Setting SMART Health-Related Goals For The New Year

At a time when people are setting goals for the future based on the tradition of the New Year, ActiveRx Active Aging Center owner Dana Patten encourages those near and past retirement age to do the same. Setting annual health-related goals, Patten says, provides seniors with an important way to remain mindful of their bodies during the subtle process of aging.

“One thing I talk about a lot is that when we in the medical community talk about pediatrics, specific benchmarks exist that we expect younger people to reach. And if they don’t, there’s immediate intervention,” she said. “In contrast, we often don’t measure functional levels in older adults.”
The problem with this, according to Patten, is that older adults often don’t notice or recognize a decline in health or functional abilities until a catastrophic event occurs – a fall-related injury, for instance, or issues related to heart disease or stroke.

“That’s why it’s important to set SMART goals annually,” Patten added. SMART is an acronym describing goals that are:

  • Specific: When setting a goal, be sure to set goals that target specific areas for improvement. “A person has to know why setting a particular goal has personal significance beyond ‘I want to feel better’ or ‘I want to lose weight,’” Patten said.
  • Measurable: Establish specific criteria for measuring progress toward reaching your goal(s). What does success look like, and what metrics can you use to determine you’re heading in the right direction?
  • Attainable: Have you set goals that are important to you – ones that will motivate you to find ways to achieve your desired results? “What will motivate and inspire you to initiate behavior change,” Patten asks. “For example, ‘I want to travel with my husband,’ ‘ I want to run with my grand kids’ or ‘I want to maintain my independence.’ These are goals the inspire.”
  • Reward-based: As you assess progress, give yourself rewards. Make sure the awards are health-enhancing rewards, however. Instead of rewarding yourself with a muffin when you reach a milestone (e.g., walking a mile), make your reward experience-based.
  • Time-sensitive: When you set your goals, commit to a deadline. If you plan to take up jogging, for instance, sign yourself up for a 5K for next summer. If you simply want to keep up with the grand kids, plan a weekend getaway with them. Such experiences can also serve as your final reward.

“Having goals is what distinguishes living from mere survival,” Patten said. “Accept past failures and realize that with every misstep, we learn something about ourselves. We will only extinguish an old habit, such as inactivity or overeating, when we begin to associate these behaviors with pain and start associating new behaviors with pleasure.”

About ActiveRX
ActiveRX operates an Active Aging Center in Englewood, CO, where older adults go to enhance their aging experiences through physical therapy and strength training. Active RX works with clients to increase independence, vitality, energy, strength, flexibility, balance, mobility, and cognitive functions. For more information, visit

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