Spain’s blogging gran a hit with surfers

Spain’s blogging gran a hit with surfers

By Raquel Castillo / Reuters
Sun Nov 4, 2007 7:30 PM ET

Web-blogger Maria Amelia Lopez holds a laptop in Sanxenxo October 5,
2007. At the age of 95 Lopez has surprised herself by a sudden
conversion from Web-illiterate to cybercelebrity. (Miguel Vidal/Reuters)

"Today it’s my birthday
and my grandson, who is very stingy, gave me a blog."

So reads the first entry by one of the world’s oldest
Webloggers, Maria Amelia Lopez, who, at the age of 95, has
surprised herself by a sudden conversion from Web-illiterate to
cybercelebrity.

"At first I thought a blog was just a type of paper
notebook," said Lopez, a great grandmother.

"When I saw my grandson using the Internet, it caught my
attention. I said to myself ‘What’s this? You can find out
about anything. I want an Internet!"’

With 60,000 regular readers so far, Lopez’s homely mix of
memory and chat, available at http://amis95.blogspot.com/,
attracts regular readers from around the world and has put her
back in touch with the younger generation in a way she had
never imagined.

"No one pays any attention to old women any more. Not many
people love us. But I was surprised by the Internet, because
young people who were 18 years of age, or 14 or 15, tell me
about their lives and what they think and ask my advice," said
Lopez.

Only one in 10 people over the age of 65 use the Internet
in Spain, slightly below the European average. Although that
proportion has nearly doubled over the last two years, it still
suggests older citizens are missing the digital revolution even
though they make up a growing portion of the population.

"Age is more important (to determining Internet use) than
income, gender …. or level of education," said Domingo
Laborda, an official Spain’s Industry Ministry.

The proportion of Internet users declines even more steeply
after 65. Only 2.7 percent of over-74s has ever surfed the Net.

But technology can help break down the isolation brought so
often by advancing age.

"Although nothing can make up for affection, the Internet
can help communication, with mail, chat or messaging, and it’s
fun and always available," said the ministry’s Laborda.

LOQUACIOUS

Visit Lopez’s home in the village of Sanxenxo in the rainy
northern Spanish region of Galicia and you see her ability to
pour out words on the net is matched by loquaciousness in
person.

"I was always talkative, but now I feel more wanted,
embraced, because so may people write to me," said Lopez.

On her blog she makes occasional references to her youthful
good looks ("Ah, how pretty I was, and how little I realized
it"), but today she has white hair and walks with a stick.

"Look at what I was," she wrote in one entry, beneath a
photograph of herself from 60 or 70 years ago, "And look at
what I am, at what I have become. My eyes aren’t pretty, nor my
mouth, or anything, not my body. Age disfigures everything."

"The Internet has given me life," she told Reuters,
describing how she receives messages from places as diverse as
Brazil, Russia and Japan.

Lopez has called herself as "the world’s oldest blogger,"
although a quick Google search reveals several pretenders to
the title, including 108-year-old Australian Olive Riley, who
can be found at www.allaboutolive.com.au/.

CIVIL WAR MEMORIES

Due partly to cataracts which mean she can’t see screens
well, Lopez is assisted in her blogging by her grandson,
Daniel, who takes her dictation.

Many of her stories deal with a long life, which started
happily and then had to steer through Spain’s vicious Civil War
and the long years of dictatorship by General Francisco Franco
which followed.

"I had a very happy youth," she wrote, describing
expeditions to bullfights and fun times with her cousins.

"Young men were different back then. They brought us
flowers, gardenias, violets, chocolates. Not like the
foul-mouthed bunch today."

It was one of these polite young men who told her of the
outbreak of Civil War in 1936.

"He had left-wing ideas …. the boy said to me ‘Maria
Amelia, this is a revolution!’ And I began to hear shooting,"
Lopez blogged, describing how later that day her father was
chased out of his job at a customs office by Franco’s men.

Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has
written to congratulate Lopez on her blog and she recommends
other seniors to take up blogging.

But it’s not all easy.

"I’m going to die before I get broadband," read one recent,
sad entry.

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