Finding Meaning and Purpose in Older Age

Under the shadow of recent world events, what brings meaning and purpose to people’s lives has been further clarified.  In order to keep moving forward and find joy in daily life, while looking for ways to help others, focusing on what we can control offers a measure of comfort and stability.  A recent Pew Research survey confirms what many already knew – family is a top source of meaning for adults.  

For many older adults, once retired from longtime careers, it can be challenging to find meaning and purpose.  But a purpose-driven life offers meaning to seniors and by helping with grandchildren or extended family, volunteering, or mentoring, older adults can thrive.  Staying socially connected is a key influencer on how successfully people age.

It’s also important to keep physically active and learn new skills in older age, and grandchildren have the unique ability to challenge grandparents to keep up both physically and cognitively.  Whether it’s chasing grandkids around the playground or learning to play a video game, staying involved with grandchildren helps keep older adults sharp and active. 

The Pew research found that family was a source of meaning, especially in Australia, New Zealand, Greece, the U.S., the UK, Sweden, Italy, and Canada.   But in Spain, for example, occupation and health got high marks for providing a source of meaning and pride.  In Taiwan, society, place, and institutions influenced meaning for adults who expressed feelings of patriotism, appreciation of local services and amenities, or frustrations with local government. 

Surprisingly, faith, education, and romantic partners were less often described as giving life meaning when compared with material well-being.   Having the financial ability to live comfortably, and to afford necessities was also associated with a greater sense of safety, security and meaning in life, especially in Spain, Netherlands, Italy, and Belgium.

As we age, and our values shift, more people over the age of 65 find meaning in family, financial stability, and good health.  Having a sense of purpose not only improves mental and physical health, but studies have shown that a purpose-driven life can also boost longevity.  Seniors who have goals are more likely to be motivated to make healthy lifestyle choices like staying active, eating a healthy diet, and finding joy in small pleasures.  

What brings you meaning, purpose, and fulfillment?