Members of Smoky Mountain Pickleball Club, Maryville, Tennessee
Did you know that there has been ongoing research since 1992 on the effects of life purpose and mortality? In other words, do we live longer if we have a purpose in life? It looks like the answer is yes.
Life purpose, according to this research, was defined by the following statements:
• Do you feel self-acceptance? Do you feel good about yourself?
• Do you have quality ties with other people?
• Do you feel a sense of autonomy, or independence?
• Are you in pursuit of meaningful goals?
• Do you continue growth and development?
Thousands of people over the age of 50 were asked those questions. Results showed that those who answered in a more positive way lived longer than those who didn’t. The results did not explain why this was the case, just that it was significant.
It makes sense to think that if we have a purpose in life we might live longer. “Something to live for” is a common expression that appears to hold true. And then we have all heard “He had nothing to live for” when speaking of someone who lived in unfortunate circumstances. If one has no purpose in life then hopelessness sets in. Hopelessness is associated with depression and a lack of energy to move forward. In turn, this leads to poor health habits and ultimately, death.
Retirees quickly learn that if they have no purpose in life then life becomes dull. Retirement is an important time to have a sense of purpose. Early on our focus is on raising a family and moving ahead in our careers. Once those milestones are completed, new ones must be formed. Many believe that because they have free time, they should spend it doing things they never had time to do while working. To some extent, this is true. But sitting around watching TV all day is not finding a purpose in life. There must be a balance.
On the other hand, there are situations where it may be difficult or impossible to live a fully purposeful life. Severely ill people and the handicapped are not going to feel that they are in control or can be independent. But they can have close ties with others. And with modern equipment that improves their mobility, they can go places that encourage growth and development.
There are so many ways senior citizens can find their life purpose. It takes some planning and answering the questions “What do I want to do with my life? What do I want to do now that I couldn’t do while I was working?”
One of the benefits of being a senior is the many opportunities available to them. Many of these are free. Learn a new hobby or focus on one that you know. Go to community senior centers. There are multiple activities and something for everyone at senior centers. If you are capable by all means, volunteer at your favorite agency. Join a group of like-minded individuals. Reconnect with old friends or even family members you haven’t seen in a while. Of course, there is always travel for those who can afford it.
If you haven’t already done so, create a bucket list. Most people view this list as a travel list, but it doesn’t have to be. Write down everything that comes to mind that you might want to do (you don’t have to do everything). Later on, you can narrow down the list and prioritize what to do first, second, and so on. The list should keep you busy for a while and certainly give you a purpose in life.
Walt and Marge Bogert
AliyaAlimujiang, MPH; AshleyWiensch, MPH; Jonathan Boss, MS; NancyL.Fleischer, PhD, MPH; AlisonM.Mondul, PhD, MPH; KarenMcLean, MD, PhD; BhramarMukherjee, PhD; CelesteLeighPearce, PhD, MPH, Association Between Life Purpose and Mortality Among US Adults Older Than 50 Years. JAMANetworkOpen.2019;2(5):e194270.doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.4270 (Reprinted) May 24,2019