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Local rabbi's pursuit of purpose growing older

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Brackman launches Fountain of Youth project aimed at retirees

By Carol McKinley

For the Courier

Evergreen Rabbi Levi Brackman believes he can save a generation of baby boomers from feeling bored and useless during the transition to retirement. His Fountain of Youth retirement plan can be described with one word: purpose.

“(Purpose is) what makes me get out of bed at 4:30 every morning,” says Brackman. “You’re happier and satisfied with life because you feel good about yourself.”

Brackman, who leads Judaism in the Foothills, started Purposes Inc. in January to help people 55 and older transition to their next phase in life. 

“Fifty-five is when people are looking at what the next stage is for them,” he says. “If you’re going to retire in 10 years, you start thinking about that.” 

Brackman adds that this is “… an incredibly important concept to a senior population which will grow by more than 70 percent in the next 30 years.”

But Brackman didn’t start this work focusing on an older population. As executive director of the nonprofit Youth Directions, he originally applied his theory of life discovery with teenagers. His attention wasn't drawn to the older crowd until last year, and the brainstorm came in an unlikely place: his doctor’s office. When his primary-care physician learned that Brackman helps kids find their passion, he suggested that the rabbi and scholar expand his research to include retirees and those who are getting ready to leave their careers. 

Brackman was on board with the idea immediately. He believes that finding one’s purpose can add years to a lifetime.

“This is because a person who has a sense of well-being is less likely to have an addiction, become depressed or be chronically bored,” he says. “All of this can lead to degeneration.”

Brackman cites research indicating that seniors who have found meaning in their twilight years are less likely to suffer heart attacks and develop Alzheimer’s disease.

At age 36, Brackman’s own sense of purpose lies in helping people find their paths, no matter how old they are. He says that self-worth is tied to working in a meaningful job, rather than just going through the motions at work.

“We don’t survive by making something on a conveyer belt. We want to be unique,” he says.

Brackman is working on a Ph.D. through Sydney, Australia’s Institute For Positive Psychology and Education. For his dissertation, he is following a control group as it assesses different life values and how that can translate into finding purpose. The panel includes 25 to 30 Evergreen residents, and the first set of results should be available this month, with final results expected this summer. 

Brackman says that even though he has people in his study from all over the world, the Evergreen community is a good place to find subjects.

“Evergreen has a lot of highly educated people who really care about  health, their well-being and what they can do to make a difference in the world. And some of them are trying to figure out, ‘What is uniquely for me in the next stage?’ Places like Evergreen are full of people who are asking these kinds of questions.”