Civic Groups and Socializing Just Aren’t What They Used To Be

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Although I’m not sure why it was above-the-fold, front-page news in yesterday’s Newport Daily News, Sean Flynn’s mention that the Newport County Retired Teachers Association is struggling for participation is worth noting for its broader implications:

The annual dues for the organization are only $10 a year, which about 160 retirees currently pay.

“Only about 20 to 25 of them are active,” Bugara said. “NCRTA is not sustainable with that low a number. It’s the same people putting on the luncheons. We don’t have that much help.”

The retired teachers meet every three months for a luncheon at a local restaurant.

Mainly, the group meets for social reasons, puts out a newsletter to keep retirees informed about their mutual interests, and gives out a couple of scholarships to students each year.  It’s tempting to speculate about some cause specific to public-school teachers, who may be more likely to move on to second careers after retiring relatively young than in the past, or something like that.  After all, retiring in one’s early 50s now leaves multiple decades to fill with activity.

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But this story is too familiar to anybody who has anything to do with volunteer social organizations to be specific this group.  Are people busier than they used to be?  Do we have too many more distractions?  Are communications and transportation technologies so improved that we more-easily satisfy our need to socialize with family and people more of our choosing?  Or has something changed in our culture?

Personally, I’m not in a good place to judge.  Four children, two working adults, and a wide array of responsibilities prevent me from going to many events that I’d actually like to attend.  The answer to the mystery of reduced participation, however, seems unlikely to be that increasing numbers of people match my circumstances.

Something, somewhere seems to be slipping, and I haven’t seen a good explanation.



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