10The Giving Revolution: Living with Purpose and Leaving a Legacy

ACROSS OUR DECADES of study, we've noticed that today's retirees want to be useful even more than they want to be youthful. They very much want to avoid becoming irrelevant. Having a strong sense of purpose keeps them more active, healthier, happier – and, yes, feeling more youthful. But the sources of purpose shift in retirement, and many retirees are seeking a new and even stronger sense of purpose in their lives than when they were younger. For others, a decline in sense of purpose can be one of the most debilitating conditions of age.

The Power of Purpose

Earlier in life, people find purpose in a variety and combination of places. Supporting and nurturing a family provides the strongest purpose for many, especially on becoming parents. Work is often central to purpose, on its own merits or with companion motivations around career and financial success. Purpose can be largely internal, rooted in self-knowledge, self-improvement, and self-actualization. Or it can be largely external and social, focused on achieving success, fulfilling goals, or contributing to the welfare of others. And for many, purpose is spiritual, based on one's faith and usually combining elements of inner and social purpose.

A sense of purpose in retirement is both individual and subjective, as Paul Irving, JD, chair of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging, observes: “I think of purpose as this intersection between the ...

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