Aging with Purpose

Written by: Lisa Dunn
When you ask someone, “What gives you a sense of purpose?” you often hear that others find meaning in important relationships, spiritual growth or work success. As we age, life begins to re-focus, and it can often be a good opportunity to take a step back and evaluate what makes us tick, where we find our purpose, and how we can continue to contribute based on that vision. Recent research from The University of Rochester Medical Center reported purpose in life as a predictor of mortality across adulthood and suggests that you can live longer, the longer you have purpose in your life.

Another 2012 study at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago reported that those, at retirement age, with the highest sense of purpose were half as likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease after 7 years. Remarkably, this study also showed that those who scored high were just as likely to have plaques and tangles in their autopsied brains. However, despite the similar physical findings, those with a strong sense of purpose in life tended to score higher on testing of memory and cognitive function. Unfortunately, research also shows that adults tend to feel less and less purposeful as they age, especially in western society.

Some questions we can ask ourselves, to help us consider our purpose in aging might be:

  • When was I happiest in my life?
  • What was I passionate about?
  • What can I do to teach those younger than myself?
  • What talents do I have, and where can I contribute based on those talents?

If you enjoy writing, you might consider starting a blog or commenting on blogs. If you are happiest nurturing others, you might find organizations where you can volunteer to help others. If you excelled at math, you could tutor younger students struggling in the subject. If you are unsure of your purpose, you may find direction by keeping a notebook over a month or so. Record activities or feelings that promote a sense of wellbeing. Those things can be a catalyst for directing you to what nurtures your passions and points you toward your purpose.

It’s no wonder that the book Purpose Driven Life, by Pastor Rick Warren, has sold more than 30 million copies. Asking about purpose in life is something we can all do, no matter our age, and in that find meaning, motivation and longevity. Cheers to all three, as we begin 2018 with a fresh sense of purpose!


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