Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Young Ones!

For a while now, it has been my desire and ambition to speak to young New Zealand naturists and to get our youth involved in naturism.

But how do I, a 40-something person, do this? I feel young - some might say I even look young - but I am not young and that's how the youth or young people view me.

It must be a big priority for other federations around the world currently too because as I researched for this piece, I found that the INF have just held a Workshop on Youth in Naturism in the past weekend, and this coming weekend the AANR are holding a Young Nudist Leaders Summit! So this is exciting...I just might be able to glean some information from those workshops, tailor it for the Kiwi youth, and begin to make a meaningful difference to young naturists here.

I became a naturist in my late 30s. But I do believe it was something that interested me way before I became a participant. If I could tell my younger self something...anything!...that would help me in my middle would be "you don't have to wait 20 years to become a naturist"!

We all know that young people love to have fun - we used to love having fun too! They've had less time in their lives to become involved in, or cluttered by, social and community structures which discourage nudity, and because they have fewer taboos they are more inclined to try new or different things. They love doing daring things and sometimes that includes nudity in public - it might be skinny-dipping or nude rugby! Sure, they might start doing it for a laugh but you can guarantee that for a few it's something quite freeing and they do actually 'get' it. So, back to my question...

Why do more youth not embrace our different, perhaps even 'daring', lifestyle:
  • Perhaps it's money, or lack of it. 
  • Perhaps it's a case of 'antidisestablishmentarism' - maybe young people don't like belonging to a club because of rules and guidelines and youth are trying to make their own way by their own rules?
  • Perhaps they have looked into it but our marketing hasn't captured them as young people - they perceive that it's for older people or families?
  • Perhaps they've visited a club and found no one their age there?

Perhaps a little of all of these are true. However here are some counter arguments to the above list:
  • We can make our membership prices for youth much cheaper than an adult - if they aren't already. And what's wrong with allowing them to have day visits without a long-term commitment? 
  • Perhaps we can't change the nature of a young person, but we can show them that the rules and guidelines are to provide a safe environment for them and so that respect is shown to everyone - they're not there to dampen or be a kill-joy.
  • By asking these questions we are trying to find out what what will "speak" to young people specifically - what engages them and what doesn't - then we can improve our appeal to them.
  • Well, this would change around when our marketing was more appealing.

I believe there is a genuine willingness amongst the younger crowd to indulge in nude recreation. They participate with their friends in streaking, skinny-dipping and politically driven nude bike rides. 

Here are a few ideas that might make naturism more appealing and acceptable to young people:
  • The words "nude recreation" should be used more. Most of our clubs offer miniten, swimming, and volleyball - these are recreational activities that young people enjoy. They like to be active to have fun with friends. 
  • What's wrong with accepting them, welcoming them as you would a new member and including them in activities, without the expectation they will become members? The word naturism could imply an alternative lifestyle or conjure images of a nudist colony - young people don't want a change in lifestyle, they just want to have fun and to let their hair down from time to time. 
  • We need to change our attitudes to young people when they do visit our clubs. They have piercings and tattoos - some in places that might seem strange to us. Talk to them, include them - don't view them with suspicion from afar.    
  • We need an updated image that appeals to younger people. Images showing families with children playing or older couples walking along the beach are not going to appeal to where a young person is now. Images should be relevant, showing examples of nude recreation and also having a relevance to body acceptance and an expression of freedom.
  • Similar to other federations around the world, we could start a Young Naturists group. The co-ordinator of this group would be young themselves (25 years of age or under), energetic and enthusiastic, and able to communicate well to young ones around the country and to organise gatherings and activities.  

These are but a few ideas. But it's a start, something to work on and to grow to something tangible. Hopefully more practical ideas will come out of the workshops and forums currently being held overseas. 

So expect to see this as a continuing theme. Join in the journey with us! Help by sharing your thoughts and knowledge of young people. If you're a young person, your insights would be invaluable in putting a strategy together.

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