Senior citizen bloggers defy stereotypes

Senior citizen bloggers defy stereotypes

By Carla K. Johnson, Associated Press 

CHICAGO — Forget shuffleboard, needlepoint, and bingo. Web logs, usually considered the domain of alienated adolescents and home for screeds from middle-aged pundits, are gaining a foothold as a new leisure-time option for senior citizens.
 

There's Dad's Tomato Garden Journal, Dogwalk Musings, and, of course, the Oldest Living Blogger.

 

It's too easy to sit in your own cave and let the world go by, eh?" said Vancouver's Ray Sutton, the 73-year-old Oldest Living Blogger. "It keeps the old head working a little bit so you're not just sitting there gawking at TV."

Web logs, or blogs, are online journals where people post entries on topics that interest them. They may offer links to other websites, photos and opportunities for readers to comment.

Bloggers say their hobby keeps them thinking about current events, makes them friends to strangers around the globe and gives them a voice in a society that often neglects the wisdom of the elderly.

"It brings out the best in me," said Boston-area blogger Millie Garfield, 80, who writes My Mom's Blog. "My life would be dull without it."

Three percent of online seniors have created a blog and 17% have read someone else's blog, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Compare that to online 18- to 29-year-olds. Thirteen percent of them have created blogs and 32% have read someone else's blog, according to the Pew data.

Joe Jenett, a Detroit-area Web designer who has been tracking the age of bloggers for a personal project called the Ageless Project, said he has noticed more older bloggers in the past two years.

"Isn't that phenomenal? And their writing is vibrant," Jenett said. "The Web is diverse and it breaks across generational lines."

Jenett and others noted that sites such as Blogger.com give step-by-step instructions and free hosting, making it simpler to self-publish on the Web.

"It's easy to start one if you can connect dots," said former Jesuit priest and retired newspaperman Jim Bowman, 73, of Oak Park, Ill. Bowman writes four regular blogs: one on happenings in his city, one a catchall for his opinions, one on religion and one offering feedback on Chicago newspapers.

A recent post from his newspaper blog praised the Chicago Tribune's front page stories on the White Sox World Series games:

"It's been a lovely thing, to see copy so clean and substantive enough to make E.B. White and his mentor William Strunk Jr. stand up in their graves and say Yippee," Bowman wrote.

Bowman once had eight separate blogs, but has let some lapse. The blog topics he doesn't keep up with anymore include ideas for sermons, Chicago history and condominium life.

"Like any other hobby, you've got to make sure it doesn't take over," he said.

Mari Meehan, 64, of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, has been blogging since July. It's given her a voice in her small resort town where, as a relative newcomer, she felt rebuffed in her efforts to get involved.

Inspired by other local bloggers she'd found on The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.) newspaper's website, Meehan discovered it was easy to get started.

"If you can read, you can do it," she said. She titled her blog Dogwalk Musings and based it on the premise that she would write about her thoughts during morning walks with her St. Bernard, Bacchus. Her posts range from nature sightings of a kildeer's nest with four eggs to rants about local and national politics.

When readers started mentioning Dogwalk Musings as one of their favorites on a newspaper columnist's blog, Meehan said she felt compelled to post every day.

But now she's backing off. "Lots of times, I'll walk away from it for three or four days," Meehan said. "I'm not going to let it take over."

Response from blog readers does keep many older bloggers returning to their keyboards day after day. If they skip a day, readers will e-mail the older bloggers, asking if they're sick.

In the two years since 92-year-old Ray White started Dad's Tomato Garden Journal, the blog has been viewed more than 45,000 times. Some of those who click on the site are regular readers who know they can rely on White six days a week.

A recent post, with its original punctuation:

"How is everything going this morning with you, cheer up because today is Friday and most of you know what you can do in the morning, pull up that cover and go back to sleep for a little while. But we do have to get going for today. You know all about the coffee and tea at Dad's house, it's ready and the door is always unlocked. Let's go out there and do a good job today and then we will be able to smile when we head for home this afternoon."

White's daughter, Mary White, said the blog keeps her father interested in life. When his computer is broken, "he's just like a different person," she said. "He's sad."

The blog connects Ray White with friends he's never met in England, Portugal, Germany, Canada and all 50 states, he said.

He's continually surprised by the response.

"You'd be surprised how many questions I get during the tomato season," he said. "There's always somebody having a problem. I try to answer all those questions….

"It's just like one big family."

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