Return to Religion? Post Retirement Religious Roles Among Older Adults in the United States

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:00
Location: Hörsaal BIG 1 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Merril SILVERSTEIN, Syracuse University, USA
Vern BENGTSON, University of Southern California, USA
Religious institutions in the United States are often important sources of roles and activities for older adults; however we know relatively little about how religious life changes over the adult life course. This paper examines religious practice, beliefs, and identity over more than 45 years in the lives of Baby-boomers participating in the Longitudinal Study of Generations.  More than 500 respondents were surveyed in nine waves of the study between 1971 and 2006.  It is hypothesized that some older adults religiously re-engage after retirement in search of social connections, volunteer opportunities, and spiritual comfort in the face of life transitions. We ask whether engagement in religion and religious institutions increases in later life, and whether it serves as an outlet for generativity and provides a source of meaning as one confronts the finiteness of life. There have been few systematic studies of Baby-boomers’ religious and spiritual proclivities as they cross the threshold into old age.  Mixed methods will be used to synthesize narratives from in-depth interviews with 25 older subjects about perceived motivations and benefits of religious re-engagement with quantitative analysis of discontinuities in religious engagement following retirement.