The Psychology and Spirituality of Boomers
Are you frightened of aging? Do you worry over every new physical symptom, memory lapse, or mistake? Do you keep busy to avoid thinking about being "old" or brag about how happy you are in retirement when you secretly feel pretty low? Do believe that aging is really about waiting to lose everything that matters? For most of human history, we viewed aging like this - as inevitably grim, depressing, and hopeless. It's no wonder no one wants to talk about it. But no longer. A radically new kind of aging is on the horizon, one that can change us, the culture and the world. And millions of us are getting ready for this new adventure.
The first wave of 76 million “Baby Boomers,” representing 28% of the American population, began turning 65 in 2011. Every day ten thousand more join this amazing tsunami and will live longer than any previous generation in history – at least 15 years more than their parents! – creating an entirely new stage of life. As a psychologist, interfaith minister, author and aging Boomer, I’ve been exploring the possibilities of this revolutionary "Third Age" for several years and what I have learned is breathtaking. I now believe that twenty-first century aging represents a new and largely uncharted stage of psychological and spiritual development.
And I am not alone in this optimism. Rabbi Schacter-Shalomi tells us that "Elderhood represents the crowing achievement of life" and Jean Houston adds, "The years beyond 60, the years of our second maturity, may be evolution's greatest gift to humanity." Carl Jung, the great psychoanalyst, claimed that old age would not exist unless it had an evolutionary purpose. So this is what we want to understand - how can aging be the crowning achievement of life, the greatest gift to humanity, and a purposeful stage of human evolution?
To answer this question, however, we need to move past denial. Denial is the way we've approached aging since the dawn of time. Denial says there's nothing you can do about getting old and dying so don't think about these things. Denial was useful when we died soon after retirement, when medicine did not extend lives, when no alternatives were available. But now, with all these extra years, denial is no longer adaptive for we will miss the incredible opportunities aging holds for us. So we have two choices - denial or growth.
What can we possibly "grow" in this new time? We can grow new interests, hobbies, and creativity; new relationships with family, friends, and colleagues; new fusions of love and work; new emotional strengths and capacities; new expressions of who we really are; and new spiritual insights, perhaps even enlightenment! I have a dream that aging can be the most fulfilling and joyful time of all, bursting with creativity, love and generosity, quite literally the ultimate blossoming of human life.
We’ve got aging all wrong and the culture’s grim beliefs are “scaring us to death.” Even our inevitable physical decline may represent a dissolution into an incredible new consciousness. But to experience this new consciousness, we need to learn what this new aging really is. Please join me. Explore the books available on this site. Test out their arguments. Each book holds a piece of the puzzle for you - put them together and build your next life. Discover a life stage you never thought possible, never even conceived. And then let's change the world, not from the old model of heroic combat, but from the new consciousness that is the new aging.