13. Older bloggers survey: using the results

what-next-web.jpg

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.

blog-web.jpg

Where to start telling people about the benefits of senior blogging?

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Take blogging to a local hospice, rest home or retirement village.
  5. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. Offer a presentation about blogging for seniors to a different group or a conference or a Meetup.
  5. 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.)
  6. Organise a class for senior bloggers.
  7. Start a regular Meetup for senior bloggers.
  8. Start a senior bloggers club. Set up a multi-author blog for this purpose.
  9. 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.

 

 

12. Final comments of the older bloggers: new, overlooked, and underlined thoughts

Drawing: But wait! There's more... Comments, Older Bloggers Survey 2018
Some older bloggers saved their best comments for last

The Older Bloggers Survey covered a lot of factors, but inevitably excluded others. So we asked one final question, and found that many participants saved their most important comments for last.

Q. 22. Do you have any further comments about your experience as a blogger? We’re interested in anything you’d like to share on this topic.

New points were raised, and previous ones emphasised, so it was well worthwhile asking for further input. I assume that our older bloggers must have felt strongly about these points to add yet another comment, when they had already answered 22 questions, often in depth. So in one sense this open-ended question carries special weight.

Problems, problems: state them here

Participants raised several problematic aspects of blogging: the pressure, the footprint, the conflict, the trolls… While the complete survey shows that on the whole, older people get satisfaction and enjoyment from blogging, that is not the whole picture.

  • “Blogging can be viewed as an obligatory commitment resulting in self-imposed ‘meeting a schedule’ pressures which defeats the relaxed recreational activity I prefer this to be.”
  • “For me blogging is something I dip in and out of. I’m also very aware that anything you write down on the internet is there for ever and can never be truly erased once published. It tends to put me off writing anything of any great meaning.”

  • “Sometimes you feel like you’re just adding more info into a perpetual black hole, but the need for expression generally wins out and I keep on keeping on.”

  • “Always on the verge of quitting blogging. The need to return visits and comments can be exhausting. Might start submitting articles to established publications instead.”
  • “I’m working on a future blog post about how the different blogging platforms (us WP.org and WP.com) are reminiscent of the Crusades except we’re not killing each other.  Everyone thinks theirs is the only way to blogging heaven.  I need facts, not opinions.”
  • “I think everyone should take blog breaks to pause and pull back — to assess and just get away from the same ol same ol. I see some folks addicted — in a rat race of blogging way.”

  • “It does tend to attract some nasty people as well as good friends.”

  • “Worried about loss of privacy.”

  • “I sometimes feel overwhelmed by having to come up with interesting posts, and I really feel overwhelmed by reading other bloggers. But the latter is important if you’re going to both get ideas and also keep up virtual friendships.”

One commenter found a solution to the pressure created by blogging: a different platform, Micro.blog.

  • “I blogged for nearly 20 years, generally using WordPress. Then I found I wasn’t blogging much but was using Twitter. My blog was huge and felt like a weight, a burden. I needed to research and write ‘posts’. That was time consuming. I didn’t want to abandon that site but still wanted to express myself. Micro.blog is an opportunity to write brief posts, that are more like tweets, but which belong to me and stay on my site rather than disappearing into the ether as with Twitter. I’ve now parked my KnowIt blog and am using Micro.blog more or less (but not quite) as a replacement for Twitter. It’s the same as ‘regular’ blogging but is also different. I’m using the hosted option, but if I wanted could also set up a regular WordPress blog and feed it through Micro.blog. Now when I write Micro.blog short posts they automatically also get posted to Twitter.”

Changes in the blogging culture

Some comments were about changes people have perceived in the blogging culture—changes for the worse.

  • “Over the years I’ve blogged, on and off — and on several platforms — there has been a significant change in the public view of blogging. It is seen more as a commercial enterprise now than it was when I started.”
  • “I miss my blog—as it was.  By necessity, perhaps, the blog community has aged and narrowed.  It has changed.  I miss the dynamic, fun world it used to be.  I feel as if Facebook has drained away most of the brightness of it.  I wonder often if perhaps, after 13 years, the changes have made blogging a platform that I am not suited for.  I am still thinking about it.”
  • “I’m working on a future blog post about how the different blogging platforms (us WP.org and WP.com) are reminiscent of the Crusades except we’re not killing each other.” 

A couple of operational points

  • “I would include how people are preserving their posts. I have had mine printed in batches by a French firm. It gives me a hard copy.”
  • “WordPress: Please add a significant bloggers track to your WordCamps. I attended a WC in my city, and it was all about the developers. I would relish more opportunities to get together with other bloggers on a regular basis… just to share tips, ideas, encouragement, etc.” (Ed. Start a Meet-Up for WP bloggers?)

Joy of blogging: new points

  • It has increased my awareness of the natural world around me as I have got used to looking for things to photograph for my daily posts.”
  • “Blogging catalizes meeting people sharing the same passion… interesting prople all over the world.”

  • “Blogs are a good way to help build international alliances and communities for particular issues.”

  • “For me I have discovered aspects of London I didn’t know existed.”

  • “I like keeping records and blogging keeps records in cyberspace so even if one’s computer crashes the blog will still be there. I have my hard copy diaries which are great but they take up space and nobody reads them. It gives me pleasure that others find my blog worth a look.”

Comments that reinforce the value of pleasure, community, self expression and learning

Many of the final comments reinforced themes that had already become clear through responses to earlier questions. Enjoyment, community, self expression and learning scored high throughout this survey as reasons to blog, benefits from blogging, and feelings about blogging— and now respondents made their point once more. Some examples:

  • “It was much different, and better than I thought it would be. I met more writers than I have spoken to in my whole life previously, from all over the world, and writing about subjects I might  not have even read about if I had not read others’ blogs.”
  • “I’ve made a good friend through blogging. Despite living 200 miles apart, we have met up once and are doing so again next month. This was an unexpected side of blogging.”

  • “I have been blogging continuously since 2003. I enjoy it immensely. I have made new friends through my blog. It helps me remember things I’ve done and share experiences with others.”

  • “I love my blog!  And find real satisfaction and fulfillment from publishing posts as well as maintaining a record of life.  I’ve also been delighted to find such a wide-ranging community of souls with whom to connect.”

  • It has improved my fiction writing. I have also been published in print since I started blogging, as well as having articles published on other websites and blogs.  I also try to promote hints and tips for new bloggers, as well as advice for those who are struggling.”

  • “I love blogging  it has improved my writing skills I have made many friends and feel I have also increased my knowledge base in many ways. The tech side I have learnt a lot and some things I do not want to learn: too techie for me.”

Comments about the value of blogging for older and isolated people

Drawing of retirement village, billboard says jog, snog, blog, lapdogs, doc, grog, rock, blueberries
A modern retirement village with all options for a satisfactory old age?

Unprompted, many participants commented on ways that blogging can help people as they age, or if they are isolated by geography or illness.

  • “The blogosphere is not discriminatory. No one is aware of your age unless you tell them. I see blogging in my future  as a way to stay connected as other activities become less viable.”

  • “It’s a fun way to connect with like-minded folks, esp. when you live in a rural area.”

  • “I am transcribing my letters to my mother and illustrating them with photos. They are detailed and interesting, both about the era they are written in and about the family and personal relationships.”

  • “When I showed coworkers (all of us are in electronic medical records support and building admins) they couldn’t believe I’d built a website. Even the younger ones 30ish, said they couldn’t believe it because they couldn’t do it.  Perception was I was old and how could I do all that on my own.”

  • “It’s a wonderful tool for positive aging in all aspects. Our experiences through life can, hopefully, encourage each other as well as encourage those who follow.  It’s also one more testimony of our lives that we leave behind.  Thanks for the opportunity to share!”

  • “I ran a blog for my dad until he died a few years ago and my mum at 91 still blogs about her life (they write / wrote the text and I created the blog posts). I think in both cases this kept their minds active and gave an added interest when their physical boundaries shrunk.”

  • “I like to think it’s a way to broaden one’s horizons, if one is housebound by chronic illness.  And you get some good perspective too, depending on what you choose to read.”

  • “I’d recommend it to any computer literate senior who is looking to keep their mind active.”

Two older writers explain in detail why they find blogging a good fit for this later stage of life:

  • “Blogging for the past two plus years has allowed me to see myself differently — for the first time in my life I see myself as a writer and a creative person. This is deeply satisfying. Blogging was an incredible vehicle for processing difficult feelings around aging which I started feeling in the months leading up to my 60th b’day. I’ve since been able to recreate my life so that my age, at least at this very moment, is not an overwhelming part of who I am as a person. I have a new, better sense of equilibrium. I am more alive.”
  • “I am returning to blogging a bit more regularly and it has coincided with realising that this year I turn 65 and retirement age. I realised that my attitude up until now with regards to writing, was that it was my job — what I did — but it was unpaid. Now that I am retired I want to enjoy writing what I WANT to write, not what I think will please a publisher (or people I perceive as future readers) but rather to please myself. I do not want to  submit, enter or register (I am tired of these processes) — I want to simply express myself in writing as the muse takes me. If I do not publish another book, I am fine with that. At present Blogging feels like a gift. It feels like freedom from the pressure to keep up (for example, with younger writers who are superior and quicker on the uptake and more desirable to publishers). Through blogging, I am publishing my writing without any of the previous angst. And I am connecting with others around my own age. I am interested in the ageing process and want to write about it from the inside. Blogging seems to be an effective and affirmative platform for this subject — or any subject or interest. It is interesting to find that a lot of older bloggers are ‘returning to the fold of blogging’ (perhaps like me after trying Facebook and social media and finding that after its useful means of remaining in contact with cousins and distant family has been established, it ultimately lacks sincerity and depth). Recently I have re-connected with a few bloggers who have been to Facebook-land, but are sneaking back to blogging where there is a more receptive audience and environment. If WordPress and Blogger were to acknowledge this trend and make it easier for older people to blog — more intuitive programmes? — it would be helpful. I find personally that I am often limited as to how to manage and operate my website properly,  or fully,  and often get confused and frustrated.   Thanks for the opportunity to do this survey. Looking forward to seeing what eventuates.”

Glad to take the survey

Finally, I was delighted to find appreciative comments about the survey itself. This is not something I expected! Such courtesy is in tune with the generosity of the older bloggers who did this survey—thank you all!

  • “Privilege to have been part of this survey.”
  • “This was a well constructed survey.”
  • “No [further comments]. This has been a  thorough questionnaire.”

11. How does blogging fit into your way of ageing, your life, and your concept of success?

Our survey asked older bloggers whether their blogs reflected one of three theories of ageing, how important their blog was in their lives, and how they measured their blog’s success. To generalise and paraphrase, they replied “Bad question!” to the first, “Moderately important” to the second, and “I measure the success of my blog by the pleasure and the interaction with people that it brings.”

An impossible question: three psychosocial theories of ageing

As we age, so do we blog. Toy jeep, top and teddy bear. Older bloggers survey 2018, writeintolife.com

I’m interested in the different ways that people regard their own ageing, and used a blunt instrument to test this with our older bloggers. Out of only three statements, they were asked to choose the one that was most true for themselves.

  • Blogging is a way to continue doing certain things that I have always done.
  • Blogging is a way to keep myself active.
  • Blogging is a way of withdrawing from the life that I used to be involved in.

Yes, a clear pattern emerged, with more than half choosing the first theory (continuity), more than a third choosing the second (keeping active), and a mere handful choosing the third (withdrawal).

Bar graph. Which is most true for you? Blogging represents continuity (57.8%), activity (37.61%), withdrawal (4.59%)
Is blogging a way to continue your earlier life, keep active, or withdraw? Older Bloggers Survey 2018

But what does that mean? This pattern may have nothing to do with blogging, and may just be a norm among people in old age. None of these are bad ways of ageing, but individuals may be more inclined to one. Are older bloggers less ready to disengage from their previous activities than others of the same age? We’ll never know.

Personal anecdote: When three friends, all retired, asked ourselves this question, we instantly identified as one for continuity (me, the only blogger), one for activity (a teacher-dancer-mother-grandmother), and one who was relishing withdrawal into her garden and the luxury of reading.

Significantly, 14 people skipped this question, an unusually large number. Moreover, 10 people commented on the inappropriateness of the question.

  • “Bad question. Not enough choices. I don’t think any of these statements is true for me.”
  • “None of these. Blogging is a way of connecting to the world in new ways.”
  • “Actually none fit…and don’t what statement would…”
  • “Blogging satisfies all three of these statements.”

Relative importance of blogging in older bloggers’ lives

Considering the satisfaction participants gained from their blogs, I was surprised to discover that only 6% would call it “one of my most important activities.” Far more considered that blogging took only a small part of life, and a substantial majority are busy with other things.

Question 20. Consider the time that you spend reading and writing and commenting on blogs. How significant is it in your life?

  • Blogging occupies only a small part of my life: 21%
  • Blogging is important to me, but I’m also busy with other activities: 73%
  • Blogging is one of my most important activities: 6%

Comments show that the place of blogging in one’s life can ebb and flow,

  • “It has grown to become important.”
  • “In the early months, blogging played a bigger role than it does now. It was a time of introspection and regrouping.”v

  • “Work, son in college, I like to balance it all out.”

Two participants explain a paradox: blogging itself has changed their lives to the point where they have less time for blogging:

  • “But a few months ago it was one of my only activities, but it has changed me to the point where I now have other things emerging.”
  • “I chose the last response because blogging causes me to stay busy doing other things. I set a goal when I retired to stay active and keep challenging myself. Blogging was the mechanism I chose to keep myself honest with that goal. Ironically, I often find myself too busy now to blog. but I fear that if I stopped blogging now, eventually I would lose that catalyst to stay engaged.”

Blogs come and go, so it’s not surprising if some participants are downgrading the importance of their blogs:

  • “I have lost the excitement of it though for I haven’t attracted followers.”
  • “I would like it to once again occupy a larger part of my life, but I have become a bit disenchanted with it as of late.”

What makes a personal blog a “success”?

Cartoon: two bloggers point to their verdict of success, dollar
Success is dollars for professional bloggers, fun and friends for personal bloggers

Most blogging surveys seem to focus on blogs that exist for commercial, professional, or corporate purposes. For such blogs, the conventions for measuring success are fairly well established. For example, the ConvertKit State of the Blogging Industry, 2017 found that the top factor contributing to bloggers’ sense of success was money, with 73% of their participants (850+ professional bloggers) choosing this.

But how do older, independent bloggers perceive success—and do they even care?

Question 21. The success of business blogs is measured by various means. How would you measure the success of a personal blog? Please check any criteria that you agree with.

The responses are listed in order of popularity, and percentages are rounded.

  1. Personal enjoyment is a good measure of a personal blog’s success: 77%
  2. Online friendships are a good measure of a personal blog’s success: 59%
  3. The number of visitors is a good measure of a personal blog’s success: 44%
  4. The number of comments is a good measure of a personal blog’s success: 41%
  5. The number of followers is a good measure of a personal blog’s success: 28%
  6. “Success” is an inappropriate thing to measure with personal blogs: 21%
  7. Direct or indirect income from a personal blog is a good measure of its success: 5%
  8. The awards won are a good measure of a personal blog’s success: 4%

Some older bloggers commented on the role of visitors, comments, and followers as measures of success.

  • “It is not just the number of visitors, it is the quality of the visitors and whether they have influence.”
  • “I have made some new friends through blogging. That is valuable to me.”
  • “When doing something out in the community and someone who has read my blog, tells me they read my blog — I find this thrilling. Not a huge number, but always a delight and a surprise when someone mentions it.”
  • “Although I chose these 2 responses, there is also what a blogger experiences in the ‘real’ world. Certainly the online conversations that occur in the comments section is my favourite part of blogging, but I’m always surprised and humbled by people in my ‘real’ world who will email me or comment verbally on a blog post … people I didn’t even know were reading my posts.”

  • “Some people don’t care about comments, but I feel that the conversations generated by blog postings is where the fun begins. In order to generate followers and comments, you must be an active follower and commenter yourself (I think a lot of bloggers don’t realize this).”

The survey asked about other ways to measure the success of a personal blog, which brought some inspiring comments:

  • “Recognising and achieving your personal goals with blogging.”
  • “How it moves me onward in my life is a huge measure of success for me. Stats are fun but the friendships and sense of community has been far more important.”
  • “The main reward is feeling good about serving humanity.”
  • “For me, getting just one person to think differently about something they’ve long taken for granted is important.”

Please share if you wish: images and text by Rachel McAlpine, CC BY 2.0

 

10. Your blog: what type of publication or storage does it most resemble?

Deck post wrapped in spider's web, photo by Brian Henderson
Is this a web log post? Photo by Brian Henderson CC BY-NC 2.0

Blog technology is a remarkable tool that is used in hundreds of different ways. It’s old by internet standards but brand new and unprecedented in the history of publishing. With a single, simple process, anybody of any age in any place, with unknown qualifications and few skills can:

  • publish personally and independently
  • publish instantly in colour with great ease
  • publish to a potentially enormous worldwide audience
  • preserve an unlimited number of articles without a filing cabinet
  • categorise and organise their own articles
  • search for and find articles by topics
  • search for and find articles by date
  • instantly and publicly chat with readers
  • instantly and publicly chat with other writer-publishers
  • and more…

None of this was possible on paper (or papyrus or vellum or clay tiles or marble slabs). None of this was possible before computers and the web.

And that’s why the question of how people use their blogs interests me enormously. I gave a choice of eight publishing models.

Question 17. A blog is a publication channel that people use in many different ways. In your opinion, what sort of publication does your blog most closely resemble?

Bar graph: what your blog resembles most. Answers: journal:  28.45%, newsletter: 7.76%, magazine: 20.69%, opinion column: 18.10%, book: 3.45%, letter to friends: 12.93%, portfolio: 5.17%, record: 3.45%. Older Bloggers Survey 2018, writeintolife.com
Most older bloggers regard their blog as a journal, magazine, opinion column or letter to friends.

The shape-shifter blog

In this discussion, percentages are rounded.

Having gathered these results, I wonder even more at the odd nature of the blog as a force in modern culture.  It can be private, it can be public, it can shift between the two. It is simultaneously a publication channel, an interactive community meeting place, and an information management system. How different it is from anything that preceded it, and how swiftly we have adapted to its possibilities and accepted it as a fact of life. I wonder what changes in human sensibilities are occurring as a result.

Two of the answer choices (a journal or diary and a letter to friends) essentially compare a blog with a private document or a communication to a circle of friends — and 41% of respondents selected these. This is indeed a feature of personal blogs: that they are personal and semi-private in their content, yet they are usually published for all the world to read for free.

  • “My blogs do follow on from my longstanding journal writing. They tend to be very much based on my personal experience. It’s my favorite kind of writing.”

Two other answer choices (a magazine or opinion column) fall on the public end of the spectrum, comparing a blog with traditional news media. Some blogs are exactly that, and traditional news media typically include blogs by journalists. By contrast, our older bloggers are mostly independent, not sanctioned by any authority, and around 39% perceive their blog in this way.

A “newsletter” has a mix of private and public connotations. I see a newsletter as a collated or curated bundle of news relevant to a particular group: employees, club members, family-and-friends, or subscribers with an interest in a particular topic or event. But only about 8% of respondents saw their blog in this way.

A few respondents are producing a blog that is a book in serial form. These blogs have a clear goal and a clear role. Much has been written about this phenomenon.

About 9% of our older bloggers perceive their blog primarily as a way to organise and store information, comparing it with “an album or portfolio” or “a record or database.” While information management is ostensibly the goal, these blogs, like any other, can be public from the start, or be made public at any time.

You can’t nail down a personal blog

Participants found this a difficult question to answer. From the multi-choice responses we gain some insights about how older bloggers use their blogs, but many comments show that choosing a model from the print world just won’t work. A blog is a blog is a blog, with many possibilities, frequently running out of control, and never quite like anything else:

  • “Good question.  No one answer for me.”
  • “My blog is adequately described as a blog and doesn’t really resemble any of the above.”
  • “None of these really … educative articles on many subjects.”
  • “I selected magazine as it’s really a mixture of all of the above.”

  • “I was torn between answering ‘newsletter’ and ‘magazine.’ Some posts are more personal than others.”

  • “I intend that my blog is a repository for my experiences and responses to daily life.  It perhaps began as more of a journal but is now more like a letter.”

People find multiple uses for their personal blogs.

  • “I also publish poetry and comments and observations I have made on Facebook..and WRITE a monthly commentary.”
  • “It is turning out to be a combination of memoir and social commentary.
  • “Not quite an opinion column, more of a cultural commentary.”
  • “It covers more than one sort of publication including an album, and a book in serial form, but I also do reviews so it’s opinionative.”

  • “More than a journal though because I am doing gear lists and hope to do reviews in the future.”

  • “Some posts include opinion, address political/govt issues, are excerpts of bio for family, describe some of my activities, just writing for fun.”

  • “It can be several of these, depending on the post. A newsletter or letter to friends could also be answers to this.”

  • “I also use it to develop and share ideas and thinking.”

“Random thoughts” and “musings” are very common in blog titles and tags and descriptions. Many people see a blog as a place to write about whatever they happen to be thinking at the time:

  • It’s hard to say, given the random nature of my blog.
  • My blog is mostly random thoughts, observations, etc.

Sometimes readers influence the way a blog develops:

  • “I have tried the ‘tips’ or ‘best way’ type of blog posts and found that they do not attract much attention, particularly in dialogue form. What my readers and commenters tell me is that they like the glimpse into my life. Most of my commenters are American and from the UK although I have some others, too. They look at my ‘Canadian’ perspective and we share many similarities and differences through our mutual blogs.”

9. Feelings and benefits associated with blogging: Older Bloggers Survey

Pulsing heart with feelings: Not alone, 56 per cent, sense of purpose 67 per cent, satisfied 96 per cent, happy 80 per cent, relaxed 45 per cent, confident 58 per cent, "Na!" 3-4 per cent

Our Older Bloggers Survey probed the emotions aroused by the process and the community of blogging, and discovered very high levels of satisfaction and happiness. We also found a majority of participants appreciated certain benefits: contact with the outside world, new topics to think about, and challenges to achieve.

Pulsing heart with feelings: Not alone, 56 per cent, sense of purpose 67 per cent, satisfied 96 per cent, happy 80 per cent, relaxed 45 per cent, confident 58 per cent, "Na!" 3-4 per cent
What feelings do older bloggers get from blogging?

In Question 15, many of the older bloggers in our survey (40%) said that they enjoyed blogging. I wondered what other feelings were evoked by the activity of blogging.

Q. 16 What feelings do you get from the experience of publishing, reading, and commenting on blogs?

The great majority agree or strongly agree that blogging makes them feel satisfied and happy; more than half agree that blogging makes gives them a feeling of confidence, a sense of purpose, and a sense that they are not alone. Nearly half agree or strongly agree that blogging makes them feel relaxed. And a few don’t have any such feelings, often explaining why in their comments.

Let’s look at the results in a little more detail. All percentages are rounded, so they don’t always add up to 100%.

Blogging brings much satisfaction and happiness, and some relaxation

  • Blogging gives me a feeling of satisfaction: agree/strongly agree 96%, neutral 3%, disagree/strongly disagree 1%
  • Blogging makes me feel happy: agree/strongly agree 80%, neutral 17%, disagree or strongly disagree 3%

Satisfaction is an almost universal feeling among our bloggers, and I think that is an appropriate reward for the work we do. Satisfaction in this case is not just the result of a desire fulfilled; it’s a feeling we have earned, and perhaps a modest form of pride.

  • “Yes, a very satisfying occupation, sometimes takes a long time to get the links and photos in there.”
  • “I feel it helps with my writing skills and to satisfyingly communicate with others.”

  • “As a writer, blogging is a valid platform where I can be myself and not feel I am trying to ‘keep up’ with more ambitious, more successful writers. It is a pleasurable way of publishing my writing, without pressure to distribute or promote. Even if there is only one reader, I have achieved my aim of connecting, usually without judgement, review or any other agenda other than having expressed myself in writing, which is my joy.”

Happiness is much studied and pursued in the 21st century, and a hefty 80% of older bloggers agreed or strongly agreed that “blogging makes me feel happy”. That’s quite an extreme statement, compared with a feeling of satisfaction. And while 17% of older bloggers felt neutral about this statement, only a tiny handful of older bloggers actively disagreed.

  • “I love it!”

But does blogging make you feel relaxed? I was surprised to find that 45% of our older bloggers agreed or strongly agreed that for them, “Blogging makes me feel relaxed.” Almost as many (41%) felt neutral about the statement and 14% agreed or disagreed.

  • “I have to beware self-imposed pressure to keep up.”
  • “Aware can get carried away & need to break off.”

  • “Blogging helps to release my pent up emotions and give a relaxed feeling.”
  • “No matter how many times I do it, when I hit publish I feel a little anxious about what I’ve just said and how it’ll be received. I keep publishing despite that feeling.”

Blogging gives most older bloggers a sense of purpose

“Blogging gives me a sense of purpose” is a dramatic statement that drew 67% of our sample of older bloggers to agree or strongly agree with it. A sense of purpose is a powerful thing, credited by some researchers with improving wellness and even longevity. For some, publishing a blog is like a self-selected full time or part time job: they set high standards for themselves. The purpose for some is to promote a cause or topic (such as new economics or minimalist living or vegetarianism or gun control). For others, the purpose is the blog itself, or maintaining a blog community.

Just because a majority associate a blog with a sense of purpose doesn’t mean this feeling is universal. Many did not feel this way, with 29% feeling neutral about it. and 4% disagreeing.

Blogging gives older bloggers a sense of confidence

“Blogging gives me confidence.” With this statement, 58% of older bloggers agreed or disagreed. A large group (37%) felt neutral about it, and 5% disagreed.

This result is not surprising. There are many reasons why blogging would increase one’s confidence, from technical expertise to finding one’s voice.

  • “I feel competent.”
  • “I like how it gives me a voice–how it makes me feel heard in a wider arena and often validates me and my opinions and experiences.”
  • “I feel it helps with my writing skills and to satisfyingly communicate with others.”

Blogging helps many older bloggers to feel that they are not alone

“Blogging helps me feel that I am not alone”: this is another strong statement. It’s not a mild one like, “Blogging brings me new acquaintances.”

“Blogging helps me feel that I am not alone” implies that without blogging, sometimes the person might feel alone. Their isolation might perhaps be emotional, or physical, or political, or intellectual. To agree with this statement implies that blogging is an antidote to isolation or loneliness—at least occasionally.

In our survey of older bloggers, 56% agreed or strongly agreed with this statement, 38% felt neutral about it and only 5% disagreed or strongly disagreed.

This result strengthens the hypothesis that blogging can be a lifeline to the outer world, bringing support, acceptance, advice or just human company.

  • “Part of a world-wide community.”
  • “I feel connected to others outside my normal experience.”
  • “I love connecting with people in other countries. People are interesting and remote friendships are fun.”
  • “Although I wouldn’t ‘feel alone’ if I didn’t blog, I do greatly value the friends I’ve made blogging.”

Not everyone is in love with blogging: the outliers are honest

A healthy 14% actively disagreed with the idea that blogging made them feel relaxed. For all the other positive statements, 1–5% of respondents recorded their disagreement. No, blogging doesn’t make them feel satisfied, happy, purposeful, not alone, or confident. Their comments may explain why, filling out our view of older bloggers:

  • “None of this question applies.”
  • “It doesn’t do much for me—not enough focus or time spent on it.”
  • “I prefer to say it’s an enjoyable pastime.”

Some respondents explained feelings that were outside the range of the multi-choice questions:

  • “Reading interesting posts makes me feel engaged/interested/curious — and sets me exploring further.”
  • “I sound wishy-washy here, but it’s not about the blogging…and I don’t see my blogging as anything other than chatting to a friend on my phone…or having someone over for a cuppa and showing them my latest photos…”

Side benefits of blogging: social contact, mental stimulation, and a challenge to achieve

Just in case our questions had missed something crucial we asked one more question. The answers reinforced the main points that participants had already made.

side-benefits-of-blogging
Older bloggers appreciate certain bonuses of blogging: contact, achievement, and new thoughts.

In their comments, these older bloggers emphasised the mental benefits of blogging:

  • “Gives me a way to organize research, information and opinions.”
  • “One gets knowledge and opinions from fellow bloggers.”
  • “It does improve my analytical skills and my writing.”
  • “Sure gives the memory a workout.”
  • “Blogging helps me to think about things I wouldn’t normally think about at my job.”
  • “Improves my typing skills and photography, keeps my mind active.”
  • “Blogging improves ‘mindfulness’.”
  • “I learn new things and get ideas for future blogs or craft projects.”
  • “It keeps my mind active and I like to keep current with what’s going on in the world.”

Many comments were about the challenge to achieve:

  • “I find that having a blog challenges me to put my ideas on the line. Especially moving from education to sustainability issues later in life. I thought people might think, ‘who does she think she is, a big expert on sustainability now’, however people have not reacted like that so my fear was unfounded.”
  • “Blogging has led me to taking on challenges in the outside world including international travel and attending workshops and events locally.”
  • “Blogging challenges me to learn new things, e.g. technology, other social platforms, CSS, WP, photography.”
  • “Blogging gives me the chance to write out my opinions and thoughts, which helps me analyze and process events/feelings.”

And again, they emphasised the social aspect of blogging:

  • “I have encountered people I will never meet in person but whom I now consider friends — and have also met some bloggers ‘in real life’.”
  • “Keeps me in touch with others, admittedly new folks more than old.”

Summary:

8. Motivation: why do older bloggers blog?

why-blog-web

In our survey of older bloggers we wanted to discover something about their motivation, rewards, and feelings around blogging. First we asked why they blog, and gave them the chance to choose several answers. 117 people answered this question.

Graph showing 16 reasons for blogging. Top choices creativity, social benefits and enjoyment. Older Bloggers Survey 2018 writeintolife.com
Why do older bloggers blog?

Any blogger may have several reasons for blogging. The three most popular reasons chosen by these older bloggers were “to express my creativity” (44%), “to connect with like-minded people” (42%) and “I just enjoy it” (40%). This result is reinforced if we realise that other options may combine both a creative motive and a social motive for blogging: “to entertain others”, “to share my passions”, “to share my knowledge”, and “to get feedback” all involve both creativity and sharing.

While we can see obvious trends here, even the least common reason may be highly significant to the person who checked it. All of these reasons are valid reasons. Let’s take a closer look at various trends.

1. The creative blogger

The expressor: man blogging to express his creativity
They blog to express their creativity

The number one motive older bloggers named for their blogging was “to express my creativity” (44%). Other reasons linked to creativity were ‘to get feedback’ (5%),  “to improve my writing” (25%),  and “to tell my story” (30%).

  • “Mostly I just feel like I need to get my thoughts into words, and if someone likes what I write, that’s a bonus.”
  • “I think I secretly have always wanted to be a writer.”
  • “I guess I represent my point of view and personal experiences to the world. Others may or may not feel some connection with some or all of them.”

  • “It’s all about just writing.”

  • “An outlet for more creative writing from my ongoing business writing as a marketing executive.”

  • “I like to take photographs. It seemed a waste to have them just sitting on my computer.”

2. The social blogger

Cartoon, The Socialiser: woman speaking to a motley audience
They blog to connect with like-minded people

The next most popular reason for blogging was “to connect with like-minded people” (42%). Numerous comments here (and elsewhere in the survey) emphasised the importance of the social benefits, for example:

  • “When blogs were ‘invented’ I instantly connected with the dialogue, the conversation that can occur.”
  • “I am amazed at the community blogging has created for me. This was an unexpected benefit of blogging.”
  • “To see who is out there.”
  • “Sharing my letters to my mother with my family and a few friends.”

  • “A regular letter to an old friend who lives far away. I have made new friends this way.”

Other answers suggest that there are quite a few sociable-creative bloggers in our group, who love to express themselves not alone but with an audience of peers: “to entertain others (20%)”, “to share my passions (30%)”, and “to get feedback”.

  • “I have recently made the decision to blog more often in order for my voice to be heard.”
  • “To express my views; enjoy connecting with others whether or not like-minded”

3. The cheerful blogger

Cartoon: Blogger who blogs because he enjoys it
They blog just because they enjoy it

“I just enjoy it.” This is not your usual answer to a survey question about motivation, but it occurred to me that among bloggers there may be people who can’t, or won’t, or just don’t analyse why they blog. Maybe the reason is too complicated or too simple. Maybe it keeps changing. Or maybe the enjoyment they derive from blogging overrides any other motivation.

People could choose three answers, so perhaps “I just enjoy it” may be just an afterthought for some. But for others, the enjoyment factor was paramount:

  • Blogging is fun. I travel a lot in my own country and want to share my experiences and encourage others to visit this amazing land.

  • I live alone, but I’m not lonely — but I have loved the Net since I was introduced to it in the late 1990s when I was required to email my column for a group I belonged to…been through many systems, but now it’s much easier and I just love to have this option at home…

Personal reflection: I was secretly delighted that 40% of respondents selected this answer. Surely at any age, the fact that you just enjoy a harmless activity such as blogging is reason enough to spend your time and energy on it. With advancing age, many people feel free to abandon an old hierarchy of hobbies, and to ignore a little voice that says <such and such an activity> is not worthwhile. As it turns out, our Older Bloggers Survey shows that most of the people blogging find it very worthwhile indeed.  

4. The teacher

Teacher teaching about her thing; cartoon by Rachel McAlpine
They blog to share their knowledge and passions

“To share my knowledge” and “to share my passions” were each chosen by approximately 30% of respondents, and comments gave more detail about those for whom teaching was part of their motivation.

  •  “I wanted to create a “safe” place to share my love of mobile devices.”
  • “To share passions and knowledge and attract recruits to the ideas.”
  • “I originally started writing from a more traditional view of ‘living sustainably’ and noticed how tricky I found it to change my habits and thought it might be helpful to share this so that others can see that it is not easy but we should try anyway, and that every change makes a difference.”
  • “I have taught and practised art. I obtained University degrees later in life. I write fiction and non-fiction. I love travel, and have visited many countries, and lived in a few with different cultures to my own. I believe I have something to share with others.”

 

5. The helper

Cartoon: the helper and the seeker of help
Sometimes the one who has struggled is the one who offers help

“To inspire or help others” drew 30% of responses.

Some comments showed that this motive may overlap with the 9% who said they blogged “to find support, therapy, or catharsis.” Perhaps this is because many bloggers have had their own struggles in the past, either with a disease such as depression or alcoholism, or a new venture or life situation. They decide tell their story in a blog in order to help others: thus the person who needed help at some point becomes the helper.

  • “I started to share my experience of depression, in the hope that it would help others, and mental health is still a core topic for me. But I share music too, plus other ramblings that come to mind.”
  • “Good therapy to write about my life.”
  • “For support. I’m an ‘elder orphan’.”
  • “I do it to help, but not inspire. Yuk!”

6. The entrepreneur

entrepreneurs-web

Among the older bloggers in our sample, 7% stated that one of their reasons for blogging was “to promote my business.” However, for this group of bloggers, not one cited “to make money” as a reason. For writers, “to self-publish” is a reason to blog, and this was chosen by 12%.

  • The main blog is my pottery business
  • I’d like subscribers to buy my book
  • Because I submit my writing to traditional publishers, I want to show through my blog that I have a platform of readers in place.

COMPARE WITH RECENT SURVEYS OF MARKETING BLOGS

 

7. The learner

learning_web

One motive that I hadn’t anticipated cropped up frequently in comments (and also in the next survey question): unprompted, six people cited learning or cognition as a reason for blogging.

  • “It allows me a reason to dig deep with research on something I’m interested in.”
  • “Blogging keeps one’s mind active in old age, hopefully delaying age-related dementia.”
  • “To learn … general, about the internet, people, places in the world …”
  • “Also to keep my brain active in retirement.”
  • “To learn from others is a big part of why I blog.”
  • Blogging is about keeping ME inspired. It provides the impetus to stay engaged, keep setting goals, keep feeding my curiosity. I didn’t want my days to drift aimlessly.  A blog about continuing to constantly challenge myself forces me to actually do exactly that!

The reason for blogging changes over time

Frequently in this survey, participants explained that the purpose or topic of their blog was something that evolved. Commenting on this particular question, they said:

  • “Started out as a diary for myself, friends and family. Became far more enjoyable when I started to treat it as a social network.”
  • “I used to blog to keep my writing sharp and to practice what I preached to my writing students. Then it became a way to document things in my life as well.”
  • “Historically I began to keep in touch with friends and family. Blogging has brought far more friends and taken me down byways I would never otherwise have travelled.”

  • “I started out writing a journal of our travels because I didn’t want to forget a special part of our retirement. When it was suggested that I should publish it I chose instead to blog as I wanted to see if anyone would read my musings.”
  • “I started blogging to practice writing, to promote a group I ran with my wife and to see about making money, but over the years it has changed.”

Summary: older bloggers blog for creative, social, pleasure-seeking, changeable and individual reasons

This small group of older bloggers tend to say they blog to express themselves, to connect with others, and just because they enjoy it. But their reasons change over time as their own lives change or perhaps they discover other aspects of blogging.

But there’s no such thing as a typical blogger, because each may have a distinct and idiosyncratic combination of reasons for what they do. For example:

  • “I like writing when I have summering to say. I also just like playing around with apps and gadgets. Creating a new blog on a new platform is fun, until you realise you have nothing to say.”
  • “I love to write. I never used to write into journals or [diaries] much and always wondered why. When blogs were ‘invented’ I instantly connected with the dialogue, the conversation that can occur. It inspires me to write more, both for myself and for others to read me.”

Please do share these reports in any way that suits you. And please tell me, and each other, what you think.

Text and cartoons by Rachel McAlpine CC BY 2.0.

7. How do older bloggers cope with the technical and physical problems of blogging? Very well, thank you!

Cartoon of two older people; one speech bubble says "Being human?", other says "That's WhY I'm blogging!"
Do older bloggers have problems blogging?

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.

  1. Technical issues with a blog can be a challenge: agree 47%, disagree 28%
  2. Deciding what to write about can be a challenge: agree 31%, disagree 51%
  3. Attracting readers can be a challenge: 60%, disagree 16%
  4. Choosing categories and tags can be a challenge: agree 26%, disagree 50%
  5. Commenting can be a challenge: agree 18%,  disagree 62%,
  6. Handling images can be a challenge: agree 22%, disagree 56%,
  7. Following correct blogging etiquette can be a challenge: agree 9%, disagree 47%
  8. 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!

q14-physical-older-bloggers-web.jpg

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!

Cartoon of a crowd of older bloggers calling for accessibility, clarity, privacy, and help
Some older bloggers say they want accessibility, clarity, help.

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:

  1. fully accessible in every way for people with any sort of disability
  2. extremely simple and easy to use
  3. very limited in the choices that the blogger must make, to prevent confusion
  4. safe to recommend to isolated older people and their caregivers
  5. 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