By Jo Strausz Rosen, JSL Executive Director of Development
This article first appeared in the JSL Shabbat Shalom Weekly News and Updates Newsletter.
We named the theme for this year’s Jewish Senior Life (JSL) Annual Meeting The Power of Purpose. What do we mean by The Power of Purpose? At JSL it’s when staff and residents are engaged in meaningful activities that allow our minds, bodies and souls to connect to each other and the world in really important ways. Everyone needs a reason to get up in the morning, a job to earn a living or a pet that needs walking, a spouse, a parent or children who need care. We can’t forget to take time and care for ourselves. At times we all consider what our purpose is. Just do something!
It turns out, purpose is extremely important to our physical, mental and emotional health. It’s that big. That makes it important for each of us to take the time and make the effort to discover our purpose. Researcher William Damon, who wrote, A Path to Purpose, says it’s “a stable and generalized intention to accomplish something that is at the same time meaningful to the self and consequential for the world beyond the self.” Damon says that “meaningful intention can help us stay focused on the things that matter most – like family, friends, faith, career, a cause, and even more.” It helps us to prioritize our lives – allowing us to walk away from certain people or activities that don’t serve our purpose. It’s a main driver to stay motivated when things get tough, so we can set and meet short and long-term goals. And maybe most of all, it makes us feel like we are making a positive difference in the world.
I often see the JSL campus residents who are dog owners dutifully walking them outdoors year-round, in all kinds of weather. Near my office, there are several geese families that have taken up residence in our natural areas, walking their goslings. Sometimes I can see the smiles in the eyes of human and even in animal faces.
The things that make relationships and activity purposeful are different for everyone. It could be our work, learning a new skill, meaningful volunteer experiences, doing something physical outdoors, reading, or engaged in the arts. These activities are satisfying. The feeling of making a difference leads to good health and longevity.
We are called upon to take care of ourselves and each other. Activities build our sense of self-worth and give us a reason to live. Spending time on an activity that we enjoy can improve our mental health and wellbeing. In fact, people with hobbies may be less likely to experience stress, low moods, and depression symptoms. Activities that get us out of our homes can make us feel happier and more relaxed. Group activities like a family game night, team sports or puzzles with friends, even solving the NYTimes Spelling Bee, all can improve our relationships with others and make us happier and healthier. Time shared with others is health food for the soul.
The staff at JSL are busy, helpful, often exhausted. But they are satisfied. This comes from having something regular and life affirming to do, connecting and working with others, and feeling good about contributing and making a difference. Whatever our interests are, there is sure to be something out there to do. What matters is that it’s an activity we find meaningful and enjoyable. It might take some time to find the right one, but the important thing is to start. Just do something purposeful.
In fact, meaningful intention can help us stay focused on the things that matter most. It helps us prioritize our lives – allowing us to walk away from certain people or activities that don’t serve our purpose. It’s a main driver to stay motivated when things get tough, so we can set and meet short – and long-term goals. And maybe most of all, it makes us feel like we are making a difference – working toward Tikkun Olam – repairing the world.
About Jewish Senior Life
At Jewish Senior Life of Metropolitan Detroit we nurture a sense of community and enrich the lives of older adults while embracing Jewish values and celebrating Life. Visit our website for more information.