Throughout our young-adult and adult life most of us had a well-defined purpose in life. We've had classes to attend, a career to pursue, a family to raise and maybe loved ones to care for. The joy of accomplishing tasks or caring for others made us feel good at the end of the day.

As we age into the later stages of life, we lose a lot of these tasks. We retire from a long-held career, our kids grow up and family and friends pass away or move on. Now what? Researchers have found that engaging in meaningful and purposeful activities promotes cognitive health as we become older. A study, published in the May 2012 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, finds that the benefits of having meaning and direction in life are apparent, even when there is evidence of the formation of plaques and tangles in the brain, which are hallmark biological changes that occur in people who develop Alzheimer's disease.

If you find yourself in the later stages of life having feelings of aimlessness, it's time to do a little soul searching by asking yourself, what drives you? What are you passionate about? Maybe it's physical fitness. In that case you could look at becoming a member of Cornerstone Fitness or the Manchester Gym. You could also take one of the many exercise classes in this area being held at Equinox Village or the Manchester Rec Park.


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Exercising with others adds a social component, which is also good for staving off diseases like Alzheimer's.

Maybe you have a passion for service. There are a number of places in this area in need of volunteers, like the Southern Vermont Art Center, the Community Food Cupboard and Neighbor to Neighbor. Maybe there's a non-profit organization that could use your expertise as a board member, in which you could use skills related to your professional career.

Or, maybe it's as simple as reconnecting with your family by learning how to use Skype, Facebook or email. The Mark Skinner Library offers free one-on-one technology tutoring every Thursday for people wanting to learn the basics. (Just call to make an appointment.) If determining your purpose seems impossible or you feel despair over the concept, maybe a professional involved with the Senior Services Program at the Spicer Center could help.

There are so many opportunities and resources right here in our community.

We should all feel we have a purpose and be able to get up everyday with a clear picture of what drives us. Taking steps toward a purpose-driven life will not only make you happier, but healthier, too.

Kylee Ryan is the wellness coordinator at Equinox Village, a retirement community in Manchester Center.