Listen closely for older voices resonating in cyberspace

ON BLOGS

April 30, 2006|By TROY MCCULLOUGH | TROY MCCULLOUGH,SUN COLUMNIST

By most appearances, blogging is a young person's sport. But look closer and you'll find a small yet significant set of older bloggers entering the fray.

Senior bloggers have been using the Web in much the same way as their younger counterparts: They're reaching out to others and making friends; they're telling stories, sharing experiences and offering opinions; they're fashioning their blogs as creative outlets, vehicles for humor and platforms for self-expression.

The most comprehensive list of elderly bloggers can be found at the Ageless Project (jenett.org/ageless/), a site that ranks blogs by the age of their authors with the intention of showing that the Internet is not the domain of any one generation.

Of the 1,688 bloggers who are members of the project, 26 were born in the 1930s and 13 were born in the 1920s.

Eighty-year-old Millie Garfield, the author of My Mom's Blog (mymomsblog. blogspot.com), has been online since 2003 with some technical assistance from her son. "With an authentic and humorous voice, a knack for story telling and frequent updates, Millie's blog, My Mom's Blog, shows that people want to hear from someone with a story to tell," Garfield writes. Her site is full of enthusiasm, wit and humor with plenty of engaging stories about her life.

Jim Bowman, 74, the author of Chicago Newspapers, the Blog (chicagonewspapers.blogspot.com), is not afraid to express an opinion. The newspaperman turned conservative blogger offers sharp critiques of global affairs and the way that current events are reported in the media - particularly in relation to what he sees as the soft treatment of "Islamofascism."

Ray White, 92, the prolific author of Dad's Tomato Garden (journals.aol.com/white6416r/DadsTomatoGardenJournal), writes about "everything regarding my Gardens. Rain fall - Temperatures - Times of first frost. Time of first plantings & other happenings in my daily life." With nearly 69,000 visitors to his blog to date, White's enthusiasm for gardening has proved to be addictive.

Ed Weiland, 82, runs a site called Wegads (wegads.blogspot.com), where he shares stories through poetry. "I have returned full-time to my first love, poetry," Weiland writes. "I have written nearly 1,000 verses on a wide range of topics and average about five new pieces a week which I plan to share with fellow bloggers." He has been good to his word for more than a year now.

Chancy Gardner, 75, writes on her blog, Driftwood Inspiration (driftwoodinspiration.blogspot. com): "I came to the computer and the internet at age 68 and have taken to this `new' medium like a duck takes to water." Gardner's writings include a critique of Medicare Part D and an entry on the Pulitzer Prizes.

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 22 percent of Americans 65 and older use the Internet. And 3 percent of those online are blogging. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, 84 percent use the Internet, and 13 percent of them are blogging.

The digital divide remains fairly wide - a point underscored by Florida blogger Vinnie Mirchandani, who recently offered this brief anecdote:

"I asked my mother-in-law, 81 who is over from Ireland if she wanted to blog. ... Her response - why do you need to burn logs in the mild Florida winters?"

Blogging might have a ways to go before cracking into the mainstream for seniors.

But the early entries show great promise.

troy.mccullough@baltsun.com

Listen to Troy McCullough's podcasts at baltimoresun.com/onblogs.

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