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).
– Fay 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.