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Health & Wellness

7 Ways to Find Purpose through Connection

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Catherine Alicia Georges learned early in life that she finds great pleasure in helping others.

When she was growing up in the US Virgin Islands, Georges remembers that for her family, taking care of the older people in the community was a priority. As a child, her mother would send her to deliver food to two women, in particular, and she would sit with them for hours and listen to their stories. She recalls they always thanked her for coming, but she, too, felt like she really benefited from the interaction, because she got to learn from them.

Georges went on to become a nurse, and in every stage of life, she's affirmed that helping others gives her purpose. “My purpose is not about me. It’s about who I touch, because every person I come into contact with, I get something from them,” she says.

Today, at age 74, she lives in New York City and continues helping people through her many roles: Georges is a professor and chair of the Department of Nursing at Lehman College of the City University of New York, volunteer president of the National Black Nurses Foundation and national volunteer president with AARP. She says that for her, and for many others, the key to living a life with purpose is staying connected and helping others. “It makes me feel like it’s worth getting up every morning and putting up with the challenges and nonsense that goes on in work environments and in all other kinds of environments,” she says. “That makes me feel good. It really does.”

 

Here are 7 ways that Georges shares on how to connect and find purpose:  

Pick a cause and volunteer. When Georges attends AARP events, she has the chance to meet hundreds of other volunteers, and she finds that they tend to have something in common: “They’re not depressed. They’re not isolated. They are connecting. And that is the key,” she says. “They’ve got something to do.” She says that there are countless volunteer options out there, with AARP and other organizations, and she encourages people to think about a cause that resonates, whether it’s working with children, reading to older adults, helping care for animals or any other path. Find an organization that does those things and offer to be of service.  

Join a book club. Book clubs offer a wealth of benefits. Not only are you around other people, sharing ideas and having energized discussions, the club could also introduce you to new authors, new topics and new ways of thinking that you may not have found on your own. If you don’t know of any book clubs, ask around at your local library or bookstore, or search online for one that meets virtually.

Start a social walking group. Catch up with old friends, meet new friends and get your steps in by inviting people to join you on a walk. Georges says that even if you have some aches and pains, walking might be something that could help—and by bringing others along, you could be helping them.  “Get up, find people in your area, and say ‘let’s go walking!’” she says.

Take a class or workshop. Many colleges offer classes that are free for seniors. Libraries, senior centers, cultural centers and other community hubs also often offer workshops and classes. Think about what you want to learn—is it financial resilience? A new language? A craft or skill? Find out what’s available near you and sign up. You’ll keep your brain active and may meet some new friends in the process.

Keep in touch through technology. Maybe your friends and family are far away, but that’s no excuse to drift apart. Today, with email, social media, cell phones and other devices, it just takes a little effort to stay connected with friends and family. “Learn how to use the kinds of things that put you in connection with other people,” says Georges. “FaceTime everybody you know if you have to.” For many people, it may be easier to reconnect with old friends than meet new ones. Think about people from your past—high school, college, early career colleagues—that you’ve lost touch with and reach out.  

Become a mentor. You’ve made it this far and learned a lot along the way. Sign up with a non-profit organization to be a mentor and work with young people, or take a less formal route and share your sage advice with family members and grandchildren. “You can be an influence. You can talk to your grandchildren and give them advice. You can give other people advice,” says Georges.

Become a senior peer volunteer. A number of non-profit organizations have a need for senior peer volunteers, who meet with other seniors in their homes or in support groups and can talk about, well, anything a peer might talk about. “It’s an attempt to bring people together, but the volunteer—the peer—gets so much out of it,” says Georges. “You should see their faces. They’re involved. They’re in touch.”

Having a sense of purpose is important at every stage of life. Sometimes, it just takes a little time to figure out what that purpose is. By getting out there and connecting with others, you may uncover new things about yourself.

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