Finding Purpose and Meaning in Assisted Living


“The meaning of life is to find your gift. 

The purpose of life is to give it away.” Pablo Picasso

Finding Purpose and Meaning in Assisted Living 

by Mary Lynn Brook

The Pigeons, Cannes, 1957 by Pablo Picasso

How to find your purpose and meaning living in a senior living environment. What is your reason for getting out of bed each morning? Have you noticed some residents living in an Assisted Living community are happy and others not, but what makes them feel this way? Some have purpose and meaning in their day and this allows them to have direction and motivation in their lives. Sally lives in a beautiful assisted living community. The historical building sits on an acre of land with mature landscape. Her apartment looks out over the front garden where she hears water fountains and birds from her window. When she gets up in the morning she goes through her daily routine but doesn’t seem happy. When asked to do something Sally will do it , but without enthusiasm or interest. She seldom joins in group activities and stays in her room most of the time. When invited to special events or on trips she never participates.

Ruth on the other hand, lives in the same assisted living. She gets up every morning with a smile on her face. When the caregivers help her with washing and dressing she thanks them. As she enters the dining room she greets her table mates in a pleasant manner. She participates in the activities offered and is always ready to help someone else if they need a helping hand.

What’s the difference between Sally and Ruth’s daily experience at the same assisted living community. Ruth has purpose and meaning in her day and this gives her direction and motivation to get out of bed and participate in the life around her. Sally goes through her day with neither purpose or meaning and doesn’t feel a reason to be a part of her assisted living community. She has no plan for her day therfore no purpose to her actions. Why is one resident happier than the other?

Patrick Hill, lead researcher of Carleton University in Canada says, “ The research has clear implications for promoting positive aging and adult development. He goes on to write an article called: Having a Sense of Purpose May Add Years to Your Life, He states, “Feeling that you have a sense of purpose in life may help you live longer, no matter what your age, according to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. “There are a lot of reasons to believe that being purposeful might help protect older adults more so than younger ones,” says Hill. “For instance, adults might need a sense of direction more, after they have left the workplace and lost that source for organizing their daily events. In addition, older adults are more likely to face mortality risks than younger adults.”

It doesn’t matter when you find you purpose when you do your purpose will give you direction. If Sally were to commit to say hello to her table mates in the dining room then the next day her purpose would be to get up in the morning and greet her friends at the table. Ruth has already found her purpose! She never complains and is ready with a smile when she sees her friends at the activities. According to Ruth, “There is nothing to complain about it is my responsibility in life to get up in the morning and put my best foot forward. I look forward to meals with my friends, events and activities throughout the day.”

So how do you find purpose and meaning in your life as you age?

Below are three examples of living with purpose as you age in your 90’s.

  1. For all the advice and tips handed out these days, there’s nothing quite like experience to really help you gain a perspective on life. Which is why when PTBOCanada shared an interview with Peterborough resident Kenn Grainger, 90, with us, we knew it would be worthwhile to listen.
  2. Let A 90-Year-Old Tell You Exactly How to Stay Happy in Life “If you want to have a friend, you have to be a friend.” Written by Rebecca Zamon, HuffPost, LIVING Section 15:44 EDT | Updated 08/15/2017, huffingtonpost
  3. In order to find purpose and meaning in life check out what this 90 year old had to say. According to an article in The Guardian, Lifestyle Section,com Benjamin Franklin once said, “The early morning has gold in its mouth.” The quote emphasis the importance of starting your day the right way. He also said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Franklin deliberately designed his day with a daily schedule.

No matter your age or environment purpose and meaning in your day gives you a better sense of accomplishment and achievement. Age is not important to purpose. You maybe 90 or 20 but plan to have a meaningful day and the positive results will show.