The Baby -Boomer changed the world less than they expected and they never expected a backlash by gen-x or by conservative religious and political forces. They also never imagined their current health and financial horizons that allowed a second life. Many of the 60 year old’s I know feel that relgion, politics, and the social climate did not turn out the way they planed. If this article turns out true then expect a major influx of money, time, and dedication as baby-boomers try to use their golden years of 60-85 to re-make the Jewish world. At this point, they will have an alliance with many of the gen-y and gen-z. The article claims that baby-boomer may not continue to support the institutions that took care of them or which they were affiliated during their work and family years. If they don’t like the community they will go elsewhere rather than hand the reigns to someone younger.
If the article is correct, then many baby-boomer Jews will seek their encore careers in the universalism of social action or arts. They may also shift their denomination affiliation. (I am predicting unless this issue is addressed this will be a major drain of money and resources out of Orthodoxy). Any thoughts on its effect on Judaism? These are people who became religious because they assumed the heroes of the 1960’s and 1970’s was the way of the future. What is the effect on the community if they want to re-capture their dreams? Alternately, what will happen if they opt out with their money and expertise? Or what of devote themselves to the community after 65 but show a strong lack of willingness to work with gen-x when they disagree?
Is this prospect scary or hopeful?
Update- There is the additional question of the media and tech abilities of the Baby -Boomers. Those born before 1957 do not generally have the web savvy or the needed ability to led and communicate via the web and new media. Will they be able to organize with their web limits?
As the Generational Winds Blow by Dr. David Elcott and Stuart Himmelfarb
When we look at that chart in the 21st Century, we see a radical shift as the sides have become more even. Our generational pyramid now looks increasingly like a square with large populations in their fifties and sixties near the top, and many more on top of them living beyond their eighties.
In fact, as analysts at Standard & Poor’s have observed, “No other force is likely to shape the future of national economic health, public finances and policy making as the irreversible rate at which the world’s population is aging.”
If Boomers stay engaged in the work of society rather than pursuing traditional retirement plans, if they enter Encore careers in public service or if they offer their talent, experience and financial resources as serious volunteers, we will then be forced to find a way to model something dynamically different and powerful: four active generations working side-by-side both in the work force and in Jewish communal life. The potential benefits of this achievement in the private and non-profit sectors are huge in an age of declining governmental supports, a besieged middle class and the increased demands of an aging population. Conversely, if we fail to address these issues, the result could be generational collisions and a potential collapse at the core of our community.
Given these winds of change, where can we look for solutions and support? Many of the foundations and communal organizations that fund innovation, especially in the Jewish community, are firmly fixated on youth and believe their focus on 20- and 30-somethings alone
In a recent study of over 250 philanthropic funders regarding their programmatic goals, responses clustered around childhood education and a wide range of entitlements for young adults. The only mention of any other age group related to geriatric needs.
And we have comforted ourselves by assuming that when people get older, their young leadership experiences will ensure their continued deep commitment, and that they will invest their financial resources, experience and talent in Jewish communal life.
Yet in a recent study of highly affiliated Jewish Baby Boomers, two-thirds said that if they do not find what they want in the Jewish community, they have every intention of going elsewhere. Rather than reaping the benefits of generations of fidelity and Jewish passion, we may well find ourselves with four generations of highly entitled Jews whose allegiance to the Jewish community will only be as deep as the next meaningful experience offered to them, and whose loyalties might not extend beyond their own, more narrow interests. And instead of intergenerational collaboration, we will have fostered a competitive environment where generational cohorts demand a larger share of ever decreasing entitlements.
The Jewish population is among the oldest of any ethnic or religious group. The evidence we gathered in the national survey of the Jewish community cited above indicates that continued Boomer fidelity to the Jewish people cannot be assumed. Competitive alternative options for Jews in their fifties, sixties and seventies are emerging throughout the country, from the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps to Senior Corps and Executive Service Corps. (For instance, 10% of all AmeriCorps positions are reserved for those over 55.)
We ignore at our peril the implications of Boomers leaving the Jewish scene and the influence of that exit on the generations that follow.
The first Baby Boomers have reached sixty-five years old. The youngest are approaching 50. They are at a pivotal moment as they consider their next steps. What they do and how the Jewish community connects with them has implications across the generational landscape. In fact, the next decades of Boomer behavior may well determine what kind of Jewish community we share and whether it grows stronger or is buffeted by forces beyond our control.
The authors, Dr. David Elcott and Stuart Himmelfarb, are co-founders of B3/The Jewish Boomer Platform, a new initiative dedicated to engaging – or re-engaging – Jewish Baby Boomers in Jewish life and to advancing inter-generational connections. Read the Full Version Here.