Archive for Thursday, January 4, 2007

Web site to celebrate baby-boomer women

January 4, 2007

Carol Armstrong wouldn't go back to her 20s and 30s for anything.

But that doesn't mean the 55-year-old Lawrence travel agent has lost interest in looking nice, feeling good and staying connected with her friends.

Nor have other baby boomer women -- those born in the 18 years after the end of World War II. Yet you wouldn't know that by taking an inventory of most media today.

"You pick up a magazine, and it's not about you," Armstrong said.

That oversight perplexed Cathy Hamilton, then a marketing manager for The World Company. After all, boomer women aren't exactly a niche market anymore. Now that the leading edge of the group has turned 60, there are 41 million women in the United States between the ages of 40 and 60.

Recognizing the untapped potential of that audience -- and feeling a bit neglected herself as a member of the generation -- Hamilton dreamed up BoomerGirl.com, a Web site devoted to women in mid-life.

Tuesday marked its official unveiling to the world.

Don't expect to log on and encounter a home page drenched in pink, dispensing the latest fashion trends from New York runways and revealing the 10 ways to tell if your man's been cheating.

Hamilton and her team of online developers from The World Company took a sophisticated approach, using an earthy color palette, simple navigation and images of real boomer-aged women.

"I haven't seen anything about wearing spandex in the gym or how to tattoo your midriff and the clothing that goes along with that," said Armstrong, who checked out the Web page during a preliminary launch in December.

"I am not one just to surf the Internet, so this has a lot of diverse information that one can find in one place. That's what really interested me. You don't have to go to a variety of sites to get such a wealth of information."

Love, learn and be well
Before BoomerGirl became a Web site, it was simply a column in Sunday's Lawrence Journal-World called BoomerGirl Diary. The Journal-World and the Explorer are both owned by parent company, The World Company.

In weekly installments, Hamilton has regaled readers with tales of awkward hot flashes at charity events, nostalgic encounters with hippies at the liquor store and ridiculous spats with her husband about closet space.

"I think the column, because it came first, sort of validated the idea for the Web site because the response to it was, 'Oh, wow. We needed something like this,'" Hamilton said.

So she led a series of focus groups with women in the target age range, not only to pinpoint issues of interest but also to determine how they used the Internet. She found out they didn't want to be overwhelmed with too much content, they wanted information that pertained to their lives, and they wanted to be able to connect with other women in the same boat.

From those brainstorming sessions arose topics such as dating, reading books, tending finances, starting a new career at mid-life, keeping fit, entertaining and showcasing personal talents.

Visitors to the site can access articles on those subjects and others through pull-down menus on the home page denoted by words such as "Love," "Learn," "Pursue," "Travel" and "Be Well." Also on the home page are featured articles that are updated daily and a lead story that changes regularly.

Hamilton, now director of BoomerGirl Multimedia, supplies a daily message in the "In Boomer Girl Today" column that points users to the day's most interesting news and viewpoints. And more than 50 contributors -- from experts in their fields, to Journal-World writers, to everyday women with something to say -- provide everything from personality profiles to advice pieces to blogs.

Out of isolation
Under the "Network" menu, visitors can read staff blogs or create their own. They also can join any number of existing clubs -- from the Boob Tubers to the Chartreuse Thumbs -- or start their own.

"I think that as people check this Web site out and they see the opportunities for community building and networking, they might be drawn into the experience of joining a group or experiencing communication in a blog," said Karen Frick, 55, wellness coordinator at Harmony Wellness in Lawrence. "It might open some more doors in ways that people haven't before experienced."

Lawrence boomer Elisabeth Lee, who recently self-published her first book -- a mystery called "For Glory" -- is looking forward to sharing a chapter on BoomerGirl and getting feedback from other women. She especially enjoys the site's simple navigation, its spirituality and wellness sections, and the daily Spanish lesson.

"We can be isolated by time and space," said Lee, 58. "This allows us to get around some of our routines to take time for ourselves and communicate with each other."

-- Lawrence Journal-World arts editor Mindie Paget can be reached at 832-7187.

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