As we age, we begin to reflect on where we've been and what we've accomplished. Do we leave an imprint on our family's lives? Do we live life to the fullest? What is our purpose in life?
Results of several studies indicate that a sense of living a purposeful life has a profound effect on our well-being and our life span.
A recent New York Times post, titled "Living on Purpose," by Paula Span highlights a study that noted those older adults claiming to pursue high purpose lives may delay the onset of Alzheimer's. Also, Span noted that studies drew a correlation between individuals living purposeful lives were less likely to develop disabilities and less likely to die earlier than those who defined their lives as low purpose.
Span highlighted the studies of Patricia Boyle, a neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago, tracking older adults living independently in Chicago. Dr. Boyle's team found that older adults who scored themselves as living with a high purpose were more likely to remain free of Alzheimer's than those with low scores.
Span recounted that in an interview with Patrick Hill, psychologist at Carleton University in Ottawa, Dr. Hill noted that a purposeful life scored higher in outcomes, regardless of the ages of those queried from ages 20 to 75.
Spans interviews with researchers help us see that guiding older adults to participate in purpose-driven lives may help their sense of well-being and their overall outlook on life and health. Additionally, a purpose-driven life may provide structure to a life that that has changed due to aging circumstances, such as a new life in a nursing home or other environment.
Years ago we knew of a young intern. She wore a silver charm around her neck, the charm was the profile of a leaping porpoise. When asked her about the charm, she recounted that her parents gave her the charm as a graduation gift because her parents wanted her to approach life with a “porpoise” – in every step that she took. So, what’s your “porpoise” in this life?
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Reference: The New York Times (June 3, 2014) Author Paula Span "Living on Purpose"
Paula Span is the author of “When the Time Comes: Families With Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions.”