By Keren Brown Wilson
Many are talking about the makeover of various Portland neighborhoods, including the Concordia community and surrounding areas. I leave that discussion for others. I want to talk about changes that occur when we age, and about how we react.
As someone who has worked with and on behalf of older adults for the past 40 years, I have observed many changes in myself, my family and my friends. Many of these occurred slowly. Some are relatively minor, such as changes in hair color and body shape, or decreases in hearing and eyesight. Others are more significant, like limitations in mobility and chronic conditions such as diabetes and blood pressure. And we note our forgetfulness with a certain anxiety in case it is a sign of dementia.
Then there are the social, psychological and economic changes. Our networks change as we lose friends, stop working, or limit our external activities for various reasons. We might experience the loss of a spouse or siblings. Children grow up and create their own lives. If school, raising a family and work occupied a large part of our lives, then who are we when that is in our past? Often our mentality shifts to conserving our personal and financial resources. Sometimes the response to these changes is to hunker down, avoid others and look inward.
Clearly maintaining good health, having opportunities to interact with others and being economically secure make it easier to age successfully. But there’s one strategy that does not require good health, a large social circle or money. It’s having purpose.
Purpose can take many forms, such as volunteering for an organization, taking care of grandchildren, caring for a pet, learning a new skill or becoming more knowledgeable about one’s religion. The question to ask oneself regularly is, “What gives my life purpose?” If the answer is “nothing,”then it is time to give some thought to what could bring purpose into your life.
We plan around our purpose, organize our lives around it and use it as a method to remain engaged in ways important to us physically, intellectually, socially and emotionally.
If you feel you have no purpose – and don’t know what it is – ask yourself this one important question, “What would motivate me to act?”
Keren Brown Wilson, Ph.D., is president of the Jessie F. Richardson Foundation. Based in Clackamas, the nonprofit helps elders live full lives with dignity. Its strategies focus on bridging the gap for elders, families, and communities throughout the United States and around the globe. Contact her at 503.408-4088 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Jessie F. Richardson Foundation website.