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MetLife Mature Market Institute: Meaning, Purpose and Cognitive Health for a Lifelong Good Life

Increased longevi­ty has gen­er­at­ed many ques­tions and much inter­est in healthy aging and retire­ment lifestyles over the recent decades. As Amer­i­cans become edu­cat­ed regard­ing lifestyle choic­es that con­tribute to both phys­i­cal and men­tal health, the def­i­n­i­tion of healthy aging has expand­ed to include brain health.

The notion of retire­ment as a time of with­draw­al from soci­ety, to be spent on rest and repose reflect­ed the think­ing of a pre­vi­ous era when peo­ple expect­ed short­er life spans. It is now known that the human brain ben­e­fits from envi­ron­ments rich in nov­el and com­plex stim­uli, and that by active­ly par­tic­i­pat­ing in soci­ety and tak­ing on per­son­al­ly rel­e­vant roles, peo­ple find mean­ing and pur­pose, which gives them a rea­son to get up in the morn­ing and pur­sue new chal­lenges.

This year, the MetLife Mature Mar­ket Insti­tute pub­lished a research study titled Dis­cov­er­ing What Mat­ters: Bal­anc­ing Mon­ey, Med­i­cine and Mean­ing. The study explored how peo­ple rebal­ance their pri­or­i­ties over time and jug­gle var­i­ous com­pet­ing aspects of life includ­ing mon­ey, med­i­cine (a metaphor for health) and mean­ing, in order to live the Good Life.  Hav­ing pur­pose was found to be a dif­fer­en­tia­tor of those liv­ing the Good Life.

The study polled over 1,000 indi­vid­u­als from ages 45 to 74 and found that as peo­ple age, their focus shifts from activ­i­ties relat­ed to the pur­suit of mon­ey to activ­i­ties that are relat­ed to hav­ing pur­pose and mean­ing, such as spend­ing time with friends and fam­i­ly, and health-relat­ed activ­i­ties, such as tak­ing care of their cognitive/brain health.

The study rein­forces the impor­tance of find­ing mean­ing and pur­pose, as well as rec­om­men­da­tions on brain health to con­tin­ue to seek out new chal­lenges. Of those who felt their lives had pur­pose, 84 per­cent report­ed that they are liv­ing the Good Life com­pared to 33 per­cent of those who are not liv­ing the Good Life. Sim­i­lar­ly, con­tent­ment was a dif­fer­en­tia­tor between those whose lives have pur­pose and those whose lives do not have as much pur­pose. Of those whose lives have pur­pose, 66 per­cent are com­plete­ly con­tent with their lives, com­pared to 26 per­cent of those whose lives do not have much pur­pose.

As indi­vid­u­als age, mean­ing­ful inter­ac­tions and pur­pose­ful activ­i­ty become even more val­ued and cru­cial to cog­ni­tive health- and cog­ni­tive health itself becomes more of a pri­or­i­ty.

You can find the full sur­vey results here: Dis­cov­er­ing What Mat­ters (opens 1MB PDF doc­u­ment).

MetLife Mature Market Institute Fay RaddingFay Radding is a Senior Geron­tol­o­gist at MetLife Mature Mar­ket Insti­tute. Since 1997, the MetLife Mature Mar­ket Insti­tute has pub­lished research, sur­veys and con­sumer pub­li­ca­tions ded­i­cat­ed to expand­ing the knowl­edge and aware­ness of choic­es avail­able to the pub­lic. In 2007, the MetLife Mature Mar­ket Insti­tute pub­lished the guide Ten Tips for Main­tain­ing a Healthy Brain, which high­light­ed the impor­tance of main­tain­ing a sense of pur­pose through­out the lifes­pan.

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