Boomers and Loneliness

This past Saturday we all enjoyed a delightfullovely walk along the beautiful paths near Ric and Susan’s lovely home. We welcomed two new members to our group as well: Diane and Stephanie.

An interesting discussion on Miller’s second chapter “Loneliness” followed over breakfast. As Miller points out in this chapter, “To a boomer, a ‘family’ could mean a number of options. A family could be a divorced man and a divorced woman living together in a trial marriage. A family could be remarriage on the part of both husband an wife, each bringing along a couple of children, thus making a blended family. A family could be two gay men who are married with an adopted child, or a single parent with two children. A family may be a single mom with her twenty-something daughter and ninety-something mother living under the same roof. The descriptions of ‘family’ are endless.” (Craig Kennet Miller, Boomer Spirituality. Seven Values for the Second Half of Life, p. 41) Gone, for the most part, are the Ozzie and Harriett families most of us grew up with: working Dad, stay-at-home Mom, and two kids.

Looking back on my childhood, I didn’t know any single Moms raising children on their own, with the one exception of my friend Vicki, whose Dad died before we started high school. I didn’t know any gay couples — or if I did, I didn’t know they were gay. I only remember one family in our whole elementary school, from kindergarten to grade eight, whose parents were divorced. All this was to change when we Boomers grew up. The divorce rate began to rise as it had never done before.

The interesting thing is that Boomers, now in their 50’s and 60’s, are still divorcing. It’s called grey divorce and it is on the rise even here in Canada. In June of 2016, Zoomer Magazine reported that in Canada divorce is sparking among the 50-pluses and becoming an increasingly common event for couples aged 65 and older. As a result, loneliness among Boomers is also on the rise.

As Miller writes, the biggest challenges to boomer marriages (and indeed any meaningful relationships) are time and attention. These are valuable commodities of which boomers have always had far too little.  Today many of them are paying heavily for the endless hours of overtime they put into their work lives when they were younger. Divorce is not the only problem. As Miller points out, many are also alienated from their adult children and long for a sense of family as well as companionship.

There is of course a big difference between being alone and being lonely. One can be lonely in a marriage, while another can lead a very fulfilling single life. The key is to have a good network of friends. This is where churches can be supportive of boomers, by providing them not only with meaning and hope but also with a strong sense of community.  If loneliness is fundamentally a spiritual problem, the church can provide boomers with grace and healing by welcoming them into the family of God.

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