The Laureate Way

Articles to Help Families and Older Adults Manage the Challenges of Aging

The Importance of Purpose as We Age

The Importance of Purpose as We Age

Maintaining a healthy brain as we age is a high priority for all of us. Most of us know that regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, engaging in social interaction, and practicing mentally stimulating activities help keep our minds sharp and alert. Another lesser-known dimension of brain health has to do with purpose. What is the importance of purpose as we age?

The Power of Purpose

Those who have a sense of purpose tend to delay or reduce the cognitive losses that can occur with age.

Purpose means different things to different people. Sometimes, we think that purpose must be some lofty undertaking, like Mother Theresa or Nelson Mandela. But, purpose is very individual and can be very simple. Richard Leider, author of The Power of Purpose, says that if you get up every day with the intention to somehow grow and to somehow give, you are living life with a purpose.

Remember the story of the bricklayers. When asked: “What are you doing?” The first bricklayer said: “I am laying bricks.” The second replied: “I am building a cathedral.”  This response implies not only taking pride in what you do, but also an ability to see the end result and how your work, no matter how simple, contributes to that end.

Like the second bricklayer it is possible to find the deeper purpose in almost everything we do. Dr. Sanjay Gupta in his latest book, Keep Sharp, recommends that we ask ourselves some basic questions and assign purpose to simple tasks.

For example, the reason for your daily walk may be to build up stamina so you can enjoy time with your grandchildren. You may volunteer to seal envelopes at the senior center in order to insure that people have a place to gather for meals and socialization. When you sing in the church choir, you are helping your neighbors have a better experience of worship.

The Importance of Purpose in Later Life

It is good to remind ourselves periodically that what we do makes a difference. In some way, perhaps small, you contribute to making the world a better place. Take pride in your purpose.

“The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose.” ―Charles Dickens