With Father’s Day just around the corner, we understand that one of the challenges faced by so many men as they approach their later years is loss of purpose.
As described in this article in Psychology Today, recent research being done through the Australian Longitudinal Study on Aging (ALSA) shows that having a strong sense of purpose correlates to more successful aging:
“Individuals scoring higher on sense of purpose reported lower functional disability, better self-rated health, and fewer symptoms of depression compared to individuals who scored lower on purpose. Having a strong sense of purpose also appears linked to better performance on tests of short-term memory and mental speed.”
Although our culture asserts that retirement will be an enjoyable time, what happens when a man who has so strongly identified with his career no longer goes to the office each day? Having provided for his family for most of his adult life, what happens when he no longer fills that same role? What happens if, because of this shift, he perceives he is no longer of value to his family and his community?
According to the National Institute of Health, several factors may contribute to depression in men:
- Genes—men with a family history of depression may be more likely to develop it than those whose family members do not have the illness.
- Brain chemistry and hormones—brain scans of those with depression look different than those without the illness; also, hormones that control emotions and mood can affect brain chemistry.
- Stress—loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship or any stressful situation may trigger depression in some men.
But what if the disproportionate increase we see in depression and suicide in men during this time is actually connected to the stress caused by a loss of self-identity? So much of how a man defines himself comes from his role as a Provider. He is compelled to provide. It is part of his identity and part of how he defines what it is to be a successful man.
The greatest gift you can give ALL the men in your life this Father’s Day is to ask them in which ways they are compelled to provide.
- Listen to learn about how that is an expression of each man’s deepest values. Allow yourself to be surprised by what they say if you don’t interrupt or have a “right” answer in mind.
- Acknowledge the value, usefulness, and longevity of what he has provided, whether it’s his expertise, a skill he’s passed on, or the mentoring of his children and others. (see attached)
- Appreciate his contribution to you and the community at large.
Help him to see the legacy he has left goes far beyond the monetary sense and will continue providing value to others.
That is his legacy, not solely whether a city park is named after him.
There are countless ways to redefine meaning and new purpose into seniors’ lives. At LivHOME, our Life Care Managers see that as our mission.