An article today on the Motley Fool website points to a possible reason why we should be looking at an older group of men for future Masons, and not just a myopic over-facination with only those under 30.
A recent study by Merrill Lynch sought opinions from retirees about the realities of life without a job: namely, what they actually missed most about their work lives after they have left the job market. The overwhelming plurality [34%] most miss the "social connections" they had in the workplace.
Which sounds like more fun in retirement: going golfing everyday, or cleaning up trash on the side of the road?
According to [a Merrill Lynch and Age Wave] study -- Leisure in Retirement: Beyond the Bucket List -- it could surprisingly be the latter. That's because the majority of retirees say their enjoyment depends more on who they do an activity with than what they are doing. If the choice is between golfing alone or cleaning up trash with your kids and grandkids -- most retirees will gladly throw on a pair of gloves and collect the garbage.
That's one aspect of what MLAW defines as "The New Social Security": "the value [that] social relationships [add] to mental and even physical health, [which] has been shown through numerous studies."
There were two other findings of significance for soon-to-be retirees regarding this "New Social Security" offered by one's friends and family.
First, if you are married, you're likely to get the most pleasure out of being with family -- including your kids and grandkids.
However -- and this is a key difference -- for those who were single (divorced, separated, widowed, or never married), it is time with friends [a whopping 42%] and time alone [39%] that is most valued.
Even when you factor in those retirees who are married, almost 30% of them say they most prefer being with friends:
This article actually points to something Masons already discovered - at least with a VERY healthy dose of generalization - that older members tend to seek the fraternalism, the pancake breakfasts, the card nights, etc. of the lodge, while the younger members are the Masons who tend to be more interested in the symbolism, the philosophy, the study courses, etc. of the organization.
Now (before I get a stack of hate mail), of course, there are WIDE variations in this observation. There are plenty of members in their 60s, 70s, and 80s who still read and write papers and books, give lectures, curate Masonic museums, and plenty of other more intellectual pursuits. And we have all met Masons in their 20s and 30s who mostly want to get together on Tuesdays, smoke cigars, drink a little scotch, and just hang out with each other.
But what makes Freemasonry a unique creation is the essential construct of all Masons being on the level. While we concentrate on the religious and economic equality fostered by our rituals, the Ancient Charges, and customs of the lodge, that equality extends to age as well. In his book, Millennial Apprentices, Brother Samuel Friedman cites a study that showed 8 out of 10 millennials tend to believe that older generations have "higher morals," and 60% of them say they consult their parents for advice about adulthood. Being around men of all ages benefits everybody involved.
The walls of a lodge are elastic, and in the best ones anyway, Masons across all age groups work together, govern their organization, assist each other, seek spiritual awakening, and socialize. The broader definition of the Masonic family has enough variation and sub-interests within it to appeal to just about anyone, as long as they satisfy the most general requirements of a good character, a belief in a Supreme Being of their own conceptualization, and the agreement to tolerate their fellow Masons' beliefs. That is a message that perhaps the onrushing mob of 75 million baby boomers in the U.S. who have - or will - reach their retirement years soon may have missed in their younger days (statistically, they certainly did). Even though we live in tough economic times, most retirees won't be working into their 70s to make ends meet, unless they really want to. They will, as a group, have plenty of spare time, along with having enough spendable money to be comfortable. And as Robert Putnam's groundbreaking book Bowling Alone demonstrated, socializing actually makes your life last longer.
So, it could just be that joining a Masonic lodge might turn out to be the very best thing that could happen to the baby boom generation.