Seeking Purpose, Not the Pasture.

July 3, 2021

Seeking Purpose, Not the Pasture.

May 29, 2023

Ken Dychtwald’s AgeWave puts out some of the most insightful studies on retirement. Their most recent study, "The Four Pillars of the New Retirement: What a Difference a Year Makes," explores how the pandemic has affected many older Americans’ perspectives on health and financial security.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • 76% of Americans credit the pandemic with helping them "refocus on what’s most important in life."

  • Despite the disproportionate health risk of the virus on retirees, they reported greater optimism than others, with a majority (61%) indicating that the pandemic has given them "more appreciation for what makes life meaningful" (vs. only 46% of all other Americans). Additionally, over half of retirees (53%) say that they now have "greater empathy and compassion for people who are struggling in ways that they are not."

  • Americans’ sense of purpose, which took a hit early in the pandemic, has rebounded; nearly two-thirds (63%) today give themselves a grade of "A" or "B" on "spending their time in purposeful ways," compared to only 55% in May 2020. Retirees generally report much higher levels of contentment and happiness than non-retired Americans, as they feel greater freedom from responsibilities and stressors and freedom to pursue their own interests and purpose.

  • 92% percent of retirees now agree that purpose is key to a successful retirement. When compared to younger Americans, retirees are more likely to say that having a sense of purpose in life is important to achieving optimal well-being (69% vs. 55% of all other Americans). Many derive this sense of purpose from family and friends, with 67% of retirees indicating that spending time with loved ones provides them with the greatest source of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. In addition, nearly all retirees believe it’s important to feel useful in retirement (93%) and 87% agree that being useful actually "makes them feel youthful."

  • This new study also revealed that there may be an untapped wellspring of retirees interested in being a force for social good. A whopping 86% of all adults and 89% of retirees now believe "there should be more ways for retirees to put their talents and knowledge to use for the benefit of their communities and society." And retirees say they would ideally like to volunteer 3.3 hours per week – nearly four times the retiree volunteer rate over recent years. Representing an unprecedented potential upside to aging, retirees indicate they are willing to contribute 238 billion hours of volunteer time over the next two decades, equal to a potential value of $6.8 trillion of social contribution.


Okay, for you geeks who got this far, feel free to review the whole study. It’s a positive affirmation that suggests retirees aren’t looking to be put out to pasture but instead are focused on purpose—a message we all need to hear as often as possible.

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