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Day to Day Meaning: How to Get Inspired and Feel Fulfilled

Focused elderly woman sitting on mat in fitness center, making yoga meditation in lotus pose with group of females

Having a high sense of purpose in life is scientifically proven to lengthen the time a person can remain independent. Many public speakers and role models advise us to “find our purpose” in order to succeed in life. It may sound daunting and singular, especially when we wonder if we have really found our purpose, or if it’s even profound enough. 

Finding our purpose doesn’t have to be something as “grand” as saving thousands of lives or leading an influential organization. Purpose can evolve and manifest through many different experiences and opportunities in all seasons of life. It is sometimes the little things that bring us fulfillment and inspiration that can, in turn, keep us sharp and independent later in life. Life purpose is very individualized; there are no “one size fits all” labels.

To spark interest among older adults, listen for comments that hint at curiosity around a topic and suggest one or two actionable ideas. Make sure the first one or two steps to get started are easy and unintimidating.

Ten Paths to Developing a Higher Sense of Purpose: Sparking Inspiration and Fulfillment Among Seniors

Revisit old hobbies and lean into existing ones.

Talk about activities that are already enjoyable, and set new goals to work toward. Love reading? Ask a few friends to start a book club.

Build purpose by reviving old goals. Dust off those passions you had as a kid or young adult and explore them again. For the dancers, many professional dance companies offer free introductory classes for all ages. Tinker with that invention idea that was shelved decades ago—with more life experience you might just solve that problem.

Adopt a furry (or feathery) companion.

Pets come with daily routines and activities, companionship, and the high purpose of keeping something alive. Many veterinary professionals offer low-cost services and supplies just for seniors.

But think carefully about the right fit. Although dogs are perfect for some seniors, cats need less exercise and training. Birds generally have longer life spans but require less upkeep. Sea turtles and fish are contained in a smaller space, but keeping their environments clean is surprisingly high maintenance.

Work longer, or return to work.

There’s a fast-growing group of the “unretired,” and services to help older adults re-enter the workforce. People might choose to return to work of for financial reasons, or simply out of boredom. Whatever the motivation, even a part-time gig creates a positive feedback loop and feelings of pride, contributing to purpose. 

Express yourself 

Turn up the volume on your personal identity! Experiment with fashion, hair styles or wigs, or hip accessories like artsy bold eye glasses or decorated canes.

Writing a memoir can be therapeutic and might inspire the next generation to understand your world view. One way to get started is to try a memoir guide like Storyworth, the company sends e-mail prompts and compiles a book for you!


Henry Ford once observed, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” By gaining new knowledge we ignite new passions and challenge ourselves intellectually.

Local colleges and universities often promote lectures and exhibitions that are free and open to the public. Your local library likely offers free classes on topics ranging from how to conduct ancestry research to virtual tours of Venice. 

Ready to take on a full course? The Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes offer university-level, non-credit courses designed for older adults, with a focus on building a sense of community and camaraderie among participants. Here is a map to find an institute affiliated with a university near you. 

Grow your faith, or try spirituality on for size.

If you already associate with a place of worship, consider signing up to volunteer on a standing committee. If you don’t, and you’re curious, consider accompanying a friend to a service. Find inner serenity with a simple meditation practice. If that sounds too “out-there,” dip your toes in the meditation waters by reading The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer or attend a mindfulness class at your local YMCA. If you’re harboring anger or emotional pain, this one can be especially freeing. 


What are your special talents or skills? Share your advice and experiences to an up-and-coming generation. Reach out to local professors or teachers and offer yourself as a lecturer or interview subject. Research a nonprofit or organization in search of local speakers or teachers. Engage with your local high school or college alumni network and sign up as a mentor to young alumni. 


Keeping a journal can clarify what you find meaningful. Try writing just a few sentences about what fascinates you or things you’d like to know more about.

Another tried and true quick-start guide to journaling is choosing a few things you’re grateful for each day, and writing them down. Full sentences are not required to practice gratitude.  


Your community could always use a hand. Ask your local library or church if they need any help. Metroparks and animal shelters are also often in need of volunteers, as well as food banks and community gardens. 

If you’re not sure how to find a good fit, search www.volunteermatch.org for local volunteer activities based on your interests and capabilities. You can also sign up for alerts for upcoming volunteer opportunities that match your criteria. 

Tap into the community and make plans. 

Here’s the thing: People often need to feel needed, like they are an important part of something bigger than themselves. Most of the paths we’ve included here have a built-in community of like-minded people. Actively engaging—going to the bowling shindig, striking up a conversation before the committee meeting, sharing a cup of coffee after the mindfulness class—builds personal relationships and a higher sense of purpose. Sometimes all it takes is a leap of faith, or a little help to get started. 

About JFCS Pittsburgh Senior Services

Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS) Pittsburgh offers a range of services and resources to help seniors maintain their independence while providing support to caregivers and loved ones. For more information, please call JFCS Senior Services at (412) 422-7200 or visit www.jfcspgh.org/senior-services.