How old do you feel?
Friends ask me this question a lot. We went to the beach a couple of weeks ago, to Bradley Beach on the Jersey Shore. We were right across the street from my grandparents’ house that I remember visiting countless times for Jewish Holidays and vacations.
Memories of summer camp seem like they happened last summer. High school and college, too. And then of course there is our wedding and our children being born. It is hard to believe they are “Millennials” and on their own journeys of adulthood.
I often say in my mind I think I am in my late 20s or early 30s. But not when I wake up in the morning when the aches and pains of being 61 –a true Baby Boomer – are experienced firsthand.
And of course there is the experience of observing – and being helpful, too – as our parents lived, and continue to live, active lives into their 80s and 90s.
I read an article over the summer about a grant that was awarded to a group of 3 synagogues in Los Angeles to help their members “age in place”. A group of families in these synagogues- Baby Boomers and beyond – who don’t want to think about moving to a life care facility and who anticipate they will need some assistance and services. They are forming a “Village” which will be rooted to a foundation of Jewish values and community.
This “Village”, and its members, is becoming part of the Village to Village Network, whose mission is to “enable communities to establish and effectively manage aging in community organizations initiated and inspired by their members.”
Of course many Baby Boomers, as well as Generation Xers now, who, once their children have had a B’nai Mitzvah are done with synagogue life a few months later. Or maybe they wait until their children go off to college.
Maybe such a “Village” will give pause to those in these three synagogues who are considering leaving. What if in other synagogues, those of a similar age – with children in religious school – observed such a focus on more senior congregants? Might knowing that such a program will be there for them in the future change their minds about the synagogue when they have an empty nest. Maybe it would change their view, that the synagogue is not just geared to younger families.
Baby Boomers who are retired or soon to be retiring have time to – and want to – devote to volunteering. And they want to continue learning. And they want to learn and talk about the issues that are going on in their lives – being in the sandwich generation, health issues, the meaning of death and legacy.
It makes sense. The synagogue was the focal point for so many people in terms of their life cycle events related to children. And for the learning opportunities geared for their children as well. It seems logical that the synagogue follows us in our maturation and life cycle and continues to be there for us at critical times as well as our own learning and growth.