At age 86, Millie Garfield is one of the world's oldest elder bloggers (according to the Ageless Project, which ranks personal blogs in order of blogger birth year.) After reading a newspaper article in 2003 and then asking her son for help, Millie has been blogging at My Mom's Blog: by Thoroughly Modern Millie ever since.
We usually associate blogging with the young: our children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews. While the blogging landscape was once dominated almost entirely by teens, it has matured and become more age-diverse. There are now bloggers of every generation, including Older Boomers (ages 56-64), the Silent Generation (ages 65-73), and the G.I. Generation (those over the age of 74), according to a 2010 report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
The making of an elder blogger
Like many elder bloggers, Millie's introduction to the blogosphere was "enabled" by a younger relative — her son Steve, an author and professional video blogger, who helped his mom get online. She writes, and he posts her photographs and videos. He is also one of her biggest fans and the feeling is mutual. "If it wasn't for Steven, I wouldn't be doing this," she says.
After 38 years of marriage, Millie lost her husband in 1994. She has no siblings and has only one son and daughter-in-law. Like so like many older people, her social network was beginning to shrink.
When she first moved to her four-building condo complex in Swampscott, Massachusetts 14 years ago, it was an ideal place to live. She would routinely bump into friends at the clubhouse or the pool. But things have changed. "Now a few of my friends are in assisted living and a few that are still here should be in assisted living," she says. Another friend "has her hands full" with a very ill husband. There are just enough women left to get together for a weekly Mah Jongg game.
Blogging has expanded Millie's universe. "I have to blog once a week," she says. "If I don't, they start worrying about me." When I ask who "they" are, Millie says that 70 or 80 readers visit her blog each day. She knows because Steve has taught her how to track visitors. When she was three days late in posting one week, she began getting emails to see if she was okay. She's gotten to meet other bloggers from around the country, has been the subject of print and television news interviews, and was invited to speak at a national BlogHer conference in San Jose, California.
Not only has blogging helped Millie make new connections, it has helped her learn about herself. "I write about everyday living in a humorous fashion, the way it was and the way it is. I try to find humor in a TV show, a movie, or a visit to the dentist," she says. "I never knew I was funny but now people tell me I am. It was a big discovery."
When she complained that she wasn't able to open a jar of coffee, her son accompanied her to the supermarket and filmed her commentary. That was the genesis of a series of videos on the blog called I Can't Open It. "My son recognizes a good opportunity," she says. Since then, Millie has collected items that are challenging to open so she can add more videos to her blog.
Never too old to blog
Millie isn't the first or the oldest blogger, yet. A Spanish grandmother from Galicia dubbed herself "the world's oldest blogger" when she began blogging at the age of 95. In one of her last posts after 880 days of blogging, she wrote, "When I'm on the Internet, I forget about my illness. The distraction is good for you – being able to communicate with people. It wakes up the brain, and gives you great strength." Maria Amelia Lopez passed away in 2009.
A 106-year-old woman from Australia, born in 1899, blogged about what her life was like as a child. When she passed away at the age of 108 in 2008, her grandson said, "What kept her going was the memories she had."
Millie is clearly smitten with blogging. "My life would be dull and empty without it," she says. "I'm able to learn from people all over the world. Then she adds: "When you're older, you don't have many listeners. The wonderful thing about blogging is that no one interrupts me."
Five Good Reasons for Anyone of Any Age to Blog:
- To make new friends
- To share your knowledge, expertise, and/or wisdom with others
- To stay involved and connected
- To document your life and experiences
- To express your opinions in writing