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J Appl Gerontol. 2019 Aug;38(8):1121-1146. doi: 10.1177/0733464817727109. Epub 2017 Aug 26.

Perceptions of the Meaningfulness of Work Among Older Social Purpose Workers: An Ecological Momentary Assessment Study.

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1 Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA, USA.
2 Washington University in St. Louis, MO, USA.


The ecological momentary assessment (EMA) method was used to examine the antecedents and correlates of older adults' in-the-moment perceptions of meaning at work. Data were collected six times per day for 7 days from 30 older adults who were mostly social entrepreneurs and who were engaged in purpose work (i.e., work that addresses a social problem or issue). We found concurrent effects of two types of affective states (i.e., relaxed and energetic) and generative work behaviors (i.e., sharing information about one's work and encouraging/inviting others into one's work) on three measures of perceptions of meaningful work (i.e., high passion for one's work, high sense of engagement in one's work, and high connection to a sense of meaning in life). Feeling energetic had a lagged effect on meaningful work approximately 2.5 and 5 hr later in the day. We consider ways to foster engagement in meaningful work as a path toward healthy aging.


employment; encore; experience sampling method; purpose


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