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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 24th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Where are all the kids?

4 February 2019

In a rather unusual occurrence, several aircraft turned up at the airfield on Sunday.

Pretty soon a small crowd of pilots had formed and I went over to say "gidday".

What immediately struck me about the group that had gathered was that they were all so old. Grey hair (or the lack of any hair) abounded.

This isn't the first time I've seen a cluster of aviators and noticed that they were, almost without exception, all on the downhill side of 50 to 60.

Now you could be forgiven for thinking that aircraft are expensive things and therefore there are hardly likely to be any teenagers rocking up with their own plane -- but it's worth remembering that you can hire an aeroplane by the hour and entry level (microlight) craft can be had for about the price of a half-decent used car.

So where are the young people?

This "greying" of specific groups within the population isn't limited to manned aviation.

Within the ranks of model-aviation the same thing is becoming quite noticeable.

When I was a kid, the local model-flying club I belonged to was filled with boys my age, all dead-keen on the hobby. Sure, there were still the old grey-haired guys but at least a quarter of the membership was in their teens or younger.

Today... well it seems that the hobby has become the domain of people like myself who are well past their best-by date.

I ask again, where are the young people?

It also seemed that many of the other interests I had when much younger were also attractive to others of the same age. I was part of an avid group of computer enthusiasts and an amateur radio/electronics group -- both of which had a good percentage of people from teens through to twenties.

Today however, it seems as if amateur radio, what's left of it, is very much the hobby of grey-haired blokes and computers are so mainstream that I doubt there are even any clubs left (outside of groups of gamers).

STEM and STEAM programs will hopefully recruit more young people into the technology-based pastimes but around this part of the world it seems that most of the public money goes into exercising the body (by way of sports) rather than exercising the mind.

Have things such as aviation (manned or otherwise) simply lost their allure from the perspective of a young mind?

Is it perhaps that there are now so many passive entertainment options around that actually "doing something" has fallen out of favour with those who've never enjoyed the buzz that comes from building something with your own hands or mind?

What will happen to the pace of technological achievement if the pool of enthusiastic talent continues to dwindle as it seems to be doing.

Or am I just old and therefore suffering from a distorted perception of the world around me?

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