Once upon a time there were six little girls

Wedding photo of David Taylor and Celia Twyneham
Wedding photo of David Taylor and Celia Twyneham

Once upon a time there were six little girls
(all my stories start that way)
and we all lived happily giggling and squabbling
and jumping and wriggling
and running wild and running free
or hiding away in a hedge or a tree.
And our Daddy David was a country vicar
and he always said “Be kind”
and he was kind, he was always kind.
Now from the grave our dear dead Daddy
still reminds us to be kind
and we try, we do our best, we try.
As for mother Celia, every day
she pushed us out the door and whispered
“Go on! Have an adventure! Go!”
and decades dead she still says that
and we obey, it’s easy, it’s OK.
Six old women on the same seesaw
have a primer for life with just two rules
one to be and one to do
and when things start getting out of whack
the sing-song say-so of our parents
can ease us up or down or back.
I need my mother, I need my father
I am my mother, I am my father now.


PS I’m interested to know which lines resonate with you, if any. Maybe you are thinking about your own parents, and the messages that still ring in your ears…

Image and poem and voice by Rachel McAlpine, CC BY 2.0: that means feel free to share them, but always attribute them to me. Thanks!

Why does that page look so white?

Scary poem surrounded by wasted space
Scary poem surrounded by wasted space

Why does that page look so white?
Why is it only half full?
You don’t like poems and fair enough
you take in an eyeful of words
and then the words stop short
making space on the right, your space
making time on the right, time for your mind
to wander, so you float away
to your brother rowing across Cook Strait
or your mother who never went to church
or a film you saw the other day.
That’s good, feel free
that’s why the lines are chopped
that’s what white space is for.
This is a single runaway non-poem.
I’m seventy-eight, that’s not very old
but it’s getting late
so I’m rushing at this like a bull at a gate.
So much living done and dusted
none of it ordinary, all of it ordinary
some of it wanting to turn into a story
all of it mine and all of it yours.
I could be arcane, I could be smart
I could crochet the strings of your heart
I could be clever, I could be wise
douse my words in splendour and surprise
but now that I’m staring at my own demise
I’m in a rush to beat the deadline.
So read it aloud in a lonely room
or read it with friends in a Long Song huddle
or read in peace to somebody dear
who has to be fed mushy food with a spoon
and here’s the deal
I’ll stop talking to myself
and talk to you.


I see this (partly) as a poem about how to read a poem, for people who don’t like poetry. I wonder what you think about this?

Image and poem and voice by Rachel McAlpine, CC BY 2.0: that means feel free to share them, but always attribute them to me. Thanks!

Long Song Of The Unyoung

Cartoon of worried people looking at an old person with walking sticks

What’s it all about?

This is the story of you, as you are now
or as you will be one day: unyoung.
It looks like the story of me
as I tackle the shock of me being old right now
and watch the spooky movie of me getting even older
sliding every day towards the ranks of the oldest old
as I windsurf over the silver wave and on to the golden tide
of the super-old and stay there barrelling on and on
until I flip and tumble off, in other words I die.
It looks like the story of me as I think
about what that means for now today this minute
and for the future. But no, I’m not the subject
and this is not a memoir. This is the story of you.

About the Long Song Of The Unyoung

I’ve launched into a read-aloud book about ageing, ranging from childhood experiences to the labours of Hercules and my boot camp for the bonus years. I want it to speak directly to your fears and hopes and happies, if you are aware that you have joined the ranks of the unyoung, or will do so one day. And yes, it’s in loose verse so it looks funny but I promise it will be very easy to understand. Not your enigmatic, intellectual poetry but more like the words to a song: a long song, but a simple song, romping along at quite a pace.

The bits I post on my blog will not be in order, so you won’t get the story or the structure of the eventual book. But you’ll get the flavour, and each part will make sense on its own.

Text and terrible drawing by Rachel McAlpine CC BY 2.0. Share freely, please do, as long as you say I’m the writer.

Last chance to do the Older Bloggers Survey — gone!

When I wrote this page, our survey for older bloggers was still open for a few more days. It closed on Sunday 17 June. The video below, now obsolete, explains why we needed you to share your experience as a middle-aged or older person with a personal blog.

Here’s that all-important link to the survey again: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/olderbloggers

So, did we get it all wrong? Only you could tell us. Thanks for watching, and thanks if you did the survey.

See also: https://writeintolife.com/2018/05/23/take-our-survey-of-older-bloggers-how-and-why-they-blog/

The survey was here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/olderbloggers

Update on our survey of older bloggers: how and why they blog

The Older Bloggers’ Survey is now closed. I’ll leave this page here just for the record, and update you elsewhere when the results are clear. (Working on it!)

People say the Older Bloggers Survey was fun, and we hope it will lead to new policies and opportunities related to the ageing population. We have made assumptions, and now we want facts. We want to know how you blog, why you blog, when you started, and what you gain from blogging. You can do the survey no matter what your age, as long as you have your own blog.

Older bloggers' survey Have your say!
The Older Bloggers Survey ran in June 2018. And now it’s history.

 

cartoon of woman blogging
See the lady blog. Blog, lady, blog!

Seniors with a personal blog: an unexamined sphere

We are part of a huge community of bloggers with an important role to play in the world. But who pays attention to us? All research into blogging seems to be focused on business blogs, but most of us are blogging for personal reasons.

  • We’re the first cohort to be getting old en masse, and we are finding our way. What to do when you are old in the internet age?
  • We’re the first cohort to plunge into blogging as a retirement activity, because blogging wasn’t possible before.
  • We know our own blogging world very well, but we’re like a secret society to the rest of the world.

My reasons for launching a survey of older bloggers

For years my work was focused on business, government, academic and non-profit content. Then I withdrew from my business and launched a personal blog on an unrelated topic—ageing. To my surprise I found numerous kindred spirits, many of them also writing about the strange and unexpected experience of growing older. This world, buzzing with active, eloquent, knowledgeable people, has been pretty well undocumented until now, and I always want to know more. Don’t you?

I want to test these hypotheses—in other words, assumptions that may be right or wrong:
  1. Blogging provides social, emotional, and mental benefits for people over 60
  2. Older bloggers have some problems with usability and accessibility
  3. Blogging could usefully be promoted for the social and emotional benefit of isolated older people

The survey will shine a light on the world of personal blogs

First let’s get some facts. Then we’ll see how our experience can help others, and maybe solve a few problems along the way.

Thank you to our seven testers: as a result of your input we have made many questions clearer, added some new questions and removed others.

There will be a time limit to this historic survey of older bloggers—but so far, it’s open to all. Ready, steady, go!

Take the Older Bloggers’ Survey today on the popular SurveyMonkey website

Our credentials as researchers

The people behind the Older Bloggers’ Survey are Rachel McAlpine and Dr Judith Davey. It’s wise to be cautious about surveys, so we hope our bios will show you that this is a genuine initiative, and that your data is in safe hands with us.

Rachel McAlpine

I was a pioneer in the field of web content, researching and writing and teaching about this topic from 1996 onwards. My non-fiction books include Web Word Wizardry, Write Me A Web Page, Elsie!, Crash Course in Corporate Communications, Business Writing Plus, Global English for Global Business, and Song in the Satchel: Poetry in the High School. I am a poet and novelist, and for a brief period was a Chartered IT Professional of New Zealand. I am not an academic but I do have has a BA Hons in English Literature and a Dip. Ed. in Education.

Dr Judith Davey

Judith’s personal focus for research is the ageing of the population and its policy implications.  She is a keen advocate for Positive Ageing and for everyone to enjoy “the stage of life formerly known as retirement.”

Dr. Judith Davey was Director of the New Zealand Institute for Research on Ageing (NZiRA) from 2002 to 2007 and is now a Senior Research Associate of the Institute of Governance and Policy Studies (IGPS) at Victoria University of Wellington. She is also a voluntary policy advisor for Age Concern New Zealand.

Prior to joining Victoria University in 1991 she was the Deputy Director of the New Zealand Planning Council and started up in business as a consultant on social policy and social research in the 1970s. Judith is a graduate of London University and did her PhD at Durham University. Before coming to New Zealand, she was also a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Cambridge.

PS: Daily Prompt — Assumption.

Soon: a survey of older WordPress bloggers—what do you like, dislike, and need as a blogger over 60?

1961 White House Conference on Aging
1961 White House Conference on Aging

Hello there! I have been looking for any research into bloggers over 60—without any luck. So I’m preparing a survey that aims to discover what you like and dislike about blogging with WordPress. For example, I’ll be asking:

  • What annoys you about other people’s blogs?
  • What problems have you had with your own blog?
  • What improvements in WordPress would you appreciate?

The purpose of the survey is to alert WordPress developers to any areas where they could improve the experience of older people. We do have special issues, physical limitations for example, or perhaps problems with some technology.

My hunch is that more and more seniors are getting involved in the blogosphere. I believe that blogging brings thousands of seniors a creative outlet, a purpose, a mental challenge, and an active social life—even if it’s not face to face, we still are conversing and making friends. All these factors are known to help us to live longer and healthier lives, at the very time when most nations are having to adapt to the challenges of a rapidly ageing population.

When the survey is ready for action, I’ll update this page and I hope you’ll also spread the word.

In the meantime, you surely have your own special bug-bears or delights while blogging. Please tell me, and if possible I will build your questions into the survey.  I would really, really appreciate your contribution.