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Why Having Purpose Is Important in Your Personal Life and Community

Active senior woman playing tennis outdoors

In her autobiography, author Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote, “The first duty of a human being is to… find your real job and do it.” Of course, your “real job” may not have anything to do with how you earn a living. Rather, it’s what gives you a sense of purpose, a belief that life has meaning and direction. As it turns out, a purpose-driven life is a fundamental part of successful aging — and a growing trend in senior living.

Why Purpose Matters

A recent study defines purpose in life as “having goals, a sense of direction, and a feeling that there is meaning to present and past life.” You’ve probably experienced firsthand the benefits of a sense of purpose — the way it can buoy your spirits, rev up your engine and make you eager to greet the day. Science supports this innate understanding of the benefits of purpose, in particular the positive impact purpose can have on the aging process. Recent studies show that, for people over 50, having a sense of purpose:

  • Helps maintain physical function. Those with a higher purpose in life have a 14% decreased risk of developing a slow walk, one of the signs of declining physical ability.
  • Protects brain health. Older people with a greater sense of purpose are 44% less likely to have suffered damage to brain tissue.
  • Increases life expectancy. Having a strong purpose in life is associated with decreased mortality from all causes.
  • Improves sleep. People with a higher sense of purpose are 16% less likely to develop sleep disturbances.

Purpose Is Trending for Older Adults

According to a recent survey, the pandemic has had at least one positive outcome: Retirees report  they’re now doing a better job of spending their time in a purposeful way. They also express a strong conviction that having a sense of purpose is a key component of a successful retirement. Yet there’s growing frustration, as well: 89% of older adults say there should be more ways for retirees to contribute their talents and knowledge for the betterment of their community.

In fact, older adults’ desire for a purpose-driven life offers incredible potential for social good. If over the next 20 years, each of the 69+ million retirees volunteer just 3.3 hours a week, they could contribute 238 billion volunteer hours to their communities, the equivalent of $6.8 trillion.

Living a Purpose-Driven Life at Opus Newton

At Opus Newton, we believe that each of us has a responsibility to bring good to the world. We also know that older adults have the skills, talents, and potential to make a significant difference in their communities and in the lives of other people. We unite these two beliefs in our mission: to create opportunities for older adults to live purposeful lives filled with connection and meaning. Here, residents make a commitment to volunteer their time and talents within the community. Help a neighbor, teach a class, donate your skills in the administrative offices. Giving your time creates the connections that will allow our community — and residents — to thrive. If you’d like to learn more about independent living at Opus Newton, contact us.