- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2005

CHICAGO (AP) — Forget shuffleboard, needlepoint and bingo.

Web logs, more often the domain of middle-aged pundits and alienated adolescents, 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.”

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.

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 venture 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,” Mr. Jenett said. He noted that sites such as Blogger.com 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.

Mr. 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.

Mari Meehan, 64, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, has been blogging since July.

Inspired by other local bloggers she found on the Web site for the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash., Miss Meehan discovered it was easy to get started.

“If you can read, you can do it,” she said. She titled her blog Dogwalk Musings, based on the premise that she would write about her thoughts during morning walks with her Saint Bernard, Bacchus. Her posts range from nature sightings of a killdeer’s nest with four eggs to rants about local and national politics.

Response from blog readers keeps 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.

Mr. White’s daughter, Mary, said the blog keeps her father interested in life. Mr. 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.”

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