By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions
Of all the factors that research indicates are important to living longer, healthier and happier lives, three tend to top the list. They are a strong sense of purpose, movement and social connectivity.
Sense of Purpose
Whether you are young, middle-aged or older, research is showing that having a strong sense of purpose can add years to your life and life to your years. Purpose can be about making family and friends happy, contributing to social good, doing a job well or about creativity.
When it comes to creativity, for example, I am reminded of a resident I met at one of the assisted living communities we manage. He was 98 years of age. He came up and introduced himself as I was standing and admiring a wood carving of the Gettysburg Address that was on display at the community. Wood carving, he said, had become one of his passions. He took it up at a local senior center when he was 92 years old. At 96, he spent 3 ½ months creating the 8-foot high wood carving of the Gettysburg Address, with its 1,211 individually carved letters –each ¾ of an inch in height. His wood carving has been on display at the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois.
As Geriatrician David Fisher notes in his book “How to Keep MOM (and Yourself) Out of a Nursing Home”, movement is necessary for us to maintain muscle strength. “Our muscles are designed to move,” he says. The lack of movement leads to the loss of mobility, which increases the risk of falls, the loss of independence and the increased likelihood of the need for nursing home care.
Things such as wealth and fame are not the keys to happiness, notes Robert Waldinger, who is the current Director of a study that Harvard University has been conducting for more than 75 years. What they have learned from their years of research is that loneliness is toxic. People who are lonely are less happy and tend to experience declines in health sooner. People who have strong social connections to family, friends and community are happier, physically and mentally healthier, and more likely to live longer.