The Challenges, and Opportunities, of an Aging Population

Public service organizations of all kinds have an unprecedented opportunity to harness the expertise and talents of Baby Boomers as they age, since it’s a generation that wants to keep working or to volunteer in public service. But a new study finds that as Baby Boomers invigorate and redefine the 60-to-80 year old stage of life in the coming years, there is relatively little understanding of how record numbers of engaged older workers and volunteers will affect America’s labor force, or what ethnic and religious communities and voluntary institutions of all kinds could do to mobilize, train, and absorb them. In particular, given national efforts to engage Baby Boomers, minority communities may suffer a loss of leadership, talent and funding as Baby Boomers look outside their religious or ethnic communities for meaningful work and volunteer opportunities. The study was released in New York this afternoon and incorporated 34 metropolitan Jewish communities and more than 6,500 people in the research.

At the launch event, community leaders discussed the findings, highlighting the unique demands that Baby Boomers’ interests and needs may place on the institutions, agencies and federations of the Jewish community of North America.

The most salient findings include:

  1. Wealthier and more educated Baby Boomers are not likely to seek retirement in the traditional sense at 65. In fact, nearly 80 percent are prepared to consider an Encore career in some form of public service.
  2. Jews are potentially less likely than other educated and wealthy Americans to seek out an Encore career in public service.
  3. Jewish Baby Boomers are concerned about earning income (although not simply for economic security), as well as staying active and involved as they grow older.
  4. The two most emphatically perceived needs for those interested in an Encore career are (a) flexible time and (b) staying active, productive, challenged and intellectually engaged.
  5. Jewish professionals expressed great concerns that the demands Baby Boomers (both volunteers and those seeking paid positions) will place on Jewish institutions are more than these institutions can handle. Jewish institutions are not prepared or preparing for an influx of Baby Boomers as volunteers or Encore career professionals.
  6. Jewish Baby Boomers would prefer being helped by Jewish communal agencies in finding meaningful Encore activities and would also prefer to serve the wider American society through Jewish institutions, but they are also prepared to utilize non-Jewish resources if the services and opportunities they seek are not available in the Jewish community.
  7. The majority of Jewish Baby Boomers do not at this time see either volunteer or paid Encore careers as a way to express their Jewish identity.

The complete study, Baby Boomers, Public Service and Minority Communities, is available for download.

For more on the study, see our post, From Strength to Strength: Capturing the Assets and Intentions of 21st Century Jewish Baby Boomers.

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  1. [...] This reality demands a coordinated and well-planned response for those who are vitally aging, as well as for those whose lives might be affected by chronic illness and frailty. The aging of our communities affects all aspects of contemporary Jewish life as well as the essential roles that Jewish baby boomers can play in Jewish nonprofits. There are increased opportunities for volunteerism, community service, and “encore careers” (post–traditional retirement). Getting them involved is mutually beneficial for the Jewish community and these boomers. In a landscape now altered by the weight of recession, the aging demographics of the Jewish community demands that we continue to focus on boomer needs, concerns, and opportunities for leadership and meaningful volunteer and public service. Among the latest important evidence of this is a study recently published by David M. Elcott, Ph.D., of the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, Baby Boomers, Public Service and Minority Communities: A Case Study of the Jewish Community in the U…. [...]