For more than a week now, Baby Boomers have been pouring over the age-65 threshold like water at Niagra. (We just published a series on some of the emerging data; here’s a link to part 1 of the 5 parts that appeared in the OurValues website.)
Now, the urgent question is:
How are America’s congregations going to navigate this tidal shift?
Most houses of worship depend heavily on older members, but congregations tend to marginalize people over 65 and don’t take seriously their emerging needs. Like it or not, that situation is going to change when the elbows-out, self-centered, big-as-a-tidal-wave Boomers become the older generation in our congregations. Watch out!
Who do we turn to for help?
One of the smartest, best-prepared people in America—when it comes to helping congregations with this historic change—is Dr. Amy Hanson, prepared with scholarship in gerontology and lots of consulting work in congregations. She regularly shares her wisdom in lectures and workshops—and she has just put her latest findings in “Baby Boomers and Beyond: Tapping the Ministry Talents and Passions of Adults over 50 (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series),” which is now available from Amazon at a discount.
TODAY, we’re sharing a few words from Amy Hanson’s “Baby Boomers and Beyond”—to give you a feel for way she approaches these important issues. (Come back Wednesday and you’ll meet Amy in our weekly in-depth interview.) Overall, this 200-page book follows the format of Jossey-Bass’ Leadership Network series, which means it’s packed with data and analysis. Amy writes from a personal perspective, as well, from her own years in ministry. But any small sample from the book is just that—a tiny piece of what you’ll find inside the book. The following text is from the opening section of Amy’s book in which she lays out basic assumptions readers need to understand so they can appreciate her advice in the rest of the book. It’s great background for our interview with Amy.
THE NEW OLD, FROM “BABY BOOMERS AND BEYOND”
BY DR. AMY HANSON
The baby boom generation includes 78 million people born between 1946 and 1964 and reflects the boom in the birth rate after World War II. This is the largest generation in U.S. history and is made up of two cohorts—leading-edge boomers, born between 1946 and 1955, and trailing-edge boomers, born between 1956 and 1964. Leading-edge boomers were influenced by many social movements, including civil rights, modern feminism, antiwar protests, the sexual revolution, and drugs. Today, the majority of leading-edge boomers are facing the empty nest, providing care for aging parents, and dealing with retirement.
Because of their large numbers, as the boomers have progressed through life, their needs and desires have taken center stage. Whether it be the need for more diapers, more schools, or more jobs, this generation has been a driving force behind many of the changes we have experienced in our culture.
As a whole, members of this group were willing to leave behind some of the values of their parents and do things differently. In many ways, they have approached politics, fashion, child rearing, and religion differently than their parents. It should therefore come as no surprise that they are approaching the later years of life in a different way than the generations before them.
Research sponsored by Merrill Lynch indicated that 70 to 80 percent of boomers want to keep working in some fashion after they retire. Interestingly, most of them would like to find different jobs in areas of personal interest where they can make a difference in society. They want work that will allow them the flexibility to travel, spend time with family, participate in leisure activities, and continue learning.
Boomers also are very interested in staying young. They plan to remain active and involved with life and don’t want to participate in things that suggest they are aging. The idea of sitting in a rocking chair is not appealing to them.
Finally, as boomers approach their later years, they are searching for purpose. They may look for purpose through relationships, education, and even leisure pursuits. Others will seek to discover ways they can use their time and experience to serve the needs of those around them. They want their lives, as they get older, to be productive and meaningful—to really count for something. Rather than approaching these years as a time for slowing down, they view this period of life as a time of exciting possibilities.
Want to See Amy’s Own Website? On Amy Hanson’s home site, she’s got a video clip you can view, a discussion guide to her new book and lots more.
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(Originally published at readthespirit.com)