When we talk about the quest for life meaning and purpose in later life, what many people are truly seeking is the preservation of relevance. As we age, American society tends to devalue our relevance, failing to consider how the wisdom of our experience, leadership potential, and emotional intelligence may benefit our communities and commerce. The degree to which we are able to demonstrate our relevance can have quite an impact upon our wellbeing. The research shows that those able to maintain relevance within their communities demonstrate higher levels of self-efficacy, self-control, the ability to engage support and help, the ability to learn from rather than feel depleted of hope from life's difficulties, and the ability to persist in achieving life goals, overcoming obstacles along the way (Howe and Stöckl, 2012). These classic elements of resilience are the key to managing and reducing the severity of anxiety, depression, and grief in older adults (Hitzke, 2018; Swift, Abrams, Lamont, & Drury, 2017). Thus, we must go beyond traditional therapy to address mental health issues in later life, and view them within the context of ageism. When we do, identifying this common cause of distress in older people, we create opportunities for them not only to survive, or to age in place, but to thrive as the mentors, sages, and teachers they truly are, stimulating innovation within multiple sectors of our communities.
Hitzke, D. G. (2018). Transformative Reminiscence Training For Older Adults: Increasing Self- Positive Reminiscence During Self-Directed Life Reviews.
Howe A, Smajdor A, Stöckl A. Towards an understanding of resilience and its relevance to medical training. Med Educ. 2012 Apr;46(4):349-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2011.04188.x. PMID: 22429170.
Swift, H. J., Abrams, D., Lamont, R. A., & Drury, L. (2017). The risks of ageism model: How ageism and negative attitudes toward age can be a barrier to active aging. Social Issues and Policy Review, 11(1), 195-231.