elderly woman putting hands over chest
Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
February 21, 2024 ·  4 min read

Is ‘Purpose’ the Key to Longevity? This 96-Year-Old Woman Still Works 3 Days a Week. 

For thousands of years, people have sought to live fulfilling and long lives. Women attend spas promising a youthful glow and in some cases also state they promote physical health. Tales of the Fountain of Youth have been passed down dating as far back as the 3rd century. People do what they can to remain active and eat healthily. While we all live a life that is finite there are a number of things that can be done to increase longevity in life. One 96-year-old woman living in England shares her secret to living to be nearly 100 years old. 

Irene’s Story.

In 1981 Irene Astbury opened a pet store with her husband. It is located in Macclesfield, Cheshire, and is called Pet Food Supplies Ltd. Despite her husband’s passing, Irene remained an active member of her business and currently works 3 days a week. While certain details change depending on the person, Irene is not the only person in her age group to still be working. She believes that the secret to her long life is simply to live one that is meaningful and fulfilling.

When interviewed by the BBC about her continuing employment Irene states,” I’m not giving up until they tell me to clear off.” Her tenacity and determination provide inspiration to those looking to ensure longevity in their own lives. 

Read: Study: Grandparents Who Babysit May Live Longer

The Studies Conducted to Help Promote Longevity. 

Scientists have conducted many studies to determine factors that promote longevity in life. Physical and mental health working in tandem are known to increase one’s lifespan. People who remain active all their lives tend to live longer than those who don’t. According to Eric S. Kim, a research scientist in the department of social and behavioral sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, a higher sense of purpose plays an integral role in longevity.

Kim says, “There have been a number of studies suggesting that a higher sense of purpose in life is associated with reduced risk of early death. However, this study showed for the first time that sense of purpose in life is associated with specific causes of death, and that’s an interesting advancement of knowledge.”[3].

One study published in JAMA in 2019 found that out of a group of nearly 7,000 participants over age 50, the higher-scoring adults were less likely to die during the four-year study conducted. In the same time frame, scientists discovered they were less likely to face health concerns such as blood and heart conditions that ultimately result in death. 

Read: I’m 66 Years Old and I Live in my Daughter’s Backyard.

Some reasons that living a meaningful life can improve health are as follows:

  • It could reduce stress and inflammation
  • You may be more motivated to make healthier choices
  • Remaining active can improve mental health 
  • Improved quality of life
  • Improved circulation and possibly mobility

“Ultimately, activities that provide life purpose may be prompted by an overarching outlook in which life itself is greatly valued. One caveat is that there are important studies that show no association between a sense of purpose in life and some of these factors, so this is still an active field of research.” says Kim. [3]

Taking Action.

What are some things you can do to live a meaningful life? The list is endless but here are a few things that first come to mind.

  • Eat healthily
  • Exercise regularly
  • Hug your loved ones often
  • Pick up a new hobby or skill
  • Learn ways to become more self-sufficient
  • Do volunteer work or donate to a worthy cause
  • Foster pets from your local animal shelters

Most people are, much like explorers, kings, and emperors of the past, hoping to do everything possible to promote longevity in their own lives. 77 percent of Americans participated in a survey conducted by Stanford Center on Longevity, stating that they would like to live to be 100.[7] In addition to living a meaningful life; eating healthy, nurturing relationships and keeping busy can do wonders to promote longevity.

We’re currently working on a review article about this topic and we found literature suggesting that purpose in life works through three main pathways,” says Kim in regards to the research he’s conducting about life and how we can increase our lifespan. Keep your eyes out for new research that may come to light and in the meantime find avenues through which you can stay social, active, happy, and fulfilled. 

Keep Reading: Elderly Man Takes Hair And Makeup Lessons So He Can Help His Aging Wife


  1. Association between life purpose and mortality among US adults older than 50 years. JAMA Network Open. Aliya Alimujiang, MPH, et al. May 24, 2019.
  2. The 96-year-old still working three days a week. BBC News. September 2.
  3. Will A purpose-driven life help you live longer?Harvard Health. Kelly Bilodeau. November 28, 2019.
  4. Living to 100: An action plan.” Stanford. Retrieved October 5, 2022.
  5. Living to 100: An action plan.” CBS News. Steve Vernon. February 12, 2016.
  6. Fountain of youth.” Wikipedia. Retrieved October 4, 2022.
  7. Perspective | boosting our sense of meaning in life is an often overlooked longevity ingredient.” The Washington Post. Zaraska, M. January 3, 2021.