The National Trust is short of volunteers to steward each room of its open houses. Their spokesman last week says the newly retired are now more likely to be taking holidays or looking after grandchildren. It plans to leave more rooms monitored by CCTV instead.
I can think of the superficial things to observe about this, but I can’t be sure that they stand up to academic scrutiny.
The first is that there are three periods of time which are popularly thought to have reshaped society’s attitudes – the focus on personal freedom in the 1960s, the focus on individuals and market forces in the Thatcher era, and the sense of ground shifting and vulnerability following the recent banking crisis. Someone who is 65 this year will have been a teenager in the 1960s, in his or her 30s through the years of the Thatcher government, and to have been 57 when the banking crisis occurred and thus to have spent their immediate pre-retirement years in a less financially and personally secure environment.
Does this help explain why those newly retired with money might be slightly more likely than their predecessors to be indulging in immediate opportunities to spend it? Does this help explain why those newly retired with less money or with children under greater financial pressure might be slightly more likely than their predecessors to be providing child care for their working children? Does this help explain why those newly retired are slightly less likely than their predecessors to volunteer?
Perhaps I am simply being effected by reading at the moment Tobias Jones’ latest book on living in community where I find (as expected, and alongside a number of others referenced in this Blog in the last few months) there is an abiding sense of what is lost by what in one passage he describes as ‘dislocated, isolated and atomised beings who have become... incredibly individualistic... obsessed with ourselves and what we have got’.
And how might all this be expected to affect levels of church attendance and activity?
The redcurrants are in the fruit cage in our garden this week.