Boomers find ways of filling ‘empty nest’

Taking her daughter, Sarah, to Villanova University in Pennsylvania for her first day of college a few years ago was one of the most difficult things Kathleen Klein has ever done.

“When we were pulling away after the last goodbye, I had tears in my eyes,” remembered the parishioner of St. Michael the Archangel in Overlea. “I had flashbacks of when she was young. It’s hard to realize that it’s gone in a blink of an eye.”

As much as Ms. Klein misses Sarah, now a junior, living as a so-called “empty nester” has opened up new possibilities, she said. Ms. Klein now has more time to volunteer at her parish on the school board and the parish development committee. She has also enjoyed a cruise and special lunches with her friends.

“It’s sad to see them grow up and leave,” she said. “But it’s been a very positive experience for both my daughter and me. She’s learned to live away, but she can still come home when she wants. And my husband and I can connect more.”

As baby boomers like Ms. Klein settle into lives as empty nesters, many are finding ways of filling those empty nests with new activities, hobbies and interests they might not have thought about while raising children.

In a 2004 national survey by Del Webb, a builder of active adult communities, boomers were polled on their feelings about becoming empty nesters. The study found that 58 percent believed they were emotionally prepared for the children to leave the house. Fifty-seven percent felt an increased freedom to be themselves, and 26 percent felt “like a newlywed once again.”

The study also found that 36 percent said they would move to a new home when they become empty nesters and disposable income increased for 67 percent of boomers after they became empty nesters.

“Many boomers think they are going to be very upset, but when it happens they are very much relieved when their children leave home,” said Linda Burghardt in a news release detailing the poll results. Ms. Burghardt is author of “The Happy Empty Nest.”

“They know they have done a good job in parenting, and now they can get their own lives back,” she said. “Members of the baby boomer generation have very high expectations for the empty nest.”

The term “baby boomer generation” defines those born approximately between 1946 and 1964, or those who are now 44-62 years old. The huge population ‘boom’ came after American soldiers returned from World War II.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.