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Pathways to Purpose in the Encore Years

This project was a collaboration between researchers at Stanford Graduate School of Education and the San Francisco-based non-profit The project had two interconnected aims: to understand better the nature and determinants of purposeful living in the "encore" (post-midlife) years and to use those insights to enable, a major provider of purposeful opportunities for encore-stage individuals, to extend its services to a far broader sector of the population. The project included three parts.

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Click here to read an article about this study in the November 4, 2015, GSE News.

This Stanford Retiree Insider has published two articles about this study. An introduction to the study appeared in March, 2016, followed by an update in September, 2016.

Part 1 was a study to be conducted by the Stanford research team which included a national survey and in-depth interviews to investigate how Americans with varied histories, values, needs, and opportunities make sense of their lives between midlife and old age, what they wish for, and whether they’re able to realize their aspirations. Key questions are whether and how individuals find purpose in this life stage, the nature and sources of that purpose, and implications for their own wellbeing and their contributions to the wellbeing of others.

Part 2 was a data collection effort by to create an up-to-date database of existing programs that help people in their later years develop and maintain purposeful lives.

Part 3 was an engagement and implementation phase, which will brought the insights of Part 1 and the resources identified in Part 2 to the general public and to many different kinds of organizations and programs that support purpose in later life. In doing so, Part 3 shifted popular conceptions of the encore years and strengthen institutional mechanisms that support many varieties of purposeful aging.

The overall project yielded a better understanding of opportunities for and barriers to purpose, engage larger segments of the population with hopeful, purposeful images of aging, and implement strategies to improve the comprehensiveness and effectiveness of programs that support purposeful aging in widely diverse segments of the population.

Principal Investigator: William Damon
Subcontract Principal Investigator: Marc Freedman, CEO,
Project Director, Anne Colby

This project was funded by the John Templeton Foundation.