Goal Setting for Seniors

March 03, 2015

chessCan you recall a period in your lifetime that was devoid of goals?

As a youngster, you may have dreamed of becoming a teacher, a lion tamer and president of the United States – all at the same time. A little later, your goals probably morphed into something more realistic, like a college professor, or veterinarian, or city council member.

Whether grandiose or down to earth, goals are a part of everyone’s life. That’s true even as we age.

Why goal setting is important

Look at it this way: Setting goals is a sign that you haven’t given up on life. Not only that, but establishing those goals, and working to attain them, can you help you preserve independence as the years go by. Goals provide purpose, and purpose is important in helping seniors feel as though they have a good quality of life.

Types of goals


Preserving an attainable level of health and vitality plays a major part in our quality of life. The most crucial aspect of this goal, says helpguide.org, is to stay motivated by focusing on short-term efforts, such as improving your mood and energy levels and reducing stress, rather than goals such as weight loss, which can take longer to achieve.

In addition, the American Senior Fitness Association says “functional fitness” should be every senior’s goal. “Functional fitness … refers to a level of strength, endurance, cardiovascular efficiency, joint flexibility and balance that enables us to carry out our activities of daily living (ADLs) effectively. These include such things as the ability to dress, move on our own, feed ourselves, carry out unassisted toilet functions, etc.”


Establishing or maintaining a connection with others helps to stave off loneliness and depression. Seniorcitizensguide.com recommends that you “Seek out your friends, ask for and accept their help. Volunteerism provides a sense of purposefulness that comes with helping others. Stay connected or reconnect with your house of worship.”


For many seniors, goals in this category translate to “staying mentally sharp as you age.” To do so, Trihealthnews.com recommends learning something new, using your hands, seeing something new and moving. For other seniors, intellectual goals may include starting a college course, reading a certain number of books in a year’s time, or listening to an audio book every quarter.

How to start setting goals

According to NIHSeniorHealth.com, “Goals are more useful when they are specific, realistic and important to you. Consider both short- and long-term goals. Your success depends on setting goals that really matter to you.” The website recommends taking the following steps:

  • Identify your starting point.
  • Set short-term goals.
  • Set long-term goals.
  • Write a plan if you need to.

‘Still aim upward – or at least forward’

As writer Michele Willens noted, “I prefer to think that as we move on in years, our goals need not be considered smaller so much as more focused. … With more focused goal-tending, life just may get more enjoyable, more – pardon the expression – mindful, and frankly, less depressing. The great challenge is to reach beyond the pains and the pulls of old age and still aim upward – or at least forward.”

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