Trend Analysis Reports
Annual Surveys to Track BB Generation Attitudes about Aging
The first of what will be yearly surveys of the Baby Boom generation has been released. Contrary to whatyou will read and hear in many places, the "forever young" generation is not into denial about their aging. It really is "don’t stop thinking about tomorrow." Asked about how much they think about their futures, nearly two in three Boomers say "often."
Survey findings also suggest that the greatest hopes of the Baby Boom generation are focused on their toughest problems. Boomers are generally optimistic about what lies ahead and expect many things to improve in their lives as they age.
Chronologically, boomers are clearly at midlife, but psychologically they bear a closer resemblance to younger Americans than they do to older Americans. Boomers remain more ambitious, more optimistic, and more thoughtful about the future than the older generation. Moreover, their trademark self-reliance is illustrated by their willingness to take full responsibility for their success or failure in achieving their goals.
Boomers' greatest source of satisfaction in life is in the area of relationships with family and friends. That is what is currently of greatest importance to them. This explains why a relational approach continues to be the most important element for any congregation which is attempting to minister to people from the Baby Boom generation.
Boomers hope to see the greatest improvements in the two areas of life in which they are most likely to say they feel behind–leisure time and finance. These are the parts of their lives about which Boomers are least likely to be "very satisfied" and most likely to say they feel they are doing worse than they expected.
Most Boomers hope to see major improvements in these same two aspects of their lives over the next five years, but are least confident about achieving their goals in these areas. This response is most likely due to the fact that it is in these two areas of their lives that most Boomers feel least in control of what happens in the future. It is important to note, however, that even in these two problematic aspects of their lives, nearly half of the Boomers interviewed are confident of achieving their goals and more than four in ten feel they are in control.
Boomers are moderately satisfied with their religious or spiritual life. About 26% say they are doing better than they expected to be at this point in their lives while the majority (54%) say they are where they expected to be. At the same time, only 8% of Boomers say that religion or spirituality is the best thing about their life right now. The majority say either relationships or their career.
Religion or spirituality is among the top three most important areas of life for Boomers, along with relationships and health. There is solid evidence that as Boomers age, their religious or spiritual life begins to become more important to many of them.
Lower income Boomers (53%) are more likely to be satisfied with their religious or spiritual life than are higher income Boomers (44%). For the largest number of African American Boomers (40%) religion or spirituality is the most important aspect of life, while relationships rank as the most important area of life for the largest number of white (49%) and Hispanic (37%) Boomers. African Americans are also more likely to hope for near-term improvements in their spiritual life than are white or Hispanic Boomers. Single Boomers are more likely to be dissatisfied with their spiritual life than are married Boomers.
Boomers are more likely to be satisfied with their religious or spiritual life than are younger generations, but less likely than older generations. About 37% of adults 18 to 37 years of age say they are very satisfied with their spiritual life, as compared to 47% of Boomers and 60% of adults 57 years of age and older. Asked to rate various aspects of their life on a one to 10 scale, the average for Boomers is 6.8 for their religious or spiritual life as compared to 8.3 for their mental health, 8.2 for their relationships, 7.3 for their work or career, 6.9 for their physical health, 6.2 for their finances and 5.6 for their leisure activities. Asked to give a rating on a one to 10 scale for where they would like to be in five years with their spiritual life, Boomers averaged 8.2 for an average improvement of 1.4 points. Yet, only 8% selected their spiritual life as the aspect they would most like to change. Finances, physical health, career and leisure were all selected by larger numbers. When asked to name one major ambition they would like to accomplish over the next five years, only 1% mentioned something of a religious or spiritual nature.
Boomers feel that they have a greater measure of control over their religious or spiritual life than any other aspect of their lives. A total of 69% say they have a great deal of control over religion or spirituality in their lives, while 25% say they have a fair amount of control and only 4% say they have either not much control or none at all. The area where Boomers feel the least control is personal finances, in which 14% say they have not much or no control, 44% say they have a fair amount of control and 41% say they have a great deal of control.
What does this mean for church ministries? There is a growing interest in the religious and spiritual aspect of life among the Baby Boom generation, but these adults insist that it be on their own terms. They maintain maximum control and it is not among either the most satisfying or the most critical aspects of life for the vast majority of this generation. "Consumer religion" will continue to be the primary dynamic within which the mission of Christ can be accomplished in reaching, winning and nurturing the Baby Boom generation.
Frankly, the Adventist Church has still not come to terms with this reality. These findings are based on random telephone interviews with 2,127 adults ages 38 to 56 conducted April 11 to June 15, 2002. The study was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates (PSRA) and sponsored by the American Association of Retired People (AARP). Also included–for purposes of comparison–are 781 random phone interview with younger adults ages 18 to 37, and 758 random phone interviews with adults ages 57 and older. PSRA also did over-sampling to assure adequate representation of demographic minorities, interviewing 1,185 African Americans and 1,161 Hispanics.
Boomers at Midlife: The AARP Life Stage Study is a national survey or unprecedented scope that it is hoped will make breakthrough contributions to the relatively unexplored field of midlife psychological development. The study will closely examine how the 76 million Americans in the Baby Boom generation will change the definitions of aging and how aging will change Boomers. AARP is sponsoring the research as it prepares to understand and serve this generation as it prepares for and heads into retirement in the decades ahead.
Baby Boomers, those Americans born from 1946 through 1964, are members of one of the largest generations in American history. It is the generation that experienced Vietnam and Watergate, the civil rights and women's movements and moon landings in its formative years; a generation that redefined music, religion, leisure and many American norms and values.
Trend Analysis Report (2003) - Source: American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), City University of New York