Does Meaning in Life Lead to Healthy Aging?


Myerberg members share how health, purpose, and happiness correlate

Eleanor Shook, left, and Pami Schevitz, right, work with weights to maintain health at Myerberg Center the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 18. (Photo by David Stuck)

People who have found meaning in life are relatively happier and healthier — most often those people are older than 60, according to a study by researchers at the University of San Diego (USCD). USCD’s Center for Healthy Aging published the Successful Aging Evaluation (SAGE) Dec. 10 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. USCD’s Center for Healthy Aging looks at neurobiology, genetics, and socialization to see what factors lead to healthy aging, which is a ratio of “low levels of physical disability with high levels of cognitive and emotional functioning,” according to UCSD.

SAGE studied 1,800 randomly selected, demographically varied persons age 21 and up. The study used interviews and saliva samples to gather information. It found that “the presence of and search for meaning in life are important for health and well-being.” SAGE found that age 60 is when the presence of meaning in life peaks.

The Myerberg Center, which serves active adults 50 and beyond, offers fitness programs such as Rock Steady Boxing for those with Parkinson’s, Dancing Through the Ages for a tour of classic dances, and Tai Chi.

Paul Timin
Paul Timin (Photo by David Stuck)

“[Myerberg] is like a family,” said Barbara Hyatt, a fitness and wellness associate from Pikesville, who has worked there 12 years.

“I do think the Jewish community plays a role [in the activeness of its 957 members],” Hyatt, an Orthodox Jew, said. Seeing the difference exercise and socialization has on members’ health is so obvious that it changes their appearances, she said.

The JT spoke with adults in the Myerberg Center to discover the local thoughts on the correlation of health, happiness, and meaning.

Getting ready for an aerobics class, Barbara Donick from Pikesville said she exercises to give herself energy. It “absolutely” makes her happy.

Her fellow classmate Pami Schevittz from Pikesville said that being the youngest member (in her 50s) of the class motivates her, to see everyone older than her working out. “I have granddaughters and I want to see their wedding,” Schevittz said, urging others to “Get up and move!”

Health and happiness are synonymous to Florence “Flossie” Snyder (102) of Pikesville.

Flossie (Photo by David Stuck)
Flossie (Photo by David Stuck)

“If I feel lousy in the morning, I can come in here and it makes me happy,” Snyder said.

“I was a tomboy as a kid, but I have to keep moving. It gives me friends. When you walk out after two hours, it feels so good. I am so happy especially when the mood changes, I can move around and go out to a bar,” she emphasized, “I do still drink wine! They can’t take it, I’ll be drinking wine until the end.”

Paul Timin (78), a Pikesville resident and part time therapist at his private office in Lutherville, hired a personal trainer at Myerberg for fitness.

The JT asked Timin why he liked to exercise, and he was taken aback. He exclaimed, “I don’t! That’s why I pay someone to force me to do it! I have to take care of myself or else my body will tell me.”

Health is made up of more than exercise. For example, Timin also attends painting classes to stay healthy and happy.

Most of the members, who clearly pursue health, believed in the importance of having meaning in their lives.

Some find the meaning in giving. “Do as much as you can for everyone you can. If you can do something; do something,” said David Thaman (81) of Cory Lake.

“I think my purpose has been to be a caregiver,” Hyatt similarly said, smiling genuinely. “Also open your mind, and don’t give up. Have a goal.”

Some believe the meaning of life is to just live it.

“Live to the fullest and make it count!” shared Schevittz. “Bet no one said that!” she laughed. She believes that religion is connected to this. “It’s good to [know] we’re part of a whole, wonderful life […] I think you feel better [with purpose].”

Some, like Donick, believe their purpose in life is not related to religion, but is to be grateful for family and friends.

“Have a wonderful time, enjoy yourself, give back, be social, charitable, involved, stay healthy, and take part in everything,” said Ann Cornblatt of Pikesville. She believes her Judaism is connected to this meaning. “Religion is supposed to give back and helps you find kindness [and meaning].”

Eleanor Shook, formerly a Towson physician assistant at Sinai Hospital, is a Catholic who may convert to Judaism. As she waited for her exercise class to start, Shook explained that religion keeps her focused, kinder, and more spiritual.

“Everybody has to find their own meaning, or else they’re just wandering through life. I think that’s the problem today,” said Shook. “My purpose is to help people and stay physically fit.”

Timin believes learning is the most important thing to get out of life: “Learning sustains me, I want to learn every day. I teach and learn how to care for

“My purpose is connected to Judaism, to self-actualize and be the best you can be,” said Ellen Katz (75) of Pikesville. “Religion allows us to be the best we can be.”

“No, the [meaning of life] is individual,” Snyder stated boldly. “There is no [specific] meaning. Just be nice. Don’t complain. The goal is to be kind.” She believes “Judaism has nothing to do with my purpose. It’s my inner soul.”

Snyder advises younger people in search of a meaning to “Come exercise and talk to people. Get a little companionship. Loneliness disappears here. At 100, you’re lonely because everyone that was my friend is dead. Gone. Health is important because it gives me happiness […] I hate when I get depressed, and I do sometimes, but I think they’ll have to carry me out of here.”

The JT asked Katz what she would tell a person who comes to her saying they have no purpose in life.

“A person who has no purpose is depressed. I don’t believe a person is like that, there are too many opportunities out there. A person like that has lost something,” she said, sadly shaking her head.

“If you stay healthy and do live purposefully and meaningfully, you are happy,” Cornbaltt wisely stated.

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