The older bloggers in our survey answered two questions about technological and management challenges of blogging, and physical problems that might hinder the ability to blog. Besides answering multichoice questions many participants commented thoughtfully on these two questions. Every comment helps to create a comprehensive picture, and is of value in itself.
Technical issues and finding readers were commonly seen as challenges, and in their comments, older bloggers raised a number of significant technical issues. I have found that whenever one person states a problem, chances are that it’s also a problem for others—and that’s surely true of these survey results.
Q. 13. Blogging can be challenging for some people. Please rate each statement below from 1=strongly disagree to 5=strongly agree.
In the list of results below, “agree” includes those who strongly agree, “disagree” includes those who strongly disagree.
- Technical issues with a blog can be a challenge: agree 47%, disagree 28%
- Deciding what to write about can be a challenge: agree 31%, disagree 51%
- Attracting readers can be a challenge: 60%, disagree 16%
- Choosing categories and tags can be a challenge: agree 26%, disagree 50%
- Commenting can be a challenge: agree 18%, disagree 62%,
- Handling images can be a challenge: agree 22%, disagree 56%,
- Following correct blogging etiquette can be a challenge: agree 9%, disagree 47%
- Blogging does not hold any particular challenges: agree 29%, disagree 43%
The two challenges that stand out in these results are technical issues (which covers a very wide range of problems) and attracting readers.
Participants were asked to mention any other challenges associated with blogging. One group was very specific about technical challenges:
- Accessibility of blogging platforms. “I am visually impaired, getting progressively worse. I have had to stop reading some blogs because of the interface.” (2)
- Dealing with trolls or nasty responses (2)
- “Maintaining confidentiality of third parties.”
- “I really dislike blogs (and platforms) that make the reader jump through hoops just to leave a comment. I often decide not to leave a comment on those.”
- “Blogger not sending comments thru to email since GDPR.”
- “Phone app sometimes crashes.”
- “I do not often use images for my writing but find it very challenging to upload internet pictures for my posts.”
Another group commented on management issues:
- Getting help with technical questions. (2)
- “WP.org and WP.com are confusing to me. I wish there was one place to go that would explain the differences.”
- “Blogging from a device such as laptop and smart phone can be problematic. WordPress pages format is confusing (do you blog on the front page? Or on a page? Front page is quicker and more intuitive, but it means using the introduction page for website. Using a page for the blog appears to me to make that page too content heavy.”
Two comments refer to time management or life-work balance as challenges of blogging:
- Lack of time, keeping up with the community you become part of, finding the time to be regular, or “time and a sense of purpose” (7)
- “The challenges I see with blogging is the momentum can build and you get into this vortex. For some it is hard to pull back. Another challenge is the social dynamics can creep in – because humans have moods and opinions and sometimes snarky and crabby moods stream in — part of life — but it can drain. So finding balance is a challenge.”
A few wry observations about the blogger’s own technical expertise:
- “In fairness, I work in technology and I manage our company’s social media and website.”
- “We may have different meanings for the word challenge.”
- “I’ve been blogging for nearly 20 years so the other things are no longer challenges.”
And 4 bloggers said that the challenges were part of the enjoyment.
- “I believe there will always be a challenge but that is good at times..makes me think.”
- “I found it a steep learning curve when I began my blog but that is part of the enjoyment. I don’t (for the most part) see the challenges as negative.”
- “I don’t feel there are any daunting challenges. It’s a learning process like most things that are worthwhile.”
- “It is OK if you do it when you have something to say. Doesn’t take long to learn wordpress especially if you have someone helping that is an IT person.”
Q. 14. Any physical problems that prevent older people from blogging?
Well, sure older bloggers have problems! But I asked the wrong question, because these bloggers don’t let physical problems prevent them from blogging: they carry on blogging regardless. I should have asked whether physical problems impede or limit their blogging: my bad. As one respondent put it, “You mean, beyond being human?” Touche!
These are some of the physical conditions that older bloggers cope with.
- impaired vision (8%)
- impaired hearing (5%)
- low energy (7%)
- problems with mobility (6%)
- chronic pain (7%)
For this question, 48 older bloggers commented to complete the picture. Most of them simply confirmed that none of those problems prevented them from blogging.
On vision problems, for example:
- “Larger and bolder print choices would be soooo useful.”
- “I am color blind, which makes it difficult to read some blogs. If there is low contrast between the background color and the font. Also, blogs that use GIFs that are in motion are very difficult to read.”
- “I’ve always had trouble with eye strain, but it is manageable.”
On problems with hearing:
- “Disabilities of all kinds are probably all the more reason to get your voice out! I have two active blogs, one about my hearing loss which I don’t post to actively (that’s my secondary blog). Not enough time to do both actively although I could probably schedule myself to adhere to a better use of my time.”
It’s often lack of energy that actually limits the blogging of older people:
- “The conditions do not prevent me from blogging, but have slowed down the number of posts I write.”
- “These factors do not prevent me blogging, but do present challenges as to how often I can!”
- “I do find it frustrating when energy levels prevent me from blogging when I would like to but I’m learning not to set expectations on how often I post.”
Various bloggers wrote about their lack of mobility or illness, especially the fact that they were obliged to spend too much time sitting, for example:
- “Major hand/arm disabilities that cause me grief, but I know where the back space key is 🙂 If I’m out of sorts, then I may only make a short post like ‘am out of action’.”
“Currently I am recovering from knee replacement surgery. Obviously this hampers me, but, since I write about my day, whatever it is like, it is not insurmountable.”
- “I sit more than I should since I work at a desk and now with blogging I’m sitting while at home more.”
- “If I’m not feeling well I might skip blogging.”
Many respondents said their health issues were manageable. And yet again there are comments about the benefits of blogging — it’s not uncommon for older bloggers to see health problems as an opportunity or a indeed a reason to blog:
- “If anything, blogging is a past-time that can bring creativity into your life while dealing with these conditions.”
- “Having some health issues has seen me less physically active and has led me to blogging.”
Summary: coping, adapting, and longing for better accessibility
Respondents to the Older Bloggers Survey are in the main, older people who blog—not those who have given up blogging. They meet technical obstacles while blogging and on the whole they wish for more followers—and which is not necessarily because of their age. A minority checked questions about physical conditions that prevented them from blogging, but even so, showed that they could work around the problems.
Help please: older bloggers need accessibility now!
WordPress is built with compliance to the fore and recommends various themes as accessible. However, legibility and visibility are frequently mentioned to me, and not just in this survey. I long to be able to recommend a WordPress theme for use in retirement homes and by isolated older people, a theme that is:
- fully accessible in every way for people with any sort of disability
- extremely simple and easy to use
- very limited in the choices that the blogger must make, to prevent confusion
- safe to recommend to isolated older people and their caregivers
- of course, clean and modern and mobile friendly.
If you know such a theme or are building one, please contact me. And please share this article if that will help.
Cartoon and text Rachel McAlpine CC BY 2.0