Medical research, market studies and self-help writers point to how a purposeful life helping others can lead to greater happiness and longevity.
They focus on “how” to live a more purposeful life. But I think that they ignore “where” to live a more purposeful life. The “where” can also provide meaning in our lives.
After my grandmother died, I was helping move out her belongings. I came across a book where she had highlighted some passages. The passage described the author's sense of void from her meaningless retirement community life playing cards and wiling way the time without relatives nearby and without a sense of purpose.
My charming and gregarious grandmother never complained and I always assumed she was entirely happy in her retirement with her retirement village buddies. So this made me think completely differently and with sadness about her later years.
The cohousing lifestyle contrasts to a retirement home life of luxury. In cohousing, everyone, including the retired, cooks and participates in workshare. Even if they can afford to hire others, they do the work for themselves and their neighbors. There is more effort but there is also more reward. By helping their neighbors and in return being helped, they connect with every neighbor, even those that aren’t necessarily friends. And friendships takes an even greater dimension by working together for the greater good of the community.
We live a purposeful life by helping others. As Einstein stated above, we are here primarily for the sake of others. Our main life purpose might be volunteering or mission-oriented career. But we gain a bonus extra meaning in our lives when we also contribute to the lives of the people immediately around us.