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WHEN OLDER ADULTS LACK A SENSE OF PURPOSE

Assisting Hands Home Care wrote on the 20th of October 2017:

“We all want to make a difference in the world and to feel that our lives have meaning. Yet as we grow older, life changes can make us feel adrift, without goals or purpose. We retire from our jobs. Our children are grown, maybe moved away. Disabilities might reduce our ability to take part in meaningful activities. And it doesn’t help that our culture routinely delivers ageist messages that older adults aren’t as important or valuable.

This is a serious problem, say geriatrics experts. Consider these recent studies, which show a sense of purpose is linked with:

A healthier brain. The American Heart Association reported that people who said their lives had meaning were less likely to suffer brain damage from a stroke. Study author Patricia Boyle of Rush University also noted that purpose in life could protect against dementia by building stronger cognitive reserve—the extra brain connections that delay the signs of dementia.

A longer life. A study published in The Lancet found that a meaningful life may lead to a longer life. Researchers from University College London found that among the seniors they studied, those who reported frequent feelings of a worthwhile life were 30 percent less likely to die over the course of the study. Said Prof. Andrew Steptoe, “There are several biological mechanisms that may link well-being to improved health, for example through hormonal changes or reduced blood pressure.”

More years of independence. A long life is good; a healthier long life even is better! A recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that people who felt a sense of purpose in life were more likely to retain good physical function and independence, as demonstrated by grip strength and walking speed.

A stronger heart. A study by researchers at Mt. Sinai St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital found that people who reported feeling useful to others tend to have better heart health. The researchers paid particular attention to a series of Japanese studies on the concept of ikigai, which translates to “a life worth living.” They say that a sense of purpose can help our bodies weather stress, and motivate us to live a healthier lifestyle.

Better sleep. In July 2017, researchers from Northwestern University published a study showing that “having a good reason to get out of bed in the morning means you are more likely to sleep better at night.” They found that purpose in life improves overall sleep and lowers the risk of sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and insomnia. They suggested enhancing purpose in life as a safer alternative to sleep medications.

These are just a few of the studies from recent years that should convince us to build a sense of purpose in our own lives, and to help senior loved ones do the same. Indeed, said researcher Patrick Hill of Carleton University in Canada, “There are a lot of reasons to believe that being purposeful might help protect older adults more so than younger ones. For instance, adults might need a sense of direction more, after they have left the workplace and lost that source for organizing their daily events.”

Helping seniors find meaning in life

We might think that seniors who are coping with health challenges would be less focused on meaningfulness—but that is not true. Geriatricians call for “culture change” in senior living communities, senior services departments and other senior care providers, recognizing that people who see themselves as passive recipients of care lose their sense of identity. Allowing people who receive care to give back by helping others enhances their well-being immeasurably.”

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Founded in 2010 by Rob Jones  in response to a clear need in the South African retirement industry for specialist independent consultants, Shire Retirement Properties is focused exclusively on the retirement industry.  Shire provides a unique service to the industry through hands-on and dedicated advice and support, sometimes over several years as villages develop and become fully operational.