Only two more days until the start of Canadian Boomerfest!

We are getting so excited about the launch of Canadian Boomerfest, happening right here in London, Ontario, starting this coming Wednesday evening! We are now at full capacity, but hope that those of you who have not been able to make it can still follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

Will have more to share next week. For now, here are a few very short essays or commentaries on Boomers and Spirituality, as well as a list of books that will help you learn more on this important subject.

Boomers have much to share with the younger generations and, by being generous with them, they can actually prolong their lives and find better health and greater happiness!

This coming weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving. Thankful hearts are generous hearts; but maybe they are also healthier hearts. Philippe Tobler, associate professor of neuro-economics and social neuroscience at the University of Zurich, says that generosity makes us healthier.

According to Tobler, studies have shown that older people who are generous tend to feel better and enjoy better health. Other research indicates that spending money on others may actually lower blood pressure and be just as effective as medication or exercise. In an article by Time journalist Amanda Macmillan, Tobler is quoted as saying that “there is a positive association between helping others and life expectancy.” If you practise the art of generosity, there is less likelihood you will suffer from a lot of stress.

For Boomers and older adults, who have much wisdom and experience to share, this is good news. What will you share this coming Thanksgiving? More importantly, how can you build a spirit of generosity into your everyday living and make generosity part of your normal spiritual practice in the future? After all, it may just save your life!


Preserving Dignity at Every Stage of Life: Grandfather and the Wooden Bowl

I am sure you have heard different variations of the following story. I share it here because it carries such a powerful message:

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.

The family ate together at the table. But the old man’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his fork onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, the milk spilled on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated and decided to relegate him to another smaller table in the corner, so that they would not have to put up with the spilled milk. Because the grandfather often dropped a dish or two, they served his food in a wooden bowl.

One day the father noticed the little son playing with wooden scraps on the floor. When he asked him what he was doing, he replied simply: “Oh, I’m making a little bowl for you and Mommy so that you will have something to eat from when you get old and need to sit in the corner.”

Immediately the man and his wife realised how badly they had treated Grandfather. With tears of shame streaming down their faces, they escorted Grandpa back to the dinner table to eat with the rest of the family. For the remainder of his days, Grandfather ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband or wife seemed to care any longer when a glass was dropped, milk spilled, or a tablecloth was soiled. 

In the coming ten or twenty years more people will be involved in elder care than in childcare. How will you care for your elderly loved ones?

Rabbi Richard Address, who is one of our keynote speakers at Canadian Boomerfestreminds us that we must always respect the dignity of the individual, no matter what his or her stage of life. In his book, Seekers of Meaning. Baby Boomers, Judaism, and the Pursuit of Healthy Aginghe quotes the Palestinian Talmud. According to this, the person who tells his or her elderly parents “just to relax and enjoy life and I’ll take care of you”, has far less respect for their aged parents than the one who helps to create a safe environment in which the elderly parents can continue to work and contribute to the family’s well-being. In this way the dignity of the elders is preserved.

Perhaps a better variation of our story about the elderly grandfather and the wooden bowl would include not only a place at the dinner table for Grandpa, but also a nice workbench where he could continue to be creatively involved and contributing to family life.

In Memory of Grandma Shirley: Grandparenting as Vocation

This past Sunday some of my friends and neighbours celebrated Grandparents’ Day. Yes, there is such a thing as Grandparents’ Day! it’s a day on which we celebrate and honour the special people we call Grandma and Grampa OR Nana and Poppa OR Gran and Grandad OR Oma and Opa OR whatever special names we call them. Usually this in an older person, normally but not always the parent of our parent.

For example, our children became very attached to a very dear older friend in our first congregation, whom they called Grandma Shirley. She was a wonderful grandmother to them, and celebrated all their birthdays and Christmas celebrations and graduations and never missed an opportunity share her love for them. She looked after them when they were small and watched them grow up with joy. After my own mother died in 1996, her devotion to them became especially important, even to my husband, whose own parents lived across the ocean in Scotland and could not often visit. When Grandma Shirley died four years ago this month, we were all heartbroken.

Today a wonderful book arrived in the mail: The Spirituality of Grandparenting by  Ralph Milton with Beverley Milton. I have just started to read it, but so far I am entranced! And I don’t even have grandchildren! A few ideas from the Miltons stand out even from the first pages:

— Grandparenting is a vocation, a calling: the grandparent’s spiritual vocation is to delight in one’s grandchildren.

— Grandparents come in a variety of  shapes and sizes and many styles and kinds, but they have one thing in common: a relationship between older adults and children.

— Grandparenting can be great fun and deeply rewarding; but it isn’t always a happy relationship and it doesn’t fulfill all of a grandparent’s needs or all of the grandchild’s needs!

— The spirituality of grandparenting is more than a nice warm feeling and more than being able to share your religious beliefs; it’s more about praying for or with your grandchildren.

— Spiritual grandparenting is about learning the art of trust from our grandchildren, a lot like the trust we need to have in God.

I am looking forward to reading more about the spirituality of grandparenting in this wonderful book. Why don’t you order your copy too and join me on the journey? Even if, like me, you do not have grandchildren, you can learn a lot about spirituality in the second half of life from this beautiful testament to grandparenting. And who knows, maybe God is calling you to be a surrogate grandparent to someone on your street or in your faith community who is hungering for the wise, warm, unconditionally loving care of a grandparent — just like our kids’ adopted Grandma Shirley!





Sweet and Sour: Newly Retired Teachers Face both Freedom and Joy, as well as Lack of Purpose and Belonging as School Starts Back Without Them Tuesday….

Two of my friends have recently retired from lengthy careers as teachers.  This will be their first Labour Day in years that they won’t have think about getting themselves psyched up for the start of another school year. No more anxious moments the night before Day One, wondering what the new classes will be like or whether this year’s batch of students will be keen to learn or not.

While there will be no “back to school jitters” for them, I expect they will have mixed feelings tomorrow when those big yellow school buses drive by their homes and they know that they won’t be at the school to welcome all those excited kids off the bus. After all, they loved their jobs and were good teachers. “It’s like sweet and sour,” says one teacher who taught for 34 years before retiring from a career he loved. There’s the freedom that comes from not having to get up early every morning and be on top of your game, five days a week; not to mention the freedom from after school coaching or late night prepping and weekend marking.

On the other hand, there is the sense that one no longer belongs anywhere, or worse, there may be a real void in one’s life, a lack of purpose, or deep feelings of emptiness, at least for a while until new opportunities present themselves and a new routine develops. Retirement specialists often say that this is normal. Many even recommend that newly retired people should take a “gap” year. Don’t commit to anything major for a year. Too often people jump into an endless string of busy activities, finding themselves with less free time than they had when they were working and with no clear sense of how they want to live or what they want to do. Best, the consultants say, to give yourselves some time and space to discern where and how God is calling you to serve in the world.

Sounds like a good idea to me! What do you think? If you are a newly retired teacher and this is your first Labour Day weekend when you have not had to think about getting orgnanised for a new teaching year, I would love to hear from you! How are you feeling this week as the kids all head back to school? And if this is your second, third or even fourth year you have not had to head back to the classroom, please let me know how things have gone for you and how you find meaning outside the classroom today.

As for me, I am just about to pack my lunch, lay my clothes out, and try to get a good night’s sleep before heading back to the office tomorrow! I expect I will follow a number of school buses with excited schoolchildren on my way.

Rabbi Richard Address Comes to Canadian Boomerfest!

Now more than ever there is a need for Boomers and older adults to find meaningful rituals to honour and celebrate the changes that are happening in our lives. No one knows this better than the eminent Rabbi Richard Address who has written extensively on this topic. Rabbi Address will be one of our keynotes speakers at Canadian Boomerfest from October 17th to 19th, Siloam United Church, London ON. Check out my article, “Rituals vital to honouring late-life transitions”, which the London Free Press published today to learn more.


Grandparent Ministry Offers Support to Those in Need

One of the best ways our faith communities can support families is by reaching out to those who are grandparents, many of whom are Baby Boomers. Last year we enjoyed two excellent sessions on grand-parenting with Susan McKane, who leads family and parenting workshops at a local Family Support and Crisis Centre:  Merrymount Children’s Centre, in London, ON. These were so well received that we hope to set up something on a more regular basis in the future.

Let’s face it.  Grandparents today need support and encouragement, as many are facing challenges not seen by previous generations of grandparents, often even raising their grandchildren full-time.

My mentor and colleague in Boomer Ministry, Dr. Will Randolph, offers an important “example of a church which is leveraging Grandparenting as a way of engaging outside of their membership and within with their grandparents, most of which are Boomers.” Check it out!  Grandparenting Ministry.

Do You Feel that You are Being Treated Like “A Mindless Infant” just Because You Are Now in the Second Half of Life?

I have been re-reading Craig Kennet Miller’s wonderful book, Boomer Spirituality. Seven Values for the Second Half of Life. In the opening pages he quotes a woman who had been retired for about six months from a very high-powered leadership position in her denomination. In tears, she burst out: “You don’t know what it’s like out there. My church and the senior center treat us like we are mindless infants with nothing to do.” She then went on to say, “They don’t recognize us for what we can offer, for the people we are. I’m not dead yet!”

Miller goes on to say that Boomers have always wanted to make a difference in their communities. The fact that many Boomers are retired or facing retirement in the near future does not mean that we just want to roll over and play dead. Traditional seniors ministry which focuses on Bingo and bus trips will not satisfy our deepest longings and certainly fall far short of honouring the image of God within us. Faith communities need to develop Boomer ministries that will celebrate the many gifts Boomers have to share, help us to grow spiritually and challenge us to serve the world that God loves.

If you would like to learn more about how you can begin to develop a meaningful and inspiring ministry with Boomers and older adults — or if you are seeking ways to grow your own faith in the second half of life — come to Canadian Boomerfest 2018. Craig Miller will be there to share his ideas, along with Will Randolph, Jane Kuepfer, Anne Beattie-Stokes and Rabbi Richard Address, who also have much to teach us on how to reach Boomers and, through them, how to connect with our younger generations. Hope to see you there on October 17th to 19th, Siloam United Church, London ON.




Check out article I wrote for London Free Press: Boomers Need Passion, Not Pot!

Marijuana will become legal in Canada in October, just in time for Canadian Boomerfest! But guess what? It takes more than a little THC to make the second half of life fun and interesting. Check out my piece in The London Free Press to find out what boomers REALLY need to make life meaningful.
“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces that recreational marijuana…