Westminster photographer Susan Ruddick Bloom has led photo tours throughout the world, written a book on computer-generated fine art and taught several generations of photographers at McDaniel College and at summer workshops in Maine, Florida and New Mexico.
So imagine her surprise at receiving a flurry of press attention for her latest venture: Writing the weekly "expert" photo blog for Eons.com, a new social networking Web site for Americans age 50 and older.
Before the Web site sought her services, the 58-year-old photographer had never even read a blog, much less written one. Since word began spreading about Eons, dubbed a "MySpace" for baby boomers, Bloom has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, on Retirement Living Television and even in American Way, the inflight magazine of American Airlines.
"The response is sort of crazy," she says. "It's so over the top, but there's a buzz out there about this generation."
Eons is geared for 46.5 million Web users who are already over 50, and the 10,000 or so Americans who are turning 50 every day. Its boomer-friendly menu is composed of brightly colored circles with such labels as "people," "fun," "love," "body" and "money" that resemble Necco wafers or the buttons on a vintage car radio.
Founded by 45-year-old Jeff Taylor, the creator of the Monster.com jobs site, Eons offers members an opportunity to socialize in groups such as "Getting to Know You," "Six Degrees of Separation" and "50+ Singles." The site also carries more than 500 discussion groups on such topics as fitness, health, careers and travel.
Boston chef / restauranteur Lydia Shire and landscaper Rinda West write blogs on cooking and gardening. Other articles explore concerns ranging from legal safeguards for gay couples to finding the best retirement communities. The Web site features an age-focused Web search engine that retrieves results based on the types of online inquiries typically made by older Americans.
Since Eons launched on July 31, 80,000 people have become members -- the majority are ages 50 to 60, according to a company spokesman. There are roughly the same number of men as women.
A new threshold
To shape the Web site, its creators traveled throughout the country, interviewing older Americans about their interests and concerns.
"Everyone we talked to cared about trying to get the most out of life and also about trying to leave a great legacy," says Linda Natansohn, Eons' senior vice president for strategic development. "Although things are pretty structured in the first part of life with school, college, work and parenting, many people don't know what they want to do when they get to be in their 50s.
"The three big issues are money, health and love. You've got to have your health and money to do what you want to do -- and you've got to have somebody to do it with. If you get those three in place, you're ready to have fun."
Natansohn talks about people deciding to "rewire" rather than "retire." The 42-year-old Baltimore native is particularly impressed with LifeDreams, a section of the Web site that deals with members' goals. LifeDreams can link up members with others living nearby who share goals and aspirations, such as losing weight and learning Italian.
"One of the top life dreams people have is to write a book," she says. "That's a hard thing to do in solitary. Here you can find out how many others share your dreams and maybe get a group together to meet at a coffee shop."
Baltimore-area members have drifted to Eons through different routes. Dave White of Ellicott City was contacted by Eons because he and his wife maintain a Web site for empty nesters who want to visit London. Debbie Rumsley, who works as an assistant manager in a Baltimore liquor store, heard about the site on the radio. With two grown daughters and a hankering to visit the Caribbean, she is scouring the site for travel tips and discounts.
Barbara Burri found out about Eons when she began working for Retirement Living TV. A divorced mother of four -- and grandmother of two -- the 52-year-old Columbia resident recently returned to corporate work after taking time off to perform in regional theater.
"When I first saw the Eons site, I thought 'This is the coolest thing ever, like a MySpace for 50 and over," Burri enthuses. "I like it because there are so many people my age and it isn't so musically oriented. I want to join the book club because I'm an avid reader. If there's an independent film club, I'll join that too."
Knowing you belong
Sue Bloom's photography group has attracted more than 400 members, making it second in popularity only to Bookoholics.
With the holidays in mind, Bloom's most recent blog tells how to shop for a digital camera. Other subjects include the basic principles of design and composition, buying and using scanners, tips for taking baby photos and developing a photographic eye. One blog invites members to list the telltale signs of photo obsession.