A Fall Foliage GardenI was speaking last night at a fundraiser for a fine organization that supports Senior Citizens and learned that “Seniors” are rebranding themselves.  (Note: Boomers continue to look out for ourselves, don’t we?)

One of the suggested new names for Old Boomers is “Perennials” – people who are resilient and continue to bloom season after season.  Rhymes with Millennials. 

It’s aspirational.  It’s upbeat.  It’s clever.

It also presumes that We Will Always Come Back year after year – even when you thought we were dead.  I am not officially a Senior Citizen yet (except at movie theaters) but I think – every day – about stepping away to let younger generations bloom.  Sometimes perennials take over the garden and need to be weeded out for new growth to happen.

At 62 I can’t afford to retire nor do I believe there isn’t a role I need to play in the Church.  At 62 I have the power to open doors for others.  At 62 my voice tends to be heard so I can speak up for and promote others.  I hope my legacy would be that I prepared the way for younger generations to bloom.

But what about the 72 year olds, the 82 year olds, the 92 year olds who still have the energy, intelligence, imagination and love – with special emphases on energy and imagination – to serve?  I’m already invisible in many circles.  Even in my apartment building, hipster neighbors assume I’m there visiting my young adult children.  I don’t look cool enough to live there.

I can see how ageism is offensive and that feeling of being cast out hurts.  When we have placed our identities solely on work, we are lost after work ends.  Who are with without being pastors/lawyers/teachers/business leaders?

We can drive for Lyft and Uber (pastors on the road) or we can volunteer in the public library or in local classrooms.  We can take up painting or knitting.  Or we can ask younger colleagues:  Is there anything I can help you with?  – And then allow ourselves to be directed.

If I retire in my sixties and have 20 or 30 years left to serve in some way, will there be a place for me?  This is the question I was asked last night.  Where can we bloom while getting out of the way?  Where can we bloom that doesn’t feel as if we are being infantilized? (“Here Sweetheart, why don’t you try working with clay?  It will be good for your arthritis.“)

A lot of our generational issues seem to be about money.  Boomers don’t have enough to retire. Generation Xers would like to be paid what Boomers have been getting paid.  Millennials need more to pay off educational debts.  I really don’t know what Generation Z needs but – God help them – the international debt levels are catastrophic.

I like the term “Perennials” but prefer to consider all of us perennials.  All of us go through seasons of resting and seasons of blooming.  All of us need to be fertilized and watered.  All of us need to be cut back a little (especially the older perennials.)  All of us need to connect and look out for each other.

Image of fall perennials.  And if you are looking for a place to donate time or money in the Charlotte area, this organization is worth your attention.


7 responses to “Perennials

  1. I retired from teaching at 58 with the idea of getting a job in marketing for a nonprofit. No one would hire me. They would gladly have me come volunteer for their organization, but pay me? No, that wouldn’t be happening. I am now volunteering in the school system where I worked for 21 years, reading to first graders. So, I don’t see myself so much as a perennial, but more like that attractive weed that comes back every year. Not too bothersome but not something to be cultivated.


  2. Very timely and insightful, Jan. I love the “perennial” idea! For one thing, it can indeed fit ALL ages, as you suggest! That is true unity in the midst of changing times and different cultures! SHALOM Louise Louise Winfield


  3. Pingback: Thursday Thoughts – September 13, 2018 |

  4. The problem we face is that a lot of older people continue to do the volunteer work around the church, in part because younger members don’t have the time — they have full-time jobs, young children who are in school then daycare then are being transported to after-school activities.


  5. Louise – you have no idea how many people adore you and want to be you.


  6. Praying for your safety and that of all in the path of Hurricane Florence.


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