Successful aging is the result of many factors, not the least of which is living purposefully. In retirement older adults may quickly find they no longer feel a sense of purpose after finishing a career and emptying the nest. In fact, research in the Blue Zones, where the percentage of centenarians is higher than the rest of the planet, shows having purpose is a key ingredient to living a long, healthy and fulfilling life. Here are some tips for successful aging with purpose.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines purpose as “Why you do something or why something exists.” Sounds simple enough but for many people finding purpose in their lives is actually pretty hard to do. In the Blue Zones, however, successful aging and a sense of purpose are woven into daily life and in some Blue Zones the concept of purposeful living has been given a name.
In Okinawa, Japan, for example, it is known as “ikigai” or a life well-lived and is described in-depth in the bluezones.com article, “The Japanese Concept of Ikigai-Why purpose Might be a Better Goal Than Happiness.” Broken down, ikigai is composed of two terms: “iki” which means “life” or “alive” and “gai” which translates to “benefit” or “worth” and is not an action as much as a way of life and a key to successful aging that brings happiness and fulfillment within the greater context of society.
The well-being connection
Remember the satisfaction of a well-done project, report, or other work accomplishment? It felt good right? That’s because having a purpose is actually closely tied to both physical and mental well-being. According to the webmd.com article, “Does Having s Sense of Purpose Improve Your Health?” researchers at the University of California, San Diego surveyed 1,000 adults and found that those who had purpose and meaning in their lives also reported feeling healthier in mind and body, while those still searching for meaning reported lower levels of well-being. And the connection was strongest among the oldest adults surveyed!
So, what’s the secret to successful aging and finding your purpose? This can be a challenge but one way to do it is to ask yourself the right questions, starting with: What can I do to make retirement purposeful? Although goals like traveling to another country, climbing a mountain, or bowling a perfect game are lots of fun to pursue and achieve, gaining true purpose and the benefits of a life well lived should focus more on the greater good.
Dig deep and ask yourself: What can I do to make even one life better? What knowledge can I share with others? What are my passions? If I could start my career over again what would I do?
Each of these questions, answered honestly, can help define a purpose to pursue, and one that can truly set you on a path to successful aging. To better assess yourself and your purpose, try taking the Blue Zones Purpose Checkup..
Keep it simple
For many older adults successful aging through purposeful living may seem like a lot of work. But in reality, there are many small actions (aka good deeds) that we can take each day that cumulatively add purpose to our lives. The more you do it with purpose the more it will benefit successful aging.
For example, just saying “Hello!” with a smile to people around you can start a chain reaction of cheerfulness that lifts everyone. Or consider: ● Reaching out to a different friend or family member every day, by phone, screen or in person. ● Volunteering to give a talk, teach a class or share a skill in your senior living community or local community center. ● Helping someone in need. ● Letting the young mother with the crying infant check out ahead of you in the grocery store. ● Spending time with someone who is grieving a loss.
Every positive purposeful action you take adds up and ultimately benefits you in your quest for successful aging. For more simple ways to be purposeful and embrace successful aging, check out the mimimalsmmadesimple.com article, “ 15 Essentials Ways to Live a Life of Purpose.”
Retirement and successful aging can go hand-in-hand when purpose is front and center. At Sonrisa Senior Living, we make living purposefully a cornerstone of our community through an enriching lifestyle and diverse opportunities and amenities. Check out our free Successful Transition Guide for more information about the Blue Zones. Contact us today to learn more and schedule your tour.