New Year’s resolutions are a popular American tradition, and even though only about 90% of us actually achieve our resolutions, we continue to set them year after year—but we do see participation drop as we age. Around 92% of gen Zers make resolutions. However, a new survey conducted by Chapter found that only 46% of older Americans (age 65+) plan to make resolutions for 2023. 

The findings show that many seniors simply don’t think goals are important, but science suggests that setting goals can have numerous positive effects. The survey revealed that many older Americans are discouraged because they’ve had trouble sticking to their goals in the past. It also uncovered seniors’ habits concerning financial goals in 2023 given recent economic uncertainty.

A snapshot of seniors’ goals

Of the 46% of seniors who are setting New Year’s resolutions or goals for 2023, 75% have goals focused on improving their health. Other areas where seniors are focusing their goals are traveling (43%), financial stability (41%), learning something new (38%), and getting closer to friends and family (30%). 

Three areas of focus that were not presented as options in the survey but appeared as trends within written responses are spirituality, creative expression, and decluttering or organizing.

Further understanding health goals

It’s no surprise that health goals reign supreme for the 65+ population because this population naturally faces more health challenges than their younger counterparts. Health goals vary, but most goals are centered around improving physical health by either improving fitness, improving diet, or losing weight. While physical health is the priority for most, 39% of seniors have goals focused on cognitive health and 22% have goals to improve their mental health.

Further understanding financial goals

41% of the 65+ population has goals focused on financial stability, but that percentage increases to 60% for those not yet retired. Concerns about recent economic uncertainty are common, and some segments of the senior population appear to be facing greater impacts. While 49% of the total population indicated that recent financial uncertainty has caused them to focus more on financial goals in 2023, that percentage increases for women and southerners (56%), southern women (63%), non-retirees (58%), and those who are currently dating or planning to date (62%). 

Financial concerns vary, but cost of living is by far what most seniors (74%) are concerned about. Within written responses, one respondent shed some light on how price hikes impact those with a fixed income, “[I’m concerned about] paying for services (i.e. plumber, tree cutter, electrician, etc.) which keep going up in price, but my income remains the same.”

Should more seniors be setting goals?

Setting goals helps people stay focused, drive forward, see better results, and, in some cases, achieve a sense of purpose. Goals can also help us to live happier and/or healthier lives as a result of feeling accomplished and establishing good habits. Research from Rush suggests that goals can even reduce our chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments by providing us with a sense of purpose. 

If goals are so great for us, then why are less than half of seniors setting them for 2023?

According to the survey results, the top two reasons seniors don’t set goals are because they’ve had trouble sticking to them in the past (35%) or simply because they don’t think setting goals is important (28%). 14% of seniors are not sure where to focus their goals and 5% don’t know how to set goals that will work. In written responses, some respondents shared that health and financial challenges prevent them from setting goals.

What resources could help more seniors set goals that stick?

When it comes to developing habits and achieving larger goals, time and determination are key, but there are some resources available that can help. When asked what kinds of resources they’d be interested in to help them set and stick to their goals, 37% of seniors expressed interest in tips and tricks to help them achieve their specific goals. 20% are interested in habit or check-in journals, 13% are looking for a goal setting guide, and 9% think external support from a community, coach, or buddy would help. One respondent joked (maybe), that that he needs “an overseer with a whip!” 

Within written responses, a few people shared that they need support that takes into account their limitations, which is a good thing to keep in mind when creating guides for seniors who may be struggling with a variety of physical, cognitive, and mental health challenges. We took these challenges into account when crafting our own guide to setting goals that stick, which you can find here.

Interested in seeing more of the data? Download the full survey results.

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