Baby Boomers, Aging Parents and the Marketplace
To use the word epidemic and workplace in the same sentence may seem sensational, but clearly there is a crisis affecting a large segment of our friends at work, and as caring believers in Jesus Christ, we have an obligation to step in and help when it’s within our ability to do so. Just as we witnessed Mother Teresa ministering to the great needs in the slums of Calcutta, most of us, as workplace Christians, have fantastic opportunities to serve in one of the greatest mission fields in the US, each and every day where we work. As we look into this epidemic affecting millions in our workplace mission fields, take heart that you can truly make a difference in their lives and effect change of great eternal significance in the process.
The much talked about “Baby Boomer” (Americans born between 1946 and 1964) make up a little over one third of all US workers, nearly 76 million all together. These are people who are between the ages of 50 and 68, and due to major demographic shifts, many share common characteristics. For example, many have moved away from the cities and towns where they were raised, and their siblings have done likewise. A little over half have suffered through a divorce or major domestic challenge. Although in many cases they represent two income households, they struggle financially to make ends meet and feel exhausted at the end of the workweek. The effects of the “Great Recession” have significantly reduced the value of their homes and other assets, and they are now delaying thoughts of retirement. In recent years, they have become extremely concerned about the viability of affordable medical coverage at an age when their need for medical treatments is becoming commonplace. Their children are graduating from college with large debts and yet moving back home, because their own vision of the American dream is being delayed. All of this sounds very negative, and yet all of these issues have little to do with the “epidemic” they find themselves smack in the middle of and dealing with on a daily basis.
So here is the “epidemic” as well as some good news on how we can step in as workplace missionaries to offer hope.
A large majority of Baby Boomer workers today share one additional characteristic that often presents a greater burden than any of the issues mentioned above. It is created by a mere point of logic. Because they are between the ages of 50 and 68, most have aging parents between the ages of 70 and 88. These parents are struggling with the fact that because of advances in medicine and changes in work and lifestyles, they are living well beyond their original demographic window of age 72 for men and 75 for women. As these parents age beyond their actuarial table and their bodies begin to fail, they need greater and greater levels of care. The problem is that their kids have moved away, and in many cases if they are churched, they find themselves in aging congregations with peers dealing with the same problems. Pastors and churches are struggling to offer assistance but coping with the fact that just one or two generations ago, the kids would not only be living locally and taking care of Mom or Dad, but they too might also be active members of the church, which in many cases is hosting its final generation of members.
So here is the “Epidemic”: Millions and millions of American workers get up every day with the anxiety and demands of trying to lovingly care for aging parents, who are often separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles, or in some cases have now moved in with them and the aforementioned “boom-a-rang” children. According to a Pew Research Center study using the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, approximately 51 million Americans, or 16.7 percent of the population, live in a house with at least two adult generations, or a grandparent and at least one other generation, under the same roof.
Imagine trying to juggle all of this and still be 100% productive at work. Volumes are now being written on this subject of urgent need, which by the way, would not have been considered a top five workplace problem as few as twenty years ago.
This major challenge for the average workplace team member is almost like no other problem to surface for previous generations. It is indeed one that we can all understand, and every one of us possesses the missionary skills to tackle head on and, in the process, make a great impact for the cause of Christ.
So instead of going on and on about the problem, let’s explore some ways we can offer the loving care of Jesus Christ to this issue of great magnitude:
- Actively pray and ask God to open doors for you to care for team members facing this crisis, and then shower them with compassion.
- Lend a sympathetic and listening ear to associates at work who are caring for aging parents.
- Ask your leadership at work for permission to start a support group that meets once a week at lunchtime to help those dealing with the crisis.
- Put together a list of local resources such as non-profit groups in your area who help with elder care.
- Look for ways to find helpful resources in distant cities for those struggling to care for a sick parent who lives far away.
- If possible, share some of your vacation or leave days with a co-worker who needs to travel to take care of a parent.
- Seek out frequent flyer miles from those at work who travel often in an effort to offer free transportation for a colleague who needs to visit a sick parent who lives far away.
- Seek out churches in your area willing to offer care to workers with aging parents in distant cities. Often times, the pastor will have a contact in that city at a local church that may be able to help.
Simply recognize the “epidemic” for what it is, and with God’s help, become the missionary to those in need. Dr. Mark Cress
In doing so, you will indeed see lives changed and certainly will feel the blessing of serving others in Jesus’ name, and hopefully gain permission to share the Good News of our loving Savior in a non-threatening manner.
By: Mark Cress
Mark Cress is the Founder of Corporate Chaplains of America. CCA (www.chaplain.org) is the nation’s leading provider of full time workplace chaplains to more than 800 public and private business locations across the US and internationally. He holds business and seminary degrees including a doctorate in Business Ethics and Leadership. He has authored seven books through Lanphier Press. Mark has a passion for Christian leadership matters within the emerging workplace ministry arena. He and his wife Linda have two grown daughters and reside in North Carolina.Read More Articles by Mark Cress