What Is Occupational Wellness for Seniors?
A holistic view of wellness for older adults includes occupational wellness, sometimes referred to as vocational wellness. There are varying occupational wellness definitions, but they all recognize the personal satisfaction and enrichment that comes from one’s work. It’s about your perception, attitude and reaction to the work you take part in.
But what if you’re retired? How can you pursue occupational wellness if you’re no longer part of the workforce?
Reframing Occupational Wellness
The National Career Development Association recognizes that the desire for a meaningful life doesn’t end when one retires. They write that while working lets you exercise your skills and talents, “Retired older adults must find new ways to conceptualize and achieve these benefits of work in retirement.” To help in that, some holistic wellness researchers prefer the term “vocational wellness” because the word vocation comes from the Latin vocare, which means “to call.” Fulfilling your calling can take many forms and can be pursued whether or not you have a full-time job.
One way to understand occupational wellness for seniors is to think of it as:
- Contributing your unique skills and talents toward activities you find meaningful and rewarding
- Learning new skills you can share with others
- Developing new interests and hobbies
Why Does Occupational Wellness Matter?
Occupational wellness contributes to your overall level of well-being. Working alongside others adds to your social wellness. Developing new skills improves your intellectual wellness. Doing things that bring you personal satisfaction and fulfillment deepens your sense of purpose, which enhances your mental and emotional wellness.
Becoming a volunteer or a mentor are two key ways you can create meaningful work for yourself. And there are measurable benefits to doing both.
- Volunteering as a senior is associated with health benefits such as enhanced cognition, delayed physical disability, reduced risk of hypertension, lower mortality, and an improved sense of well-being.
- Volunteering decreases the risk of depression.
- Older people who mentor younger people in work and in life are three times as likely to be happy than those who don’t.
Occupational Wellness Assessment
So how would you rate your occupational wellness? Here’s a quick assessment you can take — the higher your score, the healthier you are.
Rate each item using this scale:
4 If the item is Always True for you
3 If the item is Sometimes True for you
2 If the item is Rarely True for you
1 If the item is Never True for you
___ I am happy with how I spend my time.
___ I have plans for things that I want to do.
___ I do things with other people often enough so that I don’t feel isolated.
___ I use my time in a way that gives me meaning and purpose.
___ I make good use of my strengths and experiences in the things I am doing each day.
___ My daily activities are consistent with my values and interests.
___ I control how I spend my time.
___ I volunteer in the community or have considered volunteering.
___ I look forward to my daily and weekly activities.
___ The people I spend time with enjoy spending time with me
___ Total Score (out of a possible 40)
How Senior Living Helps You Pursue Occupational Wellness
Living at a maintenance-free community with convenient on-site amenities gives you more time and freedom to do things that are important to you. And there are plenty of ways you can pursue occupational wellness in the community itself and in the community at large.
- Service projects. Many communities have ongoing projects that benefit local charities. Residents may build toys for children, knit warm clothing for premature babies or wounded soldiers, raise money for local shelters or food banks, and host fundraisers to support scholarships for young community staff members.
- Resident committees. These groups help shape community events and culture. You’ll find you can volunteer for committees that support marketing efforts, investigate eco-friendly practices, influence dining, represent fellow residents at board meetings, determine activities and so much more.
- Intergenerational opportunities. Some senior living communities have relationships with universities, local schools and even preschools. You can volunteer to tutor, read or help in the classroom. You may even find communities that let you be a volunteer grandparent to a young person who needs that special relationship.
- Lead a community group. Many communities offer discussion groups, book clubs and classes that need someone to lead them. Teach others how to do woodwork, knit, or use a computer. Give a presentation on a topic you’re an expert in. If there’s not an existing club or activity that meets your interests, offer to start and lead one.
At age 74, Stephen Hawking said, “However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.” Pursuing those things you can do — and sharing that knowledge and experience with others — can help you live a more well-rounded and fulfilling life.
You can use our Community Locator Tool to find a senior living community near you that promotes all facets of wellness and discover what sort of occupational wellness tips they may be able to share.
Where You Live Matters is powered by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a respected voice in the senior housing industry. ASHA primarily focuses on legislative and regulatory advocacy, research, and educational opportunities and networking for senior living executives, so they can better understand the needs of older adults across the country.