The Pathways to Encore Purpose Project is a research collaboration of the Stanford Graduate School of Education’s Center on Adolescence and Encore.org. The series of  reports and  briefs provide:

  • New insights on the prevalence and the nature of purpose among 50+ adults in the U.S.
  • Ideas for how encore leaders can apply the research findings to their work
  • First-ever documentation of the growing landscape of encore programs

Purpose in the Encore Years: Shaping Lives of Meaning and Contribution

The Stanford University research team examined older adults’ life goals, prosocial values and behaviors, perspectives on the progression to later life, and prevalence of purpose in their post-midlife, or encore, years.

Information was gathered through a nationally representative survey of nearly 1,200 adults, ages 50-90, followed by in-depth interviews with 102 of survey respondents to determine what role “purpose” plays in their lives. Taken together, the quantitative and qualitative data give us a first-ever picture of how purpose beyond the self looks and functions among older adults.

This mixed-methods study resulted in six key findings. The first four findings are supported by the survey data. The last two are based primarily on the interviews.

Download the Full Report 


This series of applied research briefs highlights each of the study’s six major findings, with a focus on what they might mean for leaders in the field working to engage 50+ adults in purpose.

Download the overview and 6 research briefs

Overview: Six Key Findings & Applied Research Briefs
Brief #1: Help Wanted? Ask Someone 50+
Brief #2: Beyond the Self: 34 Million Older Adults Committed to Common Good
Brief #3: Purpose is for Everyone
Brief #4: Living with Purpose in the Encore Years: Not a Zero Sum Game
Brief #5: Positive Outlook
Brief #6: Freedom and Flexibility Matter


To complement the Stanford research, Encore.org conducted a national survey to learn more about the landscape of programs and organizations that support older adults’ purposeful goals. This survey sought to better understand the services available to individuals seeking pro bono and paid engagements with social purpose organizations; and the services available to organizations that want to engage these purpose-seekers.

In the course of analyzing the survey responses, and based on decades of work in this field, the Encore.org team also identified opportunities for new programs and offerings to fill gaps that became apparent.

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Published: March 23, 2018