by Faith Trussell, RN
For decades he identified himself as Tom, the shift manager at the factory where he worked, and husband to Marge. But now he is retired, and Marge has passed on. So who is he now? What purpose is there in his life?
When we journey through major life changes (such as loss of a spouse, retirement, kids leaving home, or moving), our personal story is interrupted. Unless we are able to figure out how the episode fits into the plot of our lives, we tend to lose our sense of purpose.
Recent compelling research suggests that people who feel their lives have meaning have significantly lower rates of cancer and heart disease than those who don’t find that sense of purpose. A study of the world’s oldest people discovered that one trait they have in common is having “a reason to get out of bed”.
Here are some ways to maintain purpose in your life: 1) Keep working as long as you can. Even if your job is not the greatest, accomplishment and earning income is the easiest way to feel your life has purpose. 2) Analyze yourself. Consider your current talents, values, and passions, then discover your calling for this stage of your life. 3) Explore religion. Throughout history, the correlation between faith and health has been a topic of extreme interest. “People who feel their life is part of a larger plan and are guided by their spiritual values have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, a lower risk of heart attack and cancer, and heal faster and live longer,” writes Dr. Harold Koenig, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center. (Quoted from AARP The Magazine, Nov/Dec 2008 issue). 4) Be a volunteer. It is no surprise that older people who volunteer to “give back” have better physical and mental health, and a lower mortality risk.
So determine to find purpose. Add life to your years and you will add years to your life!
Note: This column is provided by Senior Life Solutions, a program dedicated to addressing the emotional health of adults over the age of 65. If you, or someone you know, are struggling with depression or anxiety, call 417-876-3656 for more information.