Depression is an alarmingly common problem in the elderly. Retirees often become isolated as they age, having lost the career that brought them friends, purpose, and a reason to get outside every day. As family members, it becomes your job to maintain these important aspects of a healthy, happy lifestyle. Your loved ones must remain social, active, and most importantly, they should have purpose. Here are a few ways you can help your loved ones remain mentally and physically healthy throughout their golden years:


As cities sprawl and apartments become more common, gardening has become a more difficult hobby to maintain. Some people make do with small window box gardens which can be ideal for tending flowers. However a vegetable garden is often a much more fulfilling activity for retirees. Growing food offers a sense of purpose as they hand vegetables out to friends, family, and neighbors. It also benefits physical health as they spend time outside, pulling weeds, and watering the plants. Simply tending to a living thing can vastly improve a person’s mental state, regardless of age. If your loved one is unable to care for a full scale garden, a few potted plants can still provide a therapeutic effect.


With all the spare time a retiree has, retirement is an ideal phase of life to devote to volunteer work. Volunteering can be done in almost any way you could imagine from sewing dresses for children in Africa to becoming a foster grandparent. Volunteering is one of the best ways to provide your loved ones a sense of purpose. They are getting out of the home, meeting new people, and most importantly, they know they are doing some good in the world.

Going Back to School

A surprising number of schools will offer free college for seniors, giving your loved one the chance to go back and get a degree or simply attend classes for fun. Attending classes can sharpen the mind, reducing the risk of mental illness and memory loss. It also provides them a chance to interact with other students while drawing them from their homes, effectively avoiding the common issue of isolation.

Adopting a Four-Legged Family Member

Studies have proven that pet owners live longer, healthier, and happier lives. For seniors, owning a pet can lengthen their lifespan while warding off common mental health problems such as memory loss and depression. While cats are wonderful companions for seniors who may be less mobile, if your loved one is able-bodied, dogs are the best choice. Adopting a dog gets them up and moving for walks, play, and mealtimes. The dog’s schedule can help them remember their own schedule if they are struggling with memory loss. But most importantly, a dog will be something for them to care for, offering that sense of purpose they had while raising kids. The dog will provide love, fun, and affection while the senior is given the chance to be useful to a living thing. If you think your loved one would benefit from dog ownership, check out the many senior dog adoption programs. These programs place senior dogs (who are less adoptable) with elderly owners, benefiting both parties and reducing the potential for the dog to lose its owner.

Finding purpose is life does not have to mean single handedly changing the world. Providing your loved one with purpose may be as simple as setting up a window planter, finding a worthwhile volunteer program, or even giving a senior dog a home. It can be fun for both you and your loved one to become involved with activities like gardening or tai chi. Who knows, you might even find your own purpose along the way.