Silver Surfers – The Elderly Begin to Blog

Posted: July 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

Older Women make up for Lost Online Time” is an article written by Anna Salisbury who examines the contribution of women over sixty make within the cyber world, and more specifically within blogging. Within her article, Salisbury suggests that women over sixty do in fact partake in online activities such as blogging and social networking. To argue her viewpoint Salisbury refers to four women – Ronni Bennett, Naomi Bloom, Sue Katz and Millie Garfield, who are all over sixty who blog and interact with others using the internet. These women, also known as “elderbloggers,” use the internet and blogging sites to discuss retirement plans, past experiences, rant about consumer products and post videos that relate to women and people their age.

Salisbury uses these women/elderbloggers to help challenge social discourses that both women and individuals over sixty do not use nor know how to use the internet. Dominant discourse suggests that technology and its users is male dominated and follows particular hegemonic norms in terms of age and gender. Common discourse also suggests that technology is gendered masculine as men are seen as the creators, producers, and dominant users, compared to women who are less involved. This is due to the fact that masculinity is linked to both technology and power as it is reproduced within media culture that has become part of the cultural narrative. As a result, the history of women contributing to the development of technology has been invisible.

In my opinion I believe there has been a shift in social discourse, as men are no longer the hegemonic norm in relation to technology and internet. I also agree with Salisbury that women and people of older age have become more tech-savvy and involved with technology. Within her article, Salisbury is trying to demonstrate the ways in which these women are involved with technology regardless of their age and gender. As four women, they are still involved with online activities and represent the change in discourse that Salisbury is trying to disprove. These women have numerous followers and readers. For instance, Salisbury discusses how blogger Ronni Bennett estimates that 250 sites join her site in the online community of elderbloggers, with women vastly outnumbering men. In addition, Salisbury explains that “women in their 60s and over are going far beyond text entries” as she refers to Millie Garfield, a 82 year old woman who creates and posts videos. As an 82 woman, Garfield also engages in social networking sites like twitter, MySpace and Youtube.

In addition, an article titled “Elderly living alone use internet to keep in touch with family” written by Peter Hutchinson also demonstrates the ways in which the socially constructed idea of technology users is challenged. Hutchinson explains that the number of elder individuals with internet access at home has tripled in the past year. Older individuals who use the internet that Hutchinson refers to as “Silver surfers” are more likely to go online to communicate with their family from afar. Hutchinson refers back to interviews with older aged internet users such as Harry Potter actress Miriam Margolyes, who at 69 uses the internet and believes it’s an essential resource. 93 year old Edward George is also mentioned in the article, who started using the internet 11 years ago and finds it extremely helpful. Essentially, both these articles display the ways in which the “normal” view of who uses the internet and technology is no longer the same. Changes have been made as women and people of older generations are becoming more aware and users of technology, while male gendered technology is shifting.

Overall, I was quite impressed to see just how many older people are using the internet and becoming familiar with more technology.  As a result I began questioning whether this pattern is constant within those in my area. A question I began thinking while reading these articles was how many people have older parents/grandparents who consistently use the internet? How common is it for someone over 60 to be extremely comfortable using the internet and new technology?


– Amber Kandola

  1. Often times when we think about the newest technologies the image that more often than not comes to my mind is this image of a young to middle aged white male. One who uses their newest gadgets to make and reschedule business meetings, to book appointments and to overall plan their everyday activities. The last image that would come to mind for me personally would be the image of an elderly woman or man for that matter sitting behind a computer and replying to their emails. And when I do think of what it would be like for the elderly to use modern technology this video entitled “Webcam 101 for seniors” posted on YouTube is what comes to mind I saw this video and just automatically thought to myself just how cute it was that older people were trying to make themselves knowledgeable about something individuals our age would consider to be so easy to use. The simple fact that I found it odd and even more so comical for older individuals to use certain types of technologies proves to me that society has almost made it seem as though the only people who are inclined to use the internet are young fast moving people. It is very rare that we see grandfathers and grandmothers advertising for the newest iphone or the newest ipad. The elderly are almost treated as though they do not exist when it comes to that of technology. But, what I think is being forgotten here is that yes, the elderly are a part of the consumerism world although it may not be as much as others, they do still exist and it’s about time we do give them to opportunity to share some of their wisdom with the rest of the social world.
    As we discussed in class when we think about the kinds of people who do not have access to the internet the elderly was mentioned. I feel as though this article is attempting to show the world that the elderly do indeed have access to the internet and to the types of technologies that society tries to keep away from them. Technology should not have an age bracket; it should be something that is used by anyone who wants to use it and has the ability to do so. So to answer the question raised in the blog post, yes I happen to have parents whom my sisters and I purchased the ipad for. They have now introduced themselves to the wonderful world of Facebook where they have also been able to connect with friends they haven’t seen in a while, taken pictures and uploaded them and even skype their friends all over. There are things they can do on their ipad that I did not even know was possible! As for how common it is, perhaps right now not so common but I would like to believe that “silver surfers” will be something that rises in no time.

    Karen A.

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