‘Trying to Explain Life’

‘Trying to Explain Life’

In on-line column, women bridge 40-year age difference.

Sitting in her Northwest Washington, D.C. home, Dr. Dorree Lynn pauses mid-sentence when her husband enters the room.

“I need Outlook on the desktop and my AOL is on overload,” she says.

This is not a typical sentence coming from someone who describes herself as “sixty plus.”

But Lynn believes it soon will be. The fifty-plus set is the fastest-growing on-line population and Lynn’s Web site, fiftyandfurthermore.com aims to tackle the full range of topics of interest to that demographic, from finance to sex to computer literacy.

Lynn knows that when it comes to understanding computers and the Internet, she’s no match for her creative assistant, Jennifer Cohen, 25, who Lynn joked “has only been typing since she was two or something.”

Cohen has worked with Lynn for three years, mostly on developing the Web site, and such points of generational divergence are exactly what gave rise to one of the site’s main features, “Both Sides Now,” a kind of inter-generational “he said, she said” where Lynn and Cohen square off on issues ranging from love to reality TV.

“We’d have conversations about thins and realize that we had a lot of differences based on the generation we grew up in but at the same time a lot of similarities,” Cohen said.

The women alternate writing an essay each week on of the topics and then let their counterpart respond. Sometimes the result is a surprising convergence between two women separated by nearly 40 years. Other times it’s the familiar “you just don’t understand my generation.”

“We just thought it was a novel, wonderful idea. We’ve never seen it done before,” Lynn said. She called it “two women trying to explain life to each other.”

LYNN, A psychologist and author became frustrated with her field several years ago and decided to find a niche that would give her more focus and opportunity than therapy.

Aging herself, with grown children, Lynn started to focus on the issues she saw facing the aging population, but not receiving serious attention in the press or the psychology community.

“The issues that I found that people talked to me about because of the therapy situation were completely different than what I’d ever seen written about,” she said.

Cohen graduated from American University in 2002 with a degree in communications and psychology.  She had several part-time jobs, most — like working in promotions for the radio station DC 101 — more befitting her age than working for a fifty-plus Web site.

But When Cohen began working part-time for Lynn, the pair made a connection, and Cohen came on to work full-time.

She tried a year in graduate school studying counseling but found she “just wanted to be out there doing something already” and returned to full-time work.

Cohen found that she could reach a large number of people through the Web, and fulfill the same desire to address people’s needs that she had felt when she went to graduate school.

“I do very much believe that growing older does not mean wilting away,” she said.

With “Both Sides Now,” Cohen and Lynn have been able to bridge a generational gap. They said they are constantly finding that people are more similar than different. And when the bottom line is disagreement, Cohen said the column is a constructive forum for it than, say, quarreling with parents.

“We’re able to speak for our generations without having an emotional argument about it,’ Cohen said.

BOTH WOMEN are closely tied to Potomac. Lynn lived on a farm on Travilah Road after moving to the area from New York in the 1970s and has a daughter and grandson currently living there.

Cohen grew up in Potomac, attending Cold Spring Elementary, Robert Frost Middle School, and Thomas Wootton High School.

The Web site, they said, is geared toward a Potomac population: highly-educated and high socioeconomic status.

“If you were thinking of a magazine, it’s not People magazine. Our niche is a well-educated, interested user,” Lynn said.

In addition to “Both Sides Now,” the site features regular columnists writing on health, finance, travel, and relationships—all geared at not shying away from uncomfortable topics (“dating when your kids are dating,” growing hair in the wrong places) and removing the stigma attached to aging.

The site is free to users and makes money from advertisers and from promoting Lynn’s books and speaking engagements. Both women hope to see the site become nationally successful, and it is now rapidly growing user and advertiser bases.

With the site’s projected growth, “We may have to dumb down a little bit,” Lynn said, “but so far we haven’t had to.”