By Vincent Lim
Many in the baby-boomer generation—known for ushering in an era of protests that brought about transformative change in American society—are increasingly turning to churches, temples and mosques to find meaning in their later years of life.
This is the major finding from the latest wave of data collected from the Longitudinal Study of Generations, which was originally developed in 1970 at USC by then-assistant professor Vern Bengtson.
Now research professor of social work at the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging and the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, Bengtson has collected a ninth round of data in this 45-year study. The research was funded by the John Templeton Foundation.
“Many people become more engaged in religion and more involved in religious activities as they approach the end of life,” Bengtson said.
Bengtson and his former USC colleague Merril Silverstein, now the Marjorie Cantor Endowed Professor in Aging at Syracuse University, were investigators on the recently completely three-year project that aimed to better understand how baby boomers identified with a religion and practiced it as well as how it affected their well-being.
“One of the things we found in our study of baby boomers—particular among the older boomers—was that many are now more likely to be churchgoers or engage in spiritual practices than they did in their middle years,” Bengtson said. “One in five of the 599 boomers in our study reported they had increased their religious or spiritual activities in recent years.”