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Research news: Older women abandon many of their personal goals

Older people have many kinds of goals in their lives, most commonly related to health, independent living, close relationships, and different activities. However, based on a study conducted at the Gerontology Research Center of the University of Jyväskylä, older women abandon many of their goals with increasing age.

– An 8-year follow-up showed that especially goals related to exercise and cultural activities were commonly abandoned. On the other hand, goals related to independent living increased substantially over time, describes Doctoral Student Milla Saajanaho from the Gerontology Research Center.

Often mobility limitations seemed to affect changes in goals. Women who developed walking difficulties during the follow-up did not engage in new exercise goals, and they almost completely abandoned their goals related to cultural activities.

According to Saajanaho, it is worrying that exercise goals are abandoned when experiencing walking difficulties. Instead, when such problems occur, it would be even more important to strive for exercise which might help to prevent further mobility decline. In addition, it is unfortunate that older women feel they need to abandon cultural activities they find meaningful.

– It is understandable that people abandon goals that seem too difficult to reach. However, when functioning starts to decline, older people would need support to accommodate their goals and find new ways to reach them. As in all phases of life, also in old age it is important to be able to strive for valued life goals. They are an important element for living a meaningful life, Saajanaho concludes.

The study was conducted at the Gerontology Research Center, which is a joint effort of the University of Jyväskylä and the University of Tampere, and it is part of the Finnish Twin Study on Aging. The participants were 205 women between the ages of 66 and 78.

Further information:

Doctoral Student Milla Saajanaho

tel. +358 40 805 4536,

Saajanaho M, Viljanen A, Read S, Eronen J, Kaprio J, Jylhä M, Rantanen T. Mobility limitation and changes in personal goals among older women. Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbu094

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