Is Growing Old a Culture Shock? Baby Boomer Thoughts for a New Year…

"Ultimate Baby Boomer" Henry Winkler, spokesing for reverse mortgages.

“How do we satisfy our spiritual needs?” Rabbi Address asked in a recent article and I heard the question in my mind for days.

I believe as we get older spiritual need takes on a different meaning, for age brings unpredicted change. We all expected we’d have to make some adjustments as those zero ending birthdays crept upon us. But as we become empty nesters, our professional careers take a turn, family and friends come to the end of their lives, the sudden realization of “What’s left for us?” and “We have less years ahead than behind” grabs our soul—in the form of a klop in the tuchis!

Sandy Taradash
Sandy Taradash

Planning for our later life, besides dreaming of our grandchildren visiting us at the-condo-by-the-sea, has no reality as we live our life, we just try to manage day-by-day. During those middle years many of us lived paycheck to paycheck, just needing to pay the bills, provide food and clothing for our families and often a feeling of relief was felt every time we got through another month of just getting-by. How often did we think, “Is a new car possible? Can we go on that dream vacation this year? Any chance of setting money aside in case the roof caves in?” Those were scary questions!

But as Baby Boomers, a good percentage of our generation were far more successful than our parents and had discretionary funds for the finer things in life. So surprisingly, there are many of those peers who suddenly find through inflation, bad choices and investments, medical issues, divorce, boomerang kids we’re still supporting, etc. etc, who have approached the golden years with no condo overlooking the sunset. The unexpected happens and we are forced to see the future differently, even a breath-taking sunset can have a new significance when you’re wondering, “Why am I here and not in the there I thought I would be?”

Living in the future often creates a new kind of panic that brings tsuris we hadn’t planned for!

I’m reminded of two TV commercials: The ever-loving ultimate baby-boomer, Henry Winkler, who talks about reverse mortgages. We are informed our home is not just a roof over our heads but a means of financial planning with tax free cash for stability in our retirement. In essence, more money in our pocket in our golden years! It’s a great concept but I’m not sure how we’re suppose to feel with this great idea—are we grateful for the help in keeping our home and paying for medical bills or do we beat ourselves up for not planning a better old-age?

And then there’s the older couple who suddenly realizes they don’t need the insurance policy they have paid into for so many years! Instead of it being a means of protection for the family “in case of” you can sell it and it now becomes a payment for financial gain! Who knew? Who knew that when we were young and acting fiscally responsible that one day we’d have to take a step backward in order to see more clearly to go forward?

And have no doubt the guys who came up with the reverse mortgage concept and selling off insurance policies were the same guys who helped you finance your mortgage and sold you the insurance policy and are in your senior year book as “the most likely to fail!” And now who’s laughing all the way to the bank?

OMG! Growing older is rough and tough and we’re certainly not the alter-kackers of that other generation! But suddenly our kids are smarter than us, the grand kids are the ones who show us how to record on the DVR and explain the new apps on our phone. Can you add up the amount of money you spent on all those fine Kodak cameras over the years only to now have a device as big as a Hershey bar that can order you a pizza and take your granddaughter’s picture at her soccer game?

Spiritual needs? Oy vey. In this world of 2015 with CNN in real time taking us to all the war zones, seeing refugees living in conditions we thought would never ever happen again, thinking crazy Russian leaders were part of history, having a 20-something leader in North Korea with an itchy finger, American children living in poverty, and watching ourselves growing older with possibly feeling out of control to help the world in any big way—who has time to connect to spiritual need with so many overwhelming issues to deal with?

Like Disney set up us princesses that “Someday your prince will come,” another myth led us to believe that our retirement/golden years would be spent traveling the world in good health and financial security, none of our kids would be divorced and would be financially independent, the world in the 21st Century would be safer and free of danger in a movie theater and we could have the time and luxury to find our spiritual needs!

Personally, I have spent years trying to find my spiritual self and needs and respectively respond to Rabbi Address and his question as to the “where” we look for our spiritual needs with:

I am burdened by my experiences
And displaced by my decisions
Which has forever altered my journey.
But I am not G-d
And can only let serendipity lead me.

And as I get older, I have lightened my burden by simplifying my search in trying to find that spiritual need. I have given into my faith in G-d “That to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the sun” which tells me to just BE, take it all in and enjoy day-by-day while reconciling for what was, acceptance for what is and courage for what will be.

As I now know that no one person, no one place of worship, not one written word can fulfill my spiritual wants. Every experience, every person I’ve ever known, all the good and all the bad contribute to pieces of my puzzle that hopefully makes me whole as my years go by, slowly, I hope. Possibly reducing the search to a smaller belief rather than a bigger tangible concept and trying to live the later years to be a complete human being in this vast life is, for me, finding spiritual satisfaction.

Oh! There is, may I add, one written word to describe the peace, harmony, completeness, prosperity and welfare I am wanting: It is SHALOM.

So, in the year of 5776, I wish you a loving SHALOM, Happy New Year and may your fast be any easy one.


  1. What is the name for it when things become the way you feel, deep down, they cannot become? That is what growing old means to me. Reality has twisted itself into a shape I cannot come to terms with. It feels as though the laws of physics have been broken. I am this age, but every neuron in my brain says I cannot be this age. This isn’t me. This isn’t who I am. Yet here it is, the reality of it. THIS is the “culture shock” of growing old. It’s not about kids leaving, and it is certainly nothing to do with stupid insurance stuff. These are superficial beside existential terror of the impossible slide down the impossible hill. The sense of identity I have had all my life has been shattered and, metaphorically speaking, I don’t know who or where I am anymore.

    • Shalom…my thanks for the reply. Where are you in UK? I would love if you would consider writing somethng for the website on “impossible slide” feeling. And yes, what we perceive us to be and what we are age-wise is often very different. Thank you. Shanna Tovah Rabbi Address

    • You just described what being older means when we Baby Boomers still think of ourselves as 18 years old! We dreamed of conquering the world and now, today, in this advanced age, we wonder, “Did I make a difference?” But as I ponder that, all I have to do is look at my children and grandchildren and I think, “If I did nothing else, I did this!” And I am happy and satisfied because I know they will pick up where I left off….

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