My Brother Paul and Dad
Social Security - Part 15: Still No Democratic Proposal

Blogging Into Old Age

As people get older, their social worlds can shrink. Children and grandchildren may live thousands of miles away. In retirement, there is no longer the daily interaction with colleagues, nor the easy opportunity for making new friends at the office. Old friends and relatives die. And, as time goes by, some older people become more housebound, not physically able to get about as easily or frequently as in their youth.

Some choose retirement villages and assisted living facilities where like-aged people can form social networks – though, for me, cutting myself off from people of a variety of ages is further limiting, to be avoided if at all possible.

If their condition allows, most older people prefer to live independently for as long as they are able, but doing so can also lead to isolation and then depression. Depression...

"… increases disability, pain, malnutrition, and drug side effects in older adults. Depressed older adults are four times more likely to develop new disabilities than non-depressed people, and also have a higher death rate (about 1-1/2 times higher).
- The Journal-News, 10 June 2003

As baby boomers get older, even more people will be at risk for such problems, but I believe we now have one new tool to help keep older people healthier, happier and mentally fit even if their physical lives are limited (or not) - it's called blogging.

I am far from socially isolated (yet), but in the year or so since I began timegoesby.net, I’ve made new friends – real friends – from around the entire globe and, amazingly, of all ages even though this blog is concerned only with what it’s really like to get older. My blogging friends and acqaintances have opened my mind to new ideas, expanded my world-view and enriched my life in ways I would not have believed before now. I look forward to their posts and our email exchanges every day.

So imagine, if you will, a world where old people living alone (or with others, too) had easy access to this blogging world of ours, and how much it could improve their lives. Come on now, don’t tell me, when you wake in the morning or get home from somewhere, you don’t check your email and your blog for Comments right away.

We are connected to one another in a whole new way that is no less friendship for being physically separated. We matter to each other. We encourage and support one another. We learn from and are entertained by one another. And we who are ahead of the curve a bit can help ease others into this astonishing new way of connecting.

And don’t go telling me it’s not possible, that many old people have never used a computer or a keyboard, or are arthritic, or struggle with vision problems, or can’t afford a blogging service on a fixed income. All these issues can be overcome:

There are free blogging services.

There are large-key and large-print keyboards, even Braille keyboards.

There are large-key, alphabetical keyboards for those who don’t know QWERTY.

There are screen magnifiers.

There are foot-operated mice. Even head- and eye-controlled mice, and touch-screen monitors.

There are text-to-speech readers and vice versa.

No one needs all of these devices, so the costs involved are relatively low: a computer (they are very cheap these days) and an ISP. You could make a gift of these to your father or grandmother or another old person you know who is a little lonely - and teach them how to blog.

If they tell you they have nothing to say, encourage them to tell stories from their long lives – we would all benefit from that. Show them other older bloggers’ sites – there are a bunch over there on the left of this screen ranging in age from 50 (many) to 89 (Ancient Mariner). In a short time, they’ll have plenty to say and will be making new friends in the process.

It’s too much of a time investment, you say? What else are you doing with your time, blogging? Then blog, when you get home from his place, about teaching an old man how to share his life with the world and what you learned from him. You’ll have even more to say than you do now.

Where would the regulars around this blog be without Millie Garfield? It was her son, Steve, who set up My Mom’s Blog and got her started.

In a remarkable case of serendipity, while I was thinking about this idea, David Wolfe at Ageless Marketing just this week posted some good, scientific reasons from Eide Neurolearning Blog for promoting blogging in older folks:

  1. Blogs can promote critical and analytical thinking.
  2. Blogging can be a powerful promoter of creative, intuitive, and associational thinking.
  3. Blogs promote analogical thinking.
  4. Blogging is a powerful medium for increasing access and exposure to quality information.
  5. Blogging combines the best of solitary reflection and social interaction.

Average life expectancy in the U.S. is now 80.1 years for women, 74.8 for men and many live much longer. That time shouldn’t be wasted in loneliness and its consequent debilities.

Late last fall, Frank Paynter at Sand Hill Trek published a long list of mini-essays from people about why they blog. Elaine of Kalilily Time joined in with this:

“I blog to connect with the world outside myself that I’m trying to make sense of. I blog to keep up my spirit; to stir the spirit of others; to stir my blood, my brain, and my beliefs.”

Yes. And what if we, to whom blogging has become second nature, each took it upon ourselves to show an older person how to connect with the world outside themselves, keep up their spirits and learn the joy of stirring the spirits of others? And what if we then told other bloggers about what we’re doing, and they told more...

Think about it. And do it. You'll be happy to you did.

Comments

When Ancient Mariner began I sent information through my younger brother to let my mother know. She will be 88 next week and I know she would have made a fabulous author if only she had felt deserving enough to try! She gave me a typewriter when I was 16 because she knew I loved to write but also so that I might fulfill a dream she was unable to conceive of for herself. She did read the blogs and certainly keeps in touch with my older brother's blog (normblog) and probably a bit of mine. But I wish she would try it out - blogging. I know she would get a kick out of it.

Beryl, my mother, has written to authors all her life - had a communication with Anais Nin many years ago and recently received a reply to one of her letters from Amos Oz. So this comment I dedicate to Beryl Kate - my mama! In gratitude for this posting. Thank you, Ronni.

I am going to go to my neighbourhood townhall and see if I can make myself useful this way. Thanks for the post Ronni.

Why didn't some of the rest of us think of this, Ronni? (Maybe some of the others did!) My father-in-law is in a long-term care facility in the St. Louis area. I was happy to see, a couple of years ago, that they had a computer available to the residents. Unfortunately, (this was before Bogie started our family into blogging), the only thing Pop used the computer for was to play games. Better than nothing, but how much more enriching blogging (or cruising the internet) would be. I'll tuck this idea away for my discussions with people in the long-term care field. Thanks for another good idea. (And, thanks for keeping my brain-cells challenged through your questions via e-mail!)

Ronnie, thanks for the mention, it made me feel so good.

Yes, yes, yes I do the same thing, when I come in first thing I do is check for comments and mail.

Since I have been blogging I have discovered that I have a great sense of humor and love telling stories. Many times when I am out with friends I feel they are not really listening to me, just waiting to get their two cents in.

I will be 80 years old in August and am amazed how blogging has enriched my life!

Millie

I think baby boomers, and later generations will consider this possibility far more easily than the Depression era retirees. My mother is a good example: at age 74, she substitute teaches algebra in a public high school on a weekly basis, plays bingo and is never still. A computer would be the last thing she would reach for to combat loneliness; in fact, would find it laughable. She might however, gamble online if it were legal. Thank heavens, it's not!
My dad, were he still alive and able to see, would have found the interactions online great fun.

Still, this is a great idea, and one that offers a real solution to isolation of older folks. I, for one, would love to read real stories of my elders in their own words, their own experiences. What a wealth this could be if we could convince our grandparents to avail themselves of the internet!

Nice post.

Without blogging I would never have known you. That would have been a shame.

Take Care
Michael

Ronni, nice summary! You have laid it all out. Now the rest is up to us.

Yes, us because at least in my case my "parents" are in their 70's, the depression era mentioned in one of the comments above. On one side, the in-laws have a system, on the other my father does not. Okay, we can get him one. But then it really still is the change management process. Well, a business term but it applies here. They are not going to adapt to this easily even considering it is as easy as it can be. This is still foreign to what they grew up using, and yes, they still write note cards by hand. It is a real opportunity.

And I like how you realistically started this whole things, blogging is a "tool", not the holy grail.

Hi Ronni,

Great post (as always!). I've said it before - I so desperately wish that my mom could have experienced the blogging revolution. At age 66, she did all her banking online, e-mailed me every day and surfed the net regularly.

She always wanted to write a book about her experiences with the kidney disease that eventually imprisoned her in a wheelchair and robbed her of life, but I think the idea of actually sitting down to write the first of hundreds of pages always proved to be too intimidating.

However, she could easily have blogged about it on a daily basis which would have been such an incredible record of what she went through, as well as in inspiration to others.

She kept a wry sense of humour to the very end - when she developed arthritis in both thumbs and could no longer oppose them without painfully dislocating them, she mailed me to say "The only thing separating us from the beasts in the field is our opposing thumbs - and now I've lost mine. Moo." I think blogging would have provided her with some social contact at a time when she so badly needed it.

My father, on the other hand, is 82 and has never touched a computer in his life. His excuse is that my mom was always there to do it for him, why should he learn? After she passed away, he seemed eager to learn how to use the machine, so I sat patiently with him, enlarged all the icons, made the log-on procedure as simple as possible so that he could at least get his e-mail and stuck little stickers on the computer (On/Off, mouse, enter key etc).

He managed to log on and check his e-mail while I stood with him and I thought with some practice, this could work. However, the minute i returned to the UK the PC was never switched on again.

I know he is lonely and would be interested in much of the blogosphere, but short of moving back home and forcing him to practise like a kid being made to play the piano, I don't know what to do. I know it's not purely his age because my husband's (delightful) grandfather plays chess online regularly and has e-mail debates with people around the world - he's 86.

It's an intriguing idea though and one that anybody working in or managing a care facility for older people should give serious consideration. Thanks Ronni.

Oh wow - Jeanne - your mother sounds like she was a total hoot! Great story :o)

My Great-Aunt, in her mid-70s, is working hard on the mastering the internet/email and joyfully tripping down the road to new experience and knowledge. The same cannot be said for her husband - in his early 80s - who leaves the computer to the ministrations of his wife!
Dare I suggest a gender based-connection going on here without being shot at dawn!

As many of you noted, it takes a lot of patience to teach someone unfamiliar with computers or the web how to blog. And some will either not be interested at all or become frustrated with the learning curve.

But for those who have the commitment, the health and social advantages are so large that it is worth our perseverence and a good lesson in overcoming our own frustration in the teaching.

Except for the youngest readers here who were practically born with a mouse in their hand, all of us were once computer novices. It's probably a good idea to remember how some concepts we don't even think twice about now, were hard to understand in the beginning.

The first reason I gave my children eight years ago for wanting to learn the simple ways to get online to connect and search was that I did not wish to become 85 years old and isolated because of mobility problems from the world. I am a *depression era* baby, with a non-computer user, retired husband, and children thousands of miles away.

One of them gave me their old computer and the rest is history.......I may never have my own blog but I thank the lucky day another daughter- whose own is mentioned in your links- intoduced me to you.

Your blog is just super- from the very personal to the world/social centered concerns, and some of your linked bloggers are becoming my friends also.

You are SO appreciated!

Dear Ronni,

Yes you are so appreciated, and have been a real inspiration to me. I discovered your blog last year, just as I was coming to terms with aging and contemplating retirement. Now, 6 weeks post-retirement, I'm enjoying your writings even more...and I must say I plan to start my own blogsite (maybe this year) that I'm sure won't be the caliber of TIME GOES BY, but will try to emulate the quality of your work.

Through your writings and photo-history, I've come to really appreciate the wisdom we baby boomers have attained through all our trials, tribulations and joys these past decades. And lost loved ones still live on in our hearts and stories and photos of their lives and how they impacted us and others. What a good, and fulfilling thing to do.

Yes, blogging for us oldsters is a great idea...and I plan to join you some day...

Best always,
Melinda

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)