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In Search of Ikigai

“Believe that life is worth living and your belief will create the fact.” -William James


Ikigai (pronounced “ee-key-guy”) is a Japanese concept, which translate loosely as “that which makes life worth living,” and that’s what Long-Term Living is all about. Studies have found that ikigai shifts as one grows older: younger people tend find ikigai in hopes and dreams for the future; those in middle age and find ikigai in their commitments to work, family and the community; and older folks find ikigai in memories of past pursuits and through present relationships. These are the elements that make for a meaningful life.


Mieko Kamiya (1914-1979), a well-known Japanese psychiatrist and clinician, identified seven basic human needs associated with ikigai:


The need for fulfilling existence

The need for change and growth

The need for future perspectives

The need for receiving responses

The need for freedom

The need for self-actualization

The need for significance and value


Through Long-Term Living, individuals with cognitive disabilities can live with purpose and dignity. They are supported in the belief that they are supported in the belief that they have something of value to contribute, to the community and to their personal relationships. Long-Term Living opens up an alternative future for these individuals, showing them that they need not be defined by the cognitive challenges that affect them. They are not destined to live in an institutional setting that denies them the freedom to make choices and continue to grow and learn, to pursue activities that bring them joy, and relegates them to a life of receiving care without the opportunity to give back.


We all deserve the chance to find ikigai, and individuals with cognitive disabilities are no different. We all need a sense of purpose, a reason to wake up in the morning.


You have the opportunity to be a change agent in your organization. By adopting the Long-term Living philosophy, you can help those you support find their ikigai. And along the way, you may even discover your own.

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