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Geriatric1927, YouTubers' Favorite Grandad
[Interview] Peter Oakley is a world famous Internet star
Eric Shackle (Shack)     Print Article 
Published 2007-04-28 13:25 (KST)   
Readers can find out more about veteran Australian journalist Eric Shackle, 87, at his Web site.  <Editor's Note>
Most of the world's 100 million YouTubers are children, teenagers and young adults. Many of them admire 79-year-old video maker Peter Oakley as a kindly Englishman who reminds them of their own grandfathers. He calls himself Geriatric1927, referring to the year he was born, and his unique videos have a huge following worldwide.

Peter, a modest and reclusive writer with a marvelous memory, reveals details of his very private life not previously known by his millions of young fans, in this exclusive interview with ERIC SHACKLE, OhmyNews International's oldest citizen reporter.

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Hello, Peter. America's Time magazine calls you a superstar, and England's Saga magazine says that at the age of 79 you have become "one of the most famous Britons alive, with nearly 5 million fans around the world." It says you have achieved global fame not on TV or as an actor or author, but on the Internet, where your videos have made you one of the most popular stars of the YouTube Web site. How do you feel about that?

I feel embarrassed, but as time has gone on opportunities have presented themselves because of it: to do work outside of the making of my videos, to do things that might encourage older people to do similar things and thereby enrich their own lives.

Most of the world's 100 million YouTubers are children, teenagers and young adults. Many of them look on you as a kindly old man who reminds them of their own grandfathers. Do you enjoy playing that role?

Yes. I have been surprised that young people even look at my videos, but it is a fact that many do and I am touched by the responses from them. I receive many letters from them. Mainly they are surprised that someone of my age can and would do such things and liken me to their own grandparents, who would not consider even using a computer, so in this respect they think that I am "cool" (in their language). Many however do ask me questions and advice. Those that have no longer got grandparents tell me that I remind them of their lost loved ones and get some comfort from this. Another response, and this is something that touches me, is those who apologize for the bad behavior of some of their age group who have said rude and unkind things to me.

Do you have any children or grandchildren of your own? If so, how old are they, and how often do you see them?

Yes, I have two children of my own, a daughter and a son. I also have another member of the family. He is a child that we fostered when he was a baby who is handicapped. Legal responsibility ceased when he became 18 but we still support him and he is regarded as another member of our family. He lives independently in a city 60 miles away. My own children live nearer, some 20 miles away, so of course visit regularly. My daughter is single and doesn't have any children, but my son has two boys (my grandchildren).

I've read that you are a widower living near a picturesque village in Derbyshire, in the center of England, and that you keep your exact whereabouts secret. Do your fellow villagers know they have a world-famous man in their midst?

I live in a rather isolated area near to a market town and my near neighbors know that I have done some things on television and have had newspaper articles written about me, but I don't think that anyone in town knows. Our town has a large population of old people and I doubt that many have computers, and if they have, would not know about video blogging sites.

Have you lived in the same place all your life? Have you traveled overseas?

Born in Norwich, Norfolk, where I lived until conscripted in the war. Sent to college in Leicester on demob. Moved around to various places when in the profession of Public Health Inspector, finally getting a post in Leicester where I married and lived for 40 years approx. Moved to my present address some 18 years ago. Only traveled overseas once, for a two-week holiday in South Africa.

How long does it take you to produce one of your videos, and what are your favorite subjects?

Just as long as the length of the video, since I do not script them or rehearse them, plus any time needed to [do] introduction slides. In total probably 30 minutes. I have of course given some thought to what the content of the video might be beforehand, but in reality they never come out in the way that I envisage, as I drift away from the point and the original conception all the time. I would describe them as like fireside chats with friends. Therefore I don't have a favorite subject.

How many videos have you made since joining YouTube?

I think that it is 50.

Do you read and reply to any of the thousands of messages posted on the Geriatric1927 forum?

Yes. Initially there was a flood of over 4,000 letters that was overwhelming and impossible to cope with, and I made a video explaining the situation, but for many months now I have been answering all of my letters daily. The amount varies but can be as many as 40 or 50 and as you can imagine it is a very time-consuming job, but now many people have become like pen pals and it is something that I enjoy doing.

Do you have other interests apart from your videos?

Yes of course, but now there is no time pursue them. YouTube, computers, interviews, answering letters, responding to the many letters asking for details to satisfy some project or for publication. My days are too full and busy for anything else.

Have you ever visited the Web site of Olive Riley, the 107-year-old Australian great-great-grandmother, who is the world's oldest blogger? I think you would enjoy reading her posts which, like your videos, appeal to young as well as old Web surfers.

No I haven't been to her Web site but I have seen her videos on YouTube ... a very remarkable lady.

Thank you, Peter. And, may we say, you are a very remarkable man.


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Further Reading:
Grandpa the Net star
A welcome voice of inexperience
Peter's videos
AskGeriatric.com forum
Saga Magazine story
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Eric Shackle

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