“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” The Benjamin Franklin proverb means if we go to bed early and rise early, we will have a successful life. In 2019, researchers put that saying on its head. They reviewed data on 7,000 Americans between the age of 51 – 60 and found that having meaning and a strong sense of purpose is one of the biggest factors in living a healthier life with longevity.
Meaning and purpose affects our emotional and physical health in many positive ways. We tend to be better protected from Alzheimer’s disease and other disabilities, it may slow down our aging process, we take better care of ourselves, respond to stress better and have healthier bodies. That same study of the 7,000 Americans showed that those people without a sense of purpose were almost twice as likely to die during the four years of the study.
Many people equate meaning and purpose as one in the same thing. Although they are related, the two words have different meanings. Purpose is our life journey, what we perceive as our calling and why we exist. Meaning is a sense of our worth and how we feel when our thoughts and actions make a difference in others’ lives.
As we grow older, we tend to accumulate more wisdom and experience and have more inner balance in our lives. Several studies show the happiest age group are people over the age of 60 but what tends to decline is having meaning and a strong sense of purpose. The decline is due to many different types of life events:
• Empty nest syndrome
• Feeling we’ve accomplished all our goals so what’s left
• Past regrets
• Disease or disability
Five Ways to Find Meaning & Purpose as You Age
Despite all the events that may have occurred in our lives, we can still have meaning and purpose. Fulfillment truly comes from the belief that what you do really matters, and it’s never too late to start. Here are some tips:
• Have the right mindset. Aging is not a weakness, it’s a strength. Meet the challenges of aging with acceptance and courage. We’ve accumulated so much wisdom, we have a lot to offer, and we can continue to grow and learn.
• Explore creativity. The process of creating can have a huge impact on our lives. And there are a multitude of ways to be creative. Think about what you’ve always wanted to do, pick up a paintbrush, learn a new instrument or write poetry.
• Try out a second career. Use your experience and passion in life to help others, serve on a board or work on a personal project.
• Stay healthy and strong. You won’t be able to accomplish much if you’re tired and don’t have the strength. Eat a healthy diet and continue to exercise.
• Consider mentoring someone from a younger generation. You can not only share your wisdom but learn from them as well.