Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Benefits of "Elder Blogging"

This badge is borrowed from Ronni Bennett's premier senior blog, Time Goes By - What it's really like to get older at http://www.timegoesby.net.

I've often been asked by my contemporaries (and even by those slightly younger) both "What is a blog?" and "Why should I start one?" Both questions are more complicated than I at first thought, but I've always tried to answer, with a little help from other bloggers. This is strictly for the uninitiated, those who may read blogs but not write them.

Basically, a blog is a web log or on-line journal. It is also, in a sense, a web site or web page on which the posts are usually displayed in reverse chronological order. Older posts usually remain available in the archives. A blog is a wonderful forum for self-expression; readers are usually invited to leave their comments, and some interesting conversations occur on blogs.

A blog is also a do-it-yourself web page. A traditional web site ordinarily requires expert development and maintenance for a price; if the author wants changes, he/she usually must contact the web master and wait. Definitely lacking the expertise of a web developer or web master, I have been able to use free tools to develop this blog and another. If I make a writing or spellling error, I can edit my post immediately; on the web site I write for, I have been begging for a small punctuation correction in one of my columns for weeks, and it's never happened. Blogging is wonderful for the impatient, like me.

Blogger (http://www.blogger.com/) offers free blogs, simple instructions, and a large group of templates (or designs). Using a template may not strike you as very creative or personal, but if you've noticed, few blogs look alike. The secret is customization: colors, type fonts and sizes, side bar contents, and just about everything else. This is blogger heaven for non-programmers like me.There are many other blog development sites as well.

So what are blogs for, and why should you begin one? For one thing, a blog provides a good way to keep in touch with family and friends. People all over the world can keep up with your activities and your thoughts if they care to read your blog. For some families, a blog is a family reunion and a round-robin letter combined. Communication is instant, and it doesn't even require postage. Your family photos, your achievements, the big events in your life can be shared on your blog.

Blogs are used by businesses and political candidates and social activitists and even (unfortunately) by hate groups and purveyors of pornography. But for our older crowd, they can be live-saving. To quote from Ronni Bennett's blog, mentioned above, "Carl Jung described one of the seven tasks of aging as the need to review, reflect upon and sum up one's life. Most elders have a need to tell their story before they die." Jung himself wrote, "I try to see the line which leads through my life into the world, and out of the world again."

Writer Anna Quindlen wrote in her Newsweek column, "As the letter fell out of favor and education became professionalized, with its goal less the expansion of the mind than the acquisition of a job, writing began to be seen largely as the purview of writers." Telephone conversation is fleeting. Valuable insights are being lost.

I have spent a lot of time urging my fellow seniors to write their life stories; they have valuable experiences and lessons to share, and their children and grandchildren need those lessons and those memories. Remember how many people used to write long, informative letters and keep the letters they received from their loved ones? Today, few of us bother. However, we can now write as frequently as we wish to anyone willing to pay attention via e-mail or blogs. We can save the e-mails we receive.

A blogger named Steph writes to Ronni, "Having just celebrated my 5th year of blogging, I gathered up all of my archives . . . and burned them to a disc. They will be included in my will, just the same as my other writings . . . ." Whether or not we have any other writings (and I hope that most of us do), a blog can provide an easy, free way to record and communicate.

Frankly, blogging gives me a feeling of accomplishment. I can write whatever I want to, and if anyone cares to read it, it's available immediately. What's more, while my blogs do not qualify as great literature, they are parts of me that I can share and leave behind.

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne


Paul @ Elders Tribune said...

I would recommend Blogger too. It's definitely the easiest to use.

I think what's most difficult is to convince someone to get started or keep it going after a few months of talking into space.

seniorwriter said...

You're right, Paul. Too many people resist writing, partly because of "mean" English teachers (like the former me, perhaps) who made it a daunting school chore. Don't give up on encouraging writing, though; I don't intend to. It's been worthwhile to reach even a few people.

Joared said...

Some interesting posts and information here. I, too, have been encouraging more elders to enter the blogosphere since finding TGB and RB. I subsequently started my own blog which is still a work in progress after less than a year.

I thought BlogHer would be more supportive of Elderblogging after the first convention. At least they did start an elder section at the BlogHer website. I might consider attending a convention if they gave more attention to Elderblogging.

I suppose we elders need a higher profile and greater numbers present at various tech conventions. I started to go to one at the AFI here in L.A. earlier this year, but became too busy with other activities.

seniorwriter said...

Yes, I had really hoped for at least a "Birds of a Feather" luncheon group at the conference, but there was no recognition of us few at all. I have found the "Elders" list on the BlogHer site in the past, but I can't seem to find it now. Maybe it's my position as a non-tech, but I find that site hard to navigate now.