KEEP A SENSE OF PURPOSE
What are we talking about?
The Japanese have a term Ikigei and this means life purpose, which may be defined as what makes you get out of bed in the morning and motivates you to do things. Of course if things are difficult because of some disabling disease, purpose may include tasks that were previously taken for granted, like walking to the shops or even dressing, but the type of purpose that is good for wellbeing is broader and bigger than self-care.
As a parent purpose is bringing up children, at work the purpose may be working for an organisation with a clear sense of mission or the purpose may be simply to keep the boss happy. For some people retirement may result in a loss of purpose but researchers show that many people have been doing a job so long that retirement gives them a new opportunity and they find a new purpose
Particular problems are faced by people with limited mobility, people who cannot get out of their house or cannot move very far out of their house because they have lost the ability to drive and they cannot walk more than twenty or thirty yards without a seat. For those people of course the purpose of looking after themselves becomes higher, more obvious and more pressing but it is not particularly motivating or stimulating and it is now clearly understood that people who have a sense of purpose whatever their age feel better and think better.
What are the effects of ageing?
Ageing by itself does not reduce the sense of purpose but it is important to understand the impact that negative attitudes towards older people can have. The pessimistic attitudes stem from the mistaken belief that as people age they have a significant loss of intelligence and cannot be expected to make a useful contribution and this may make it difficult to maintain the sense of purpose or define a new sense of purpose.
How can you minimise the effects of ageing and living longer?
Perhaps the most important thing is that you continue to have a sense of purpose and don’t feel you should give up simply because you have reached the age of seventy, eighty or ninety. People in their seventies, eighties and nineties play an invaluable role in supporting others, either individual family members or others in their same village or community.
What can you do to reduce the risk of loss of purpose?
The most important thing is to believe that you have a positive contribution to make. For children supporting parents who become disabled and of limited mobility it is very important not only to help those individuals do things for themselves, for example get to the shops rather than sending a shopping delivery service, but also to create a new sense of purpose. This may be linking the person with up again some cause that they have been committed to for some time such as Cancer Research, aid for people in poor countries or the prevention of climate change. A housebound person can become a supporter and raise money.
Intergenerational learning is also very important and if there are grandchildren they could be set a project to find what life was like for children sixty years before or to review memories of significant events such as the Iraq War or the Miners’ Strike.
How can you maintain and increase a sense of purpose?
The simple answer is to get more involved in difficult and challenging tasks. This is easy to write but of course much more challenging to put into practice for someone of limited mobility. The key issue is to help the person get online and interact with others preferably using some software that allows groups to communicate, the Echo Show for example, and to think of ways in which they can directly link with a cause or mission.
Who can help?
There is no professional service but it is possible to help people reflect and review their assets however the NHS is now developing social prescribing, namely a service in which the doctor or nurse is able to link a patient up with an activity locally that could benefit from they knowledge and skills, as well as prescribing pills for their high blood pressure or type2 diabetes
In the book called The 100-Year-Life the authors very usually summarise assets not in terms of financial assets but in terms of the social assets that a person has developed. Often these assets are not being put to good use both because of loss of mobility and because of depression resulting in isolation and negative thinking so the key is to encourage positive thinking and engagement.Here are the three types of asset they have identified
1. The first category of intangibles is productive assets. These are the assets that help an individual become productive and successful at work and should therefore boost their income. Obviously, skills and knowledge will be a major component of this category,
2. The second category is vitality assets. Broadly these capture mental and physical health and well-being. Included here are friendship, positive family relationships and partnerships,
as well as personal fitness and health.
3. The final category is transformational assets. Across a 100-year life, people will experience great change and many transitions. These transformational assets refer to their self- knowledge, their capacity to reach out into diverse networks and their openness to new experiences.
Source: Lynda Gratton & Andrew Scott (2016) The 100-Year Life. Living and Working in an Age of Longevity. Bloomsbury. (p.71-72).
HOW COULD YOU USE THIS KNOWLEDGE TO ACHIEVE YOUR OWN OBJECTIVES ?
Think about what is is your principal aim or purpose for the the next phase in your life? it could be about your own future , for example staying independent but try to focus on another purpose also. You have many assets that can be used to help other people
HOW COULD YOU USE THIS KNOWLEDGE IF YOU ARE SUPPORTING SOMEONE ELSE ?
No matter how disabled the person you are helping may be encourage, or challenge, them to think about and tell you about their aim for next three years, or to be more precise, their aim for themself and their aim for helping other people