A Sense of purpose

On the Japanese island of Okinawa, the community’s mantra is ‘ikigai’ meaning a sense of purpose.

They believe ‘ikigai’ is key to extending your lifespan as well as living a better life. There is also great research into this.

An eleven year study followed healthy people between 65 and 92, and observed that those who had a clear purpose lived longer and better than those who did not. It also showed that a strong sense of purpose appears to lower the risk of developing dementia by 2.4 times.

A sense of purpose is different for everyone, however it could be:

  • To make a positive contribution to the rest of society

  • To maximise one’s potential and personal development

  • To be artistically or intellectually creative

  • To develop spiritually

  • To seek pleasure

How to regain a sense of purpose in later life

Volunteering can help you regain your sense of purpose

Research has confirmed that volunteering is an incredible way to feel a sense of purpose.

A recent UK study, over 5,000 older people concluded that there is ‘strong evidence’ for the ‘relationship between volunteering and wellbeing in later life’.

The study focused on the indicators of wellbeing (quality of life, depression, life satisfaction and social isolation) and showed that the strength of wellbeing increased when volunteering and particularly improved when the people felt appreciated for their efforts.


Nazroo, J. And K. Matthews, The impact of volunteering on well-being in later life. 2012, WRVS

How to Age Positively, Guy Robertson, Establish what is most important to you. Pg 87-89