Saturday, June 20, 2009
The graying of civic groups
Last Thursday the Lady Friend and I performed our literary dog-and-pony show before the Ontonagon County Historical Society. It was a Keynote (the Mac version of PowerPoint) show presented by means of a digital projector, and the 60-odd members of this Upper Michigan organization who attended seemed to enjoy it.
But I was struck by their average age, which had to be 75 or more. Not a single person under 60 seemed to be among the attendees.
Back in Chicago I've noticed the same thing: the members of long established civic organizations are growing older and older. I've watched as the Friends of Literature and the Friends of American Writers -- two historic Chicago groups that provided aid and succor to struggling poets and novelists -- aged, shrank and disappeared. Even the Society of Midland Authors, made up of active writers, seems to be growing grayer and grayer.
Where are the young people?
It's the Lady Friend's opinion that they are satisfying their social urges on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other Internet venues. Meetup.com, the Web site that lists all sorts of informal organizations that provide actual meeting places to visit in person, is probably another.
A good friend says she thinks today's young adults have become more self-oriented rather than other-directed and are less apt to join and give money to civic outfits. Maybe this is true -- I don't know.
Could it be that the ever more intense pace of modern life cuts into the time two-breadwinner families are able to allot to art, history and good works? What about the declining importance of art and history subjects in today's elementary and high schools? The economic downturn may have something to do with it, too.
What do you think?