Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Spotlight on baby boomers


Even calling boomers ‘older adults’ is problematic—Missy Buchanan

By Holly McCray

On the topic of aging baby boomers, Missy Buchanan is naming names.

"I called my grandmother ‘Granny.’ I don’t know any of my friends who want to go by Granny. They come up with cutesy names," said Buchanan, who fits that U.S. demographic group. "Even the way we name ourselves is different. The boomers are so different from the previous generation."

U.S. residents born between 1946 and 1964 look at aging differently, and that compels change in churches’ ministry, Buchanan declared.

She will present "A New Frontier: Boomers or Bust!" on Oct. 6 at Checotah-First UMC.

Open to all, the morning program is offered by the Oklahoma Conference’s Older Adults Council. Readers of Contact will recognize Buchanan as the writer of "Aging Well," a national column published frequently in the newspaper’s B section.

The oldest baby boomers began turning 65 this year. Every 8 seconds, another member of that vast population—76 million people—achieves that milestone. As they have affected society throughout their lives, boomers are expected to significantly reshape living in the mature years.

"Even calling boomers ‘older adults’ is problematic," she said. "Boomers tend to resist anything they associate in the same group with their parents."

She compares photos of her mother, gray-haired at age 60, and herself, a blonde, at the same age.

Some boomers put so much focus on the physical that they overlook the spiritual in life, and that is where the United Methodist author and speaker from Dallas especially wants to make a difference through her work.

"I see my role as trying to help so they don’t miss that aspect of aging," she said.

Buchanan reported a "huge" number of baby boomers are unchurched. Also, church members of this generation are less likely to attend regularly.

"We tend to think a person grows more spiritual and wise as they age, that they are in churches. That’s not true. And unless we are walking with Christ, we do not have that wisdom," she said.

"How do we not only embrace those within our congregations and keep them active in the life of the church, but also how do we reach those who are unchurched?"

Her suggestions included short-term commitments to church service and educational travel opportunities. Also: approaching baby boomers in terms of their own aging parents. A church could offer community seminars on caregiving and loving aging parents.

Buchanan was full-time caregiver until her mother’s death at age 92, in 2008.

She is author of "Don’t Write My Obituary Just Yet" and "Living With Purpose in a Worn-Out Body," both Upper Room Books, and other titles. She writes a twice-monthly radio blog, and she developed a segment on religion and aging parents for TV’s "Good Morning, America."

George Shepherd of the Older Adult Council said the Oct. 6 program will appeal to baby boomers and senior adults in the church, as well as church leaders of existing or developing ministries with mature adults.

Questions? Contact George Shepherd, 405-701-5332, shepherdgeorge@att.net.  Registration, $15, includes lunch. Website: www.okumc.org/Older_Adults.


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