OK, the analysis of the Older Bloggers Survey is done and dusted. My two hypotheses have been confirmed. But what shall we do with this information?
To summarise my conclusions, first, the vast majority of older bloggers do gain considerable mental, emotional and social benefits from blogging. The survey shows that this simple, low-cost or free process of publishing your personal thoughts to the world brings disproportionately large rewards. Moreover the benefits are precisely those that are lacking for thousands, maybe millions of old and isolated people. It’s not that every older person is a potential blogger, but blogging has the potential to enrich many lives, bringing happiness, stimulation and friendship. Anyone can blog, and the benefits are not related to standards of excellence, as far as I can tell.
- Mental benefits: 75% of respondents agreed that blogging “gives me something new to think about”, and 19% made comments similar to these: “it keeps my mind active”, “challenges me to learn new things”, “sure gives the memory a workout” or “improves my analytical skills.”
- Emotional benefits: 96% of respondents said they got a feeling of satisfaction and 80% said that blogging made them feel happy.
- Social benefits: 70% agreed that blogging “gives me contact with the outside world” and 56% agreed that it helps them to feel they are not alone. Numerous comments on many questions stressed the friendship and connections formed by blogging.
And secondly, a minority do have problems with usability and accessibility. No blogging platform so far has produced an ultra-simple, ultra-accessible model. WordPress is good, very good, but is this too much to ask?
- Technical difficulties: 47% agreed that technical issues with a blog can be a challenge. About 20% of older bloggers had troubles with vision, hearing, energy, mobility or pain that impeded their blogging. In their comments, they stressed the need for visual accessibility.
- Access to a computer: older people prefer to use a laptop or desk computer, rather then smartphones or tablets. A big barrier that was never mentioned in this online survey is that many people don’t have a computer or laptop and can’t get to one (in the library, for example).
What shall we do with this knowledge?
Do you believe that senior blogging could be promoted as a simple, almost-free solution to some of the social problems of the ageing population? If so, there is much we can do as individuals.
Where to start telling people about the benefits of senior blogging?
- Consider the isolated people in your own circle: is there anyone who might benefit from a demonstration, some encouragement and a little bit of help?
- Many groups already have a commitment to assisting old or lonely people in the community — for example churches, charitable organisations, veterans associations, and service organisations such as Rotary. Other groups such as SeniorNet have a commitment to helping older people improve their skills on computer and internet.
- Consider how blogging for seniors might fit in with the aims of your local U3A branch, community college, Mens’ Shed, book club, or women’s group.
- Take blogging to a local hospice, rest home or retirement village.
- Consider government (local and national) policies about ageing, and ask where best you can influence policy.
But what should we do?
The more the merrier. The more ideas, the more initiatives, the more clubs and classes and Meetups and strategies, the better. Before going much further, though, find a theme that is mobile-friendly, very easy to use, and highly accessible to people with (for example) poor sight. The choice of theme is the first overwhelming barrier that a rookie blogger must confront.
- Encourage older bloggers when they begin, now that you know more about their difficulties and the rewards of persevering. One reader has already begun doing this, after completing the survey.
- Maybe you are currently worrying about somebody in particular, someone who is lonely because of location or disability or simply age. Your auntie? Perhaps in their daily life there’s nobody with whom they can have a good conversation. That person might benefit from starting a blog and reading blogs, but they’ll never do it without your help.
- Give a presentation about blogging for seniors to your group or club or church, and see if you can start something. (Feel free to use any illustrations and facts from writeintolife.com).
- Offer a presentation about blogging for seniors to a different group or a conference or a Meetup.
- Write a submission to an appropriate group in government. (My first job is to write a submission for New Zealand’s new Positive Ageing Strategy.)
- Organise a class for senior bloggers.
- Start a regular Meetup for senior bloggers.
- Start a senior bloggers club. Set up a multi-author blog for this purpose.
- Organise a donation of desktop computers for residents’ use in a rest home. (They’re hard to steal compared with laptops.) Organise classes and support for bloggers in the rest home.
That wraps up the Older Bloggers Survey!
Whew! This is my final last report on our survey. I’m glad I reported question by question, because it helped me to understand more about this remarkable culture of older bloggers. The results were so overwhelmingly positive that I intend to take them into the wider world. Above all, I hope every person who reads this report is so energised by the older bloggers’ experiences, choices, and thoughts that they go and help one vulnerable person to start blogging. I hope too that the variety of experience revealed by this survey helps to bring even more kindness to the blogosphere of elders — where kindness already exists in abundance.
Please, please let me know about your own initiatives to spread the word about senior blogging! In case you hadn’t noticed, I am dead keen to hear about this. So far I have only heard of a single class for senior bloggers — in Queensland, and I have lost the reference.