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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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The people who live longer have a sense of purpose, a mission in life

The people who live longer have a sense of purpose, a mission in life

A national magazine ran an ad for antidepressants that stated, “15 out of 100 Older Adults May Suffer from Depression. Most of them think it is just a sign of aging. They are wrong! Know the signs: Feelings of sadness or irritability; loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities; sleeping too much or too little; change in weight or appetite; fatigue or loss of energy; feelings of hopelessness or guilt; inability to concentrate or remember things; difficulty making decisions; thoughts of death or suicide.” They then urged their readers who identify with these categories to get help.

Why are the incidences of depression in older adults twice as frequent as in younger persons?

There may be a direct relationship between depression and lack of personal direction. Somehow when we have a sense of purpose, a reason to get up every morning, a personal mission in life, this seems to muster up our internal resources and gives us a positive attitude toward life.

Author and family therapist Mary Ortwein perhaps said it best: “Having a sense of personal mission enables us to prioritize the many demands made on us and on our time. It helps us balance an appreciation of our personal gifts and talents with the needs of the world around us. Mission helps us to stay focused so that we base decisions on principles and ‘the long view’. It enables us to recover more quickly when setbacks and unexpected problems occur. It is a veritable shield against depression.”

Notice the people who live longer. They are the people who keep active. They never really retire; they keep going. They may not have a nine to five job but they keep busy.

They are active in their community and their church. They have plans, and they resist just sitting in the rocking chair all day watching life go by or watching mindless television programs all day. They keep their mind moving as well as their bodies. They try to remain interdependent as long as possible without becoming dependent. They have meaning and purpose in their lives.

They are also very positive. They believe that life is good and beautiful despite all the problems and setbacks. They are usually genuinely spiritual. They feel connected with God’s power and experience God’s goodness in all aspects of life. They fix their vision on what is pure and good, beautiful, stable, and changeless … the love within us and all around us.

When we do not have a sense of meaning, we set ourselves up for depression. It seems that our very life energy requires the dynamic of purpose. Our lives must be filled with some personal achievement and success. We must continue to become a loving person, ridding ourselves of any hatred, bitterness or an unforgiving disposition. We also must learn to deal with pain, suffering and loss, working through these “deaths” to new life.
Maybe some questions might be helpful in getting us moving again.

Am I living a meaningful life? Do I know where I am going at this stage of my life? Can I answer the “big questions” in life? Do I dream? Do I believe that change can bring added meaning to life? Do I feel an inner energy inside me? Do I engage my imagination in whatever I do? Do I feel a part of a larger whole? Do I experience a deepening of my spirituality – my relationship to God, others, myself, and the world? Do I maintain a vision of where I am going?

Remember Jose Addison’s three essential elements for happiness: (1) Something to do; (2) someone to love; and (3) something to hope for.

I have enjoyed my retirement years by becoming a pastor again. What about you?