A sense of meaning and purpose in life can make an important difference to overall wellbeing, particularly as we age. Medical research is increasingly showing that physical health is only part of a much bigger picture and that what we now often term ‘wellness’ is more holistic – encompassing physical, psychological, emotional and social components.
“The importance of these different aspects in promoting general wellbeing is clear in older adults,” says Barry Kaganson, CEO of Auria Senior Living, which develops and operates gold-standard senior living communities in South Africa. “What we see each day in our communities is borne out by current research: that a holistic approach to wellness and a strong sense of purpose are key to quality of life.”
Some of the most modern senior living environments are now designed with this in mind, providing opportunities for residents to socialise, integrate with the community, pursue hobbies and interests, and take care of their mental and emotional health. This is in addition to other healthcare supports such as opportunities for exercise, and various health screenings and check-ups.
A 2018 paper published in the medical journal Population Health Management looked at how purpose in life (PIL) contributes to ageing well. The researchers defined PIL as “having goals, a sense of direction, and a feeling that there is meaning to present and past life.” They stated that PIL has been associated with positive health outcomes among older adults, including fewer chronic conditions, less disability, less reliance on medications, and longer lifespans. The research further stated that: “The strongest characteristics of medium and high PIL included social support, resilience, reliance on faith, high health literacy, and good health status. Individuals with medium and high PIL had significantly lower health care utilization and expenditures, increased preventive services compliance, and higher quality of life (QOL). PIL is strongly associated with improved mental and physical health outcomes among older adults. Thus, interventions to improve and/or maintain higher levels of PIL over time may promote successful aging.”
The paper further stated that long-term studies which track respondents over time have shown that physical activity and healthy lifestyle behaviours in mid-life are strong predictors for delays in the onset of disease and disability later in life. The research shows that there are several ways in which psychological wellbeing and physical health in later life appear to be linked. One is that those with high PIL or strong social support tended to demonstrate lower cardiovascular, endocrine and immune biochemical markers – i.e. biochemical compounds in the body which are sufficiently altered that they can help in predicting or diagnosing disease. Another, is that as a sense of PIL increased, people’s medical and drug expenditures tended to decrease.
In numerous studies, higher PIL has been associated with better self-rated health, fewer chronic diseases (such as strokes and heart attacks), reduced pain, less disability, less dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and reduced mortality. People with greater PIL take better preventative care of their health, are more likely to be physically active, engaged in meaningful activities, and have fewer sleep problems.
Having a strong sense of PIL appears to be strongly associated with resilience and social support too, according to this research. It is thought that these help to buffer stress, help people cope with life’s changes, and give people an increased sense of the value of their lives. Higher PIL is also tied to high engagement in life, and researchers believe it can be used as a measure of motivation to take care of one’s health, either for its own sake or as a strategy to achieve higher life goals. Those with higher PIL appear more likely to engage in positive health behaviours and consequently benefit from better health.
In providing all-round support for the wellbeing of residents and in line with international best practice, Auria Senior Living has developed a cutting-edge programme which draws on the latest research to help tailor-make a comprehensive wellness package for each individual resident. “Certainly, successful ageing is more than longevity or the absence of disease and disability; rather successful ageing implies health, physical functionality, and psychological well-being,” says Kaganson. “Our programme focuses on various aspects of wellbeing, such as positive emotions, engagement, relationships, accomplishment, meaning, and of course, physical health”.
“Our promise to our residents is that they get to live their best quality of life, every single day and we strive to provide the right support for holistic wellness,” says Kaganson. “Simply put, we want our residents to have a reason to get up in the morning, look forward to their day and really enjoy their golden years.”
About Auria Senior Living
Auria Senior Living (Auria) develops, owns and manages a portfolio of senior living communities throughout South Africa. Auria is setting a new benchmark in continuing-care community living for the over-70s, providing for the intellectual, emotional, social and physical needs of its residents, in attractive and well-located environments.
Auria Senior Living’s current portfolio includes the award-winning San Sereno in Bryanston; the magnificently revamped Melrose Manor in Melrose; the recently acquired Woodside Village in Rondebosch and two new purpose-built communities: Royal View, a 122 apartment senior living development on the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington golf course in Sandringham and Coral Cove, a breath-taking senior living community at Zululami Luxury Coastal Estate on the shores of Sheffield Beach, KwaZulu-Natal North Coast.
For more information on Auria Senior Living visit: www.auria.co.za, or contact 087 654 8833.
Tel: 079 438 3252
 Musich, S., Wang, S.S., Kraemer, S., Hawkins, K. and Wicker, E. (2018). Purpose in Life and Positive Health Outcomes Among Older Adults. Population Health Management, 21(2), pp.139–147. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/pop.2017.0063