Although it doesn't take up a lot of my time, I try to keep an eye on websites that target elders. Certainly they are important when you need the information but I don't mean single-topic sites such as those for Alzheimer's disease, finance, travel, caregiving, elderlaw, advocacy, etc.
Also, I don't go anywhere near sites that use the word “feisty” to describe themselves or their readers and I ignore those that speak only to boomers – what am I, chopped liver?
Although they are useful, usually well produced and I rely on them when I need such information, I'm not talking about medical websites or government sites either. I'm looking for general interest websites, online magazines. Perhaps we can think of them as better-funded equivalents of this blog.
I watch them because they have – or ought to have - greater resources than I do and are therefore capable of more in-depth reporting. At one time, there were many such websites that, unfortunately, came and went in quick succession. But I keep hoping.
What we have now, mainly, are AARP, Next Avenue, Third Age and a section of Huffington Post called Post 50. After my Monday story, I shouldn't even mention Post 50 especially with this newest brain-dead story about elders.
And let's let AARP.org off the hook. A lot of people don't like the organization and the website is hard to use but even while indulging in way too much numbered-list journalism, they turn out a lot of good research and supply well-done service stories on Social Security, Medicare and other essential issues elders need to know about.
So for genuine general interest online magazines, we're left with mostly Third Age and Next Avenue. Third Age might qualify as a health site except there are so many stories about beauty products, how to look ten years younger and five things not to eat to improve your sex life that it sometimes feels like Cosmopolitan.
And Next Avenue, produced by PBS? I could rant on about it but all you need to know is encapsulated in the fact that they republished the ageist story from Huffington Post that we discussed here on Monday.
There is one bright spot in online publishing for people of our age that I've been following for several months. I linked to it a couple of weeks ago when I quoted some of the site's interview with Advanced Style proprietor Ari Seth Cohen.
Among the things I like about Senior Planet:
• Clean, uncluttered home page,
• A variety of types of features from service pieces to human interest stories
• An always respectful attitude toward elders
• Intelligent stories that don't talk down to readers
Last week, I had the opportunity to speak by telephone with Senior Planet's digital director, Barbara Aria.
The website, Barbara explained, is the outgrowth of a physical space in New York City called the The Senior Planet Exploration Center located at 127 West 25th Street which, itself, is a project of the nonprofit OATS – the Older Adult Technology Services. From the website:
”The Senior Planet Exploration Center hosts 5- and 10-week digital technology courses geared to older adults, along with workshops, talks, and social and cultural events.
“Technology is at the heart of the Exploration Center. We help seniors harness its power to enhance health, finances, social connections, civic engagement, creativity and lifelong learning.”
Although there is a calendar of upcoming Center events on the website, for the past 18 months, Barbara has been developing feature stories that are less New York-y although still metropolitan in nature. And she's making me jealous with great finds that haven't shown up on my radar.
There is a fascinating story published this week about architect Matthias Hollwich who has a new vision for elder living that goes beyond retirement communities and even beyond aging in place. The 41-year-old, reports Barbara, declared
”...himself to be ‘old’ because he’s passed the halfway mark of a German man’s average life expectancy...
“Hollwich is fond of saying that there are 17,000 nursing homes, and 17,000 reasons not to live in each one of them. He characterizes them as 'storage facilities.' (The Eden Project, he notes, is a singular exception.)”
(If you happen to be in New York City, Hollwich is giving at talk at The Senior Planet Exploration Center this evening at 5:30PM. It is free but RSVP is required. Check the Senior Planet website.)
In another recent story, Barbara interviewed award-winning, young British artist Aleah Chapin who paints huge, hyper-real nudes of elder women in a project she calls, The Aunties.
In the interview, Ms. Chapin told Barbara Aria:
”I wanted to see something that mirrored the world I saw around me. The Aunties Project is less about age and more about making paintings that fully embrace the real human body, this fascinating vessel that carries us through our experiences.”
Go read the entire interview here with a lot more photos of Ms. Chapin's paintings. It's an extraordinary exhibit.
What else I like about Senior Planet is it doesn't overwhelm me with 25 or 30 or 50 new stories a day. I've got more than enough email newsletters and rss feeds to do that every day. Like TGB, Senior Planet gives me one new story a day and more often than not, I click on it.
Oh, one more thing: if you like Interesting Stuff here on Saturdays, you'll surely like Barbara's weekly Sunday post with her own list of “cool finds for seniors.”
The subtitle of Senior Planet is “Aging with Attitude.” Barbara told me that means different things to different people but among them would be people who are looking forward, resilient, opinionated and engaged in both the world and their own lives.
Just like you and me – heh.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Amazing I Say – Part 2