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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Different ways of achieving "life's purpose"

Thanks to Chuck Nyren for telling me about research from MetLife Mature Market Institute (MMI) that investigates the role that ‘purpose’ has in determining the lives of older people. The research was based on interviews with more than 1,000 Americans between the ages of 45 and 74. When you read the next article you might think the main 'purpose' is trying to find a job.

I am a sucker for new segmentation models. MMI deduces that older people’s attitude towards their life ‘purpose’ divides into five segments as follows.

Balanced Givers are the largest segments (33% of the sample) who tend to focus more on those activities which emphasise helping others, as well as doing things that matter to them personally. Some activities include helping to make things better for others and using their abilities to accomplish meaningful goals and activities for themselves.

Meaning-Minded is another large segment that focuses more time on activities such as being with friends and family, enjoying their surroundings, and enjoying personal interests, the core activities defining the Good Life, but also emphasizing spiritual involvement for their minds and souls.

Balanced Individualists tend to allocate more importance to activities that focus on personal interests. For example, taking care of their physical selves and enjoying personal interests. They feel that Meaning-related activities are still important, but less so than the Meaning-Minded and somewhat more so than Balanced Givers.

Financially Focused spend considerable attention and energy on activities like building income, improving their salaries, and increasing their net worth, with much less attention to activities enhancing meaning and purpose in themselves or in their communities.

Hyper-Individualists concentrate primarily on their own needs and activities in comparison to activities with family, their spiritual lives, or their communities.

The report gives a lot of detail about each of these segments. The difference in the attitudes between the groups, especially the Hyper-individualists and the Meaning –Minded, demonstrates the futility of treating older people as a homogenous whole.

The report also provides research about how ‘purpose’ differs by age. Nothing surprising in this analysis although I wonder what effect the recession will have on the responses to questions related to assets and income. Well done MMI, a useful contribution to our understanding of the older consumer. Dick Stroud

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