Professor of the Practice of Law University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Healthy Aging Tied to Motivation

Healthy aging is defined as the capacity to be and do what you have reason to value.  Motivation science investigates desires, dislikes, and fears, and how they are transformed into goals that are pursued or discarded over time.  Researchers at the Gerontological Society of America have proposed a theoretical model that places motivation at the center of healthy aging.

The goals that people pursue, which adapt and change over time, demonstrate what people have reason to value.  We use the processes of setting, pursuing, and disengaging from goals throughout our lives.  People must confront real and perceived constraints and opportunities when attempting to pursue their goals.  And this takes place in the culture or environment the person is situated within.

Goals provide direction and meaning in life, motivate action, and contribute to well-being.  Goals can be extrinsic or intrinsic, and oriented toward growth, maintenance, or avoidance of harm.  Values represent beliefs about what is important in life.  They serve as standards that help us determine our goals.

People will commit to goals they believe are valuable and attainable, so this model proposes that finding the sweet spot where value and achievability intersect is the challenge for healthy aging and maintaining motivation.

Takeaway: To find your motivation sweet spot, consider writing down what you value and creating a list of short-term and long-term pros and cons of pursuing your goal.  Consider behaviors that contribute to or undermine your goals, as well as what constraints might impede your goals and what opportunities might promote your goals.  Post the final draft where you can see it daily to maintain your motivation.

Sources Alexandra M. Freund, et al., Motivation and Healthy Aging: A Heuristic Model, 76 The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Issue Supplement 2 S97-S104, Oct 2021,

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