“Just Get Up and Get on.” Purpose in Later Life

Justine Irving

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Although the varied benefits of purpose are increasingly recognized, there is more to learn about the how and why of purpose in later life. Forty older adults (aged 68–96 years) living within the South Australian community participated in a face-to-face interview to further existing understanding of purpose in older age. Conversations with older adults suggest that the majority continues to value and pursue purpose in their lives. Amongst older adults interviewed there was no single perception, definition or experience of purpose. However, through thematic analysis four categories of purpose emerged. Purpose was fulfilled through a drive for life; roles and responsibilities; routine, activity and independence; and faith and spirituality. The outcomes of this study build upon the limited body of evidence defining “purpose” from the perspective of older adults themselves which may in turn help inform future conceptualizations and measurements of purpose, as well as enable the design of interventions intended to promote, sustain or re-introduce purpose across the life span.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
JournalActivities Adaptation and Aging
Early online date15 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Feb 2024


  • Purpose
  • purpose in life
  • sense of purpose
  • meaning in life
  • aging
  • older adult


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