The purpose of purpose

In a recent study, researchers at University College London found that, for people over the age of 65, a sense of purpose and overall well-being meant that they were 30 percent less likely to die over a period of eight and a half years. This study followed over 9,000 English people and found that, at the end of the eight and half year period, only 9 percent of people in the highest category of well-being had died, compared with 29 percent of those at the lowest level of well-being. Those who reported the highest level of fulfillment lived, on average, two years longer. From a Psychology Today blog article. Read more…

Golden YearsWhat is your purpose? Do you have one? It’s important for everyone to have a reason to get up in the morning. It’s important for businesses and organizations to have a purpose, one that goes beyond making money. As you get older, purpose is crucial to well-being and having a healthy lifestyle, even when you may struggle with physical challenges. You don’t have to jump out of a plane to make life interesting.

So, what is purpose? Purpose is that thing you dedicate yourself to that shapes who you are. That’s not the Webster definition, but that is the essence of what it means to have purpose. When you have no purpose, ­ no goal – life becomes dull and meaningless. Not having purpose can rob you of joy.

Your purpose may be as simple as sending notes of encouragement to people in your family or social group, or as grand as creating art or building a business, or being in a profession that by its definition is one that serves others.

My purpose is to write something every day, and most of the time, I do. When my husband and I went through recent bouts of health issues, I scarcely wrote at all and the result was a descent into negativity and gloom. When I went back to writing, my spirits lifted and my outlook improved dramatically. How often have you heard about retirees who after they no longer have their jobs – their purpose – they go into decline, to the point of giving up on living.

Those who do best are those who continue to contribute in some way to society and to the lives of those around them. Sitting in a chair waiting to “get better” or get back what you once had, is not the answer. Getting up to the degree you are able and getting with it – whatever “it” is for you – will make a difference for you and those around you.

Stuck for something to do after you’ve done it all? Here are some suggestions to give you food for thought.

• Take classes: Check out the activities and events section of your local newspaper. Are there classes offered you might be interested in? The senior group Our Healthy Circle at Alta Vista Regional Hospital here in Las Vegas, offers a wealth of opportunities. Check out the classes and become an active participant in their dinners, travel events and other activities.

• Visit a nursing home: If you have the gift of song or art or anything else creative, check with a nursing home in your area to see if they would welcome you to give a class or provide entertainment for the residents. Or they may need other volunteer help you are well suited to provide.

• Check with your church: Most churches have volunteer programs to provide meals for the ill or visitation to the home bound or those in hospital. What skills do you have that would be helpful? In our church we provide prayer shawls for people undergoing trying times. We always need more shawls. Want to volunteer to make one? Perhaps your church has a similar program. Check it out. See how you can help.

Write your memoir• Write that memoir: What a gift for your family. Your history is something only you can tell. Even if you have orally told your stories time and again, much will be lost to misinterpretation or plain old forgetfulness. With the advent of self-publishing ( as an example), you can write it, upload it, and – once you’ve approved the proof – you can affordably order as few or as many as you like. (A little sales pitch here. If you need help with formatting and uploading, I’m available. 🙂 ).

• Learn how to use a computer: It will open a whole new world of information for you. Caution, don’t let it become the only social interaction you have. Face-to-face is better than Facebook any day.

• Write a recipe book: You can publish it in paperback for your family, or do it digitally. Either way this is a gift that will keep on giving, which is really what having a life purpose is all about. Reaching out and making a difference.

A recent study followed nearly 1,500 older people for 10 years. It found that those who had a large network of friends were about 22 percent less likely to die during the 10 years.

• Maintain friendships: There is a tendency among elders to isolate themselves. It becomes a challenge to get out if you are on a walker or have other disabilities. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the effort. According to one study, elders who remain socially active are happier and healthier. Unable to drive? Check resources in your community. You might be surprised what is available at low or no cost to get you to activities and events.

• Get a part time job: If you have time on your hands and don’t know what to do, consider working part time. Older employees are valued for their work ethic and reliability. Don’t believe for a second your age puts you out of the running, especially for part time work.

These are a few suggestions; I’m sure you have plenty of your own. Your purpose today may not be your purpose tomorrow. That’s okay. The point is to have a reason to arise in the morning and do something during that day that will put a smile on your face at night. Benefits? Countless, the most significant being that you are opening the gift of life each day and making the most of it.