Contributing to others improves wellbeing

Meaning and purpose can be severely challenged in later life as society generally fails to perceive older people as having a meaningful role to play. New research has added to the growing body of evidence to suggest that having a strong sense of meaning and purpose plays a very significant part in wellbeing in later life. The study looked at the phenomenon of ‘generativity’ – the concern with giving to others or leaving a legacy. It tested whether greater self perceptions of generativity were linked to feelings of connectedness, self worth, and positive emotions. They compared those people who felt they had achieved their desired level of generativity in life with those who felt that they had failed to meet their expectations.

Higher ratings of perceived contributions to the welfare of others were associated with greater current and future propensity to experience positive emotions and interact with others and with life’s challenges in a positive way. It was also associated with greater self worth and life satisfaction. Contributing to the wellbeing of others is therefore indicated as an important dimension of ageing positively. Developing a sense of meaning and purpose in life is critical to health and wellbeing in later life.

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