TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Senior Citizen Bloggers Defy Stereotypes

Senior Citizen Bloggers Defy Stereotypes

Carla K. Johnson (
Thu, 10 Nov 2005 15:38:51 -0600

By CARLA K. JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer

Forget shuffleboard, needlepoint and bingo. Web logs, more often the
domain of alienated adolescents and home to screeds by 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 Ray Sutton, the 73-year-old Oldest Living Blogger and a retired
electrician who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. "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 write about
anything and everything that interests them. Blogs tend to be topical,
and typically offer links to other Web sites, photos and opportunities
for readers to comment.

Bloggers say their hobby keeps them up on current events, lets them
befriend strangers around the globe and gives them a voice in a
society often deaf to 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 with occasional help from her
son, Steve Garfield, a digital video producer. "My life would be dull
without it."

And it's brought her a bit of fame.

In June, Garfield was invited to speak at a Boston seminar for
marketers on how to use the Web more effectively. A short video of the
event, posted on her blog, captures the professionals laughing at her
wisecrack about the benefits of a man who can still drive at night.

Sutton, the Oldest Living Blogger, has also enjoyed some limelight. He
was asked to take part in a talk radio debate on a controversial
high-voltage power line after he posted his views about it on his

Three percent of online U.S. seniors have created a blog and 17
percent 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 have created blogs and 32 percent have read someone
else's blog, according to Pew.

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. He
noted that sites such as 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. 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 Web site, 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 retired Tennessee poultry and egg
farmer Ray White started Dad's Tomato Garden Journal, the blog has
been viewed more than 45,000 times.

White's daughter, Mary, said the blog keeps her father interested in
life. White now has friends he's never met in England, Portugal,
Germany, Canada and all 50 states, he said.

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

On the Net:

The Ageless Project:
Oldest Living Blogger:
Chicago Newspapers: The Blog:
My Mom's Blog:
Dogwalk Musings:
Dad's Tomato Garden Journal:

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

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