation

According to the California Department of Aging, the growth of our senior population, especially those in the Los Angeles area, will continue to grow by leaps and bounds going into 2020. From the period of 1990 through 2020, the rises that are projected in the greater LA region are:

Those aged 50 and over are estimated to grow between 50% to 99%The 85 and older group are estimated to expand even larger, from 150% to 199%. As this age group continues to rise in numbers, the risk of isolation also increases. AARP reported that 10% of their members who were survey reported they had trouble “staying connected” with family, friends and neighbors. AARP also pointed to studies that show being alone and isolated can be just as unhealthy as smoking or even worse than being obese. Seniors who become out of touch with their peers and other people in their social circles have much higher mortality rates for chronic conditions like breast cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease.

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The Power of Purpose

Several years ago, Richard J. Leider wrote a book about aging positively called “The Power of Purpose,” inspired by what he calls “the executive death syndrome” that points to painful statistics. According to his research, he found that while some retirees lead a happy and healthy lifestyle, others die within just three short years of leaving the workforce.

Leider, an executive coach and author, has long advocated the power of purpose and the dangers of social isolation, especially for the elderly. Richard suggests identifying and pursuing your purpose, your passion, the reason you get out of bed every morning, which is vital at any age, but more important for retirees who are at a greater risk of loneliness and a lackluster lifestyle.

Nature and Nurture  

“Isolation is fatal,” states Leider, “We need to do a better job of helping people reimagine what they truly care about in life.” He recommends nurturing pets and being outdoors more with hobbies like gardening that can actually lead to a person to living seven years longer than their more sedentary and lonelier counterparts.

For those who are homebound due to health conditions or a disability, family and friends should step up to the plate and visit more often, even if it’s just for a chat or a game of cards. If distance is an issue when it comes to regular visits, consider hiring an in home caregiver to provide companionship in your absence.

Volunteer and Outreach Programs

For those who are still active and feel they still have something to offer, volunteer programs are a great way to stay connected with the outside world. Contact your local senior center to reach out to elderly peers. Not only to they provide a wide variety of interactive programs, workshops and events, most of them also have volunteer programs for older adults. The parks and recreation department is another place to look for peer groups for socialization and reconnecting with peers.

Finding activities to enjoy will not only help our aging population fill their days with fun, but it will also nurture their mind and spirit. Whether they’re playing with a pet or out in the yard gardening, even these activities that are absent an accomplice can make them feel more connected and less isolated.