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Seniors are making their mark in the blogosphere (2006-11-24)

The stereotype of a bingo-playing, cookie-baking, lawn-bowling senior is in need of revamping. True, today’s seniors might still be playing bingo, baking cookies and lawn bowling, but increasing numbers of them are blogging about these undertakings and sharing their experiences with the online world.

Blogs, meaning Web logs, are online journals in which people share their thoughts and opinions. These interactive publications often invite visitors to post comments, and often contain links to other sites or blogs of interest. Thanks to Web services such as, publishing a blog is easy to learn, fast to do, and comes with a zero price tag.

A 2005 survey by Perseus, a Web survey business, showed that, although seniors make up only .3 percent of the estimated 53.4 million bloggers, their numbers are growing. The senior population is making its mark in the blogosphere, with blogs covering a diverse range of topics. Whether it’s growing tomatoes, battling cancer, or losing weight on the South Beach Diet, articulate seniors are making their thoughts known.

According to Pew Internet & American Life Project, 3 percent of online U.S. seniors have created a blog, and 17 percent have read someone else’s blog. They aren’t far behind 18-29-year-olds, who come in at 13 percent and 32 percent.

Like other bloggers, senior bloggers pursue their hobby for many reasons. Some say it keeps them up to date on current events. Others say it helps keep their mind active. Moreover, blogs can provide a sense of community, with online friendships developing. Blog visitors may send concerned email messages, for example, if a favorite blogger hasn’t posted in several days. Still others point out that, in a world that often does not validate seniors and their opinions, a blog is a way of being heard--of making your voice count.

The Ageless Project

The Ageless Project is a website that links to blogs and tracks the age of bloggers. As of September 2006, webmaster Joe Jenett had links to bloggers born in the 1910s through the 1990s. Stating your year of birth is a requirement to have your blog listed and linked to the Ageless Project. Of the 1,725 listings, one blogger was born in the 1910s, 16 in the 1920s, 35 in the 1930s, and 93 in the 1940s.

The oldest listed blogger is Canadian Donald Crowdith, a retired TV host and museum curator. Crowdith will turn 94 on Christmas Eve. His blog, Don to Earth, “ponders life, the universe, and aging.” At the date of this writing, the most recent entry in Crowdith’s well-maintained and professional-appearing blog is an entry entitled, “My Experience With Lung Cancer and TB.” The entry outlines a medical mix-up in which an old TB scar was incorrectly diagnosed as lung cancer. Crowdith finishes with the comment, “So all is not lost, yet. I’ve cheered up, and so should you.”

Next in line, age-wise, at the Ageless Project is Incendiary Granny. Born in 1920, Incendiary Granny is “shooting sparks, straight from the hip, for eight decades.” Claiming to be an “80-something lady from rural Virginia, a free spirit and free thinker, and plain speaker,” not to mention a dedicated animal lover, Incendiary Granny posts highly articulate and often witty comments with provocative titles, such as “New and Debased,” a criticism of so-called improved consumer goods that are worse than they were prior to becoming new and improved; “In Sensuous Contemplation of Mr. James Torklakson,” a post in which Incendiary Granny praises one of her favorite artists; and “I Cannot Stay,” in which she provides her next of kin with a preferred music playlist for her funeral. Her first choice is “Hello, I Must Be Going,” from the 1930 Marx Brothers film Animal Crackers.

Other blogs from senior-aged bloggers include Oma’s Epilogue, published by Maria Griepink, born in 1922, who writes in a language that I do not speak. Ralph Leonard, born in 1925, publishes Last Quarter — Game of Life. His introduction reads, “Musings of an old goat. Reason tells me I am straining at the upper time limits of this game we were thrust into so many years ago. But I remain curious about all sorts of things. I find that the physical discomfort of living is totally overcome by the joys of living, learning and loving. Every dawn gives the promise of a new adventure.”

More senior bloggers

Elsewhere on the Web, Ray Sutton of Vancouver, Canada, age 74, publishes a blog entitled (incorrectly!) The Oldest Living Blogger. Sutton publishes his thoughts and opinions on various topics, including discussions of medical tests he is undergoing, his thoughts about Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday, and his interest in taking up biking.

Sutton’s blogging has brought him his 15 minutes of fame. According to an article published by the San Francisco Chronicle, his blog posting about a controversial high-voltage power line led to an invitation to participate in a talk-radio debate. Sutton told the Chronicle that he blogs because it keeps his head working and is better than “just sitting, gawking at the TV.”

In My Mom’s Blog, Thoroughly Modern Millie, a.k.a. Mildred Garfield of Swampscott, Massachusetts, age 80, shares her recipes, opinions, favorite websites, clippings of newspaper articles, cartoons, movie reviews, and various other meanderings — including her invitation to speak about blogging to members of a retirement community. “More than 30 people showed up,” she wrote. “That is one of the biggest turnouts ever, even when food is served.”

Millie has taken text blogging a step further. Her blog also contains video blogs, created with the help of her video-blogging son, Steve Garfield, in which she shares her opinions on various things. The first video blog, entitled “I Can’t Open It,” features her negotiations with Nescafe after a container of coffee proved unwilling to open. Washington Post health writer Jennifer Huget likened Millie to David Letterman’s mother when she visited his show.

However, Huget, admitting her disinterest in blogging in general, comes across like the Grinch Who Stole Blogging. Commenting on the senior blogging phenomenon, Huget wonders, how we can be sure these bloggers are really seniors, and not 20-year-olds disguising themselves? And, she ponders, if seniors are so busy doing the things they say they’re doing, why do they have so much time to sit in front of the computer?

Source: • June Campbell

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