How Purpose Impacts Your Brain

A study by the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago recently linked better cognitive performance with a purposeful life. Researchers found that people who reported feeling a strong sense of purpose in life experienced less cognitive decline, although the damage to the brain from Alzheimer’s disease was the same as people who had more cognitive decline and reported less of a sense of purpose.How Purpose Impacts Your Brain

Learn more about the study and find out how you and your loved ones can become more involved in the community.

Study Finds that Purpose Impacts Your Brain

A study from Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center recently analyzed the brain tissue of 246 people who died during a long term study involving 1,400 seniors. The study, reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry, found that people who showed similar levels of damage from Alzheimer’s in the brain actually exhibited different levels of cognitive decline.

After digging deeper, researchers found that those participants who reported having more purpose in life over the course of the study had better functioning brains. Researchers accounted for other factors including education and exercise levels.

The study defined ‘purpose’ as “the tendency to derive meaning from life’s experiences and possess a sense of intentionality and goal directedness that guides behavior.”

Other studies have linked a sense of purpose to not only slower cognitive decline but also to lower rates of disability and even death.

8 Ways for Seniors to Stay Engaged and Impact the Brain

Some may find it difficult to continue being active as they age. But, many seniors find that volunteer opportunities can help them stay active, engaged and have more of a sense of purpose in their lives.

Although it is important to take into consideration the stage and progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia during this time, here are 8 ways that seniors can stay engaged for brain health:

1. Habitat for Humanity: A nonprofit organization that builds and repairs homes for people in need. Retirees account for a large percentage of the volunteers that drive their own RVs around the United States to help with projects throughout the country.

2. USO: The USO strives to create a better quality of life for military members and their families and seeks volunteers to help with everything from working in their offices in airports, greeting troops as they arrive home or assisting on overseas tours.

3. Children’s Hospitals: Many children’s hospitals seek volunteers to tutor patients, read stories, or watch children in the play room. Volunteers can also help families feel more comfortable by bringing water, food or whatever they need during their hospital stay.

4. Meals on Wheels: Meals on Wheels gives seniors the chance to serve other seniors, bringing food to those who can not leave their homes. Many of the organization’s 1.7 million volunteers are retirees.

5. Red Cross: Many retired nurses, doctors, EMTs, pharmacists and other medical personnel can find purpose with the Red Cross. The Red Cross also has a place for people who can interpret other languages or serve as chaplains or legal advisors to help with disaster relief around the world or at home.

6. Leading Guided Tours: Many local landmarks or historical places seek retirees who can lead guided tours. Many seniors have unique personal knowledge of the landmark and can provide a personal tour that guests won’t forget.

7. Political Campaigns: Particularly relevant in a presidential election year, many retirees join political campaigns, calling voters, leading a local event and knocking on doors to support a candidate they believe in.

8. Humane Societies or Animal Shelters: Many seniors find spending days with animals comforting and fun. Humane societies are often seeking volunteers to walk dogs, bathe animals or even perform administrative tasks.

How have you or your loved one been involved in the community? Have you seen a correlation between community involvement and overall health? Share your stories with us in the comments below.

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Please leave your thoughts and comments

  • BellaTerra66

    Great article. I live in a 55+ retirement community where most of the residents have already passed away. They stay inside their apartments, watching TV, and they are just slowly withering away. I just got involved in a couple of volunteer opportunities (one of them is tutoring ESL students at our community college — I love it), and in just a couple of weeks, I can already feel my overall health (physical, mental, emotional) improving a lot.

  • BellaTerra66

    Your local zoo. Great place to volunteer. Your local elementary school and HS wants volunteers. Hospice organizations always need volunteers (but that takes a special kind of person). The food banks in your city will love having you an a volunteer. Your library should have a group of volunteers. And your local Assistance League — AL needs volunteers.

    • caitlinburm

      Thank you for sharing your incredible insight and suggestions with us!

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