A Life With Interests is a Life With Purpose
I was driving my eight and ten year old sons to hockey practice the other day when my eight year old asked, "Daddy, why do we like hockey so much"?
We are at the rink at least four days a week and diehard New York Ranger fans, so the question isn't so unreasonable. My reply was, "Well, because we always have".
Admittedly, it wasn't a very good answer. It did get me thinking, though, about just why I am such a big ice hockey fan, beside the obvious excitement of the game, the strategy, the skills, sounds, color and even cool uniforms.
Whatever "the" reason, I am interested in ice hockey, and it gives me pleasure to watch the games and talk about it with my kids, just like I used to do with my dad. I am hard-pressed to find something that gives me more enjoyment than watching my kids practice and play hockey and then talk to them about it.
We even listen to sports radio together and discuss it in detail. For me, it's a thrill. Hopefully, as they get older, they will look back on this "hockey thing" and have good memories of it, too.
Thinking back to my childhood, the things I am really into came from what I did with my dad and my grandparents. Beside ice hockey, the other hobby I am passionate about is photography. This passion came from my father.
I always smile when I see an afghan as I have a constant memory of my grandmother knitting. I love everything about New York City, and it mainly comes from my memory of walking around the city in the summers with my grandfather when he retired and became a courier just to get out of the house.
I still remember where all the cleanest bathrooms were and which vendors had the best pretzels. I also knew the best place to get an Italian ice -- the good, New York kind!
My dad's parents lived modestly, but they were happy and busy. My mother’s mother kept the books for my grandfather and traveled, and though she now has Alzheimer's, she will still show interest in watching me pull up pictures on my computer or listening to music.
Her husband, my grandfather, on the other hand, was a workaholic with no hobbies or outside interests. I only remember him being at one of his buildings no matter what time of the day it was.
He would leave at 4am just to get a good parking space. Fast forward about 35-40 years, and my grandfather's lack of hobbies or interests has created a dilemma in his ability to age successfully while my grandmother, who has Alzheimer's, is doing as well as can be expected.
Throughout my career caring for seniors, I have seen the difficulty seniors have when they have no interests or other purpose to fill their days. I thoroughly believe that those who have some purpose, whether it be scrapbooking, poetry, learning a foreign language or, yes, following your favorite hockey team, will have a better chance to age successfully.
Successful aging is staying as healthy as possible, maintaining cognitive and physical functions and engaging in life. Sometimes, the only one we really have control over is engaging in life. We can still gain pleasure from what life has to offer and what we can take from it.
In my grandfather's case, his only "hobby" now is focusing on my grandmother. What shouldn't necessarily be a "bad" thing has become somewhat detrimental to him. He has nothing else to occupy him or any desire to find something.
We continue to encourage him to engage in activities and find some outside interests, but it is an uphill battle, and it is late in the game.
There are several things all of us should take into consideration as we age, and we should specifically encourage our parents and grandparents to do the same.
1. Find a hobby or outside interest, especially an ageless one. For example, while playing hockey at 90 may present its challenges, following it and discussing it will be much easier. I will probably have an easier time with my photography game at 90!
2. Expand your social network. Reconnect with people. E-mails and texts are the norm these days, but nothing beats a one-on-one conversation. Maintain your existing relationships, but be open to new ones.
3. Volunteer. Get involved in your community. You will make a difference to others and yourself.
4. Make a conscious decision to be willing to try new things. It is a good habit to have, both professionally and personally. You may be surprised what interests you later in life.
I have seen firsthand how the aging process can be more difficult if people don't have a sense of purpose. As I age myself, I feel the need to have more purpose in my life and instill the importance of purpose in others.
In my senior living career, I try to encourage people to have purposeful lives as well. Not having purpose can be just as detrimental as any other disease or affliction. A life with no joy or purpose is not much of a life at all.
I am grateful to my dad and grandparents for fostering my interests, even if those interests came directly from them.
I got, and still get, immense enjoyment from them, and they have now connected me in another way to my children, not to mention brought me new friendships and the courage to try other things.
"There is a fountain of youth: It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age."
~ Sophia Loren
Check on someone you care about today.
For over 20 years, guided by a personal passion, Scott Eckstein has devoted his career to improving the lives of seniors. From development to day-to-day operations of senior communities to the use of technology in caregiving, Scott helps countless businesses, seniors and their families navigate the maze of senior care and living options.