25

It all started 25 years ago in the backyard of Jill Blue’s DeLand home, drinking cool lemonade with former business partner Diane Penn.

The pair had been long-time friends — Diane as a writer and Jill as a graphic designer and sales associate. They talked about starting a new publication that would focus on the needs of Brevard County boomers and seniors.

“I didn’t see anything in this area (Brevard County) that offered information for seniors,” said Blue, the chief executive officer of the Bluewater Creative Group, the company that publishes Senior Life, Viera Voice, the Boomer Guide and the Viera Wetlands Birding Guide. “I wanted to work with seniors and feature more of the information of what’s happening and available to senior residents.”

This month, the award-winning Senior Life celebrates its 25th anniversary — a publication that started in June 1997 with 12 pages and a circulation of 10,000. Today, it averages between 32 and 36 pages, has a circulation of 26,000 and is distributed free of charge in more than 700 locations from Mims to Barefoot Bay.

Senior Life’s growth also can be attributed to Brevard’s exploding population. In 1990, there were 389,978 people, while in 2022 the number has grown to 622,159. Of that last number, 24.2 percent of the population are persons 65 years and older.

“I did everything in those early years,” Blue said. “I delivered the paper, did the bookkeeping, was the graphic designer, the photographer and did the networking. Those were very hectic days.”

In that first issue, Blue outlined Senior Life’s goal: “Our goal is to provide something for everyone as we expand across the county. We’re looking forward to being a valuable addition to the Brevard community.

“We will bring you articles about issues that are important to you, as well as inform and entertain you. We will be out in your community, attending your activities, getting to know you, and sharing a little bit about you with the others in your community.”

It’s a goal Blue said she’s kept all these years, and will continue to do so in the future.

“We used a lot of syndicated columns in those early issues, but the one mainstay of every issue has been our calendar and what’s happening sections,” she said. “I didn’t want to publish negative stories, rather stories that were uplifting, positive and informative.”

The publication has had several office locations in the 25 years. The first office was in Blue’s DeLand home and a Gateway Drive location in Melbourne. That was followed with stops in Indialantic, Merritt Island, behind the Perkins restaurant in Office Park Place off North Wickham Road and 7630 North Wickham Road in Suntree.

The newest location is near the Design Center of Viera Builders and State Farm offices at 7350 Shoppes Drive, Suite 102, near the Walmart Shopping Center.

Blue said there’s been a lot of peaks and valleys during the publication’s 25 years.

In early 1997, her DeLand home was burglarized and all of her publishing equipment — computer, scanner, printer and files — were stolen.

“All that was left was a floppy disk with the files and pages on it,” she recalled. “I had to purchase all new equipment and start over.”

Today, the company uses the latest technology to produce its ads, news publications and magazine.

“We’re not just a newspaper anymore,” Blue explained. “We’re a multi-media company that does many things. Our expos, festivals and events allow us to get out in the community and meet new people.”

Many Senior Life readers and advertisers agree it’s a great information resource.

Cindy Short, a contract administrator for Brevard County Housing and Human Services, said she’s been an avid supporter of Senior Life ever since 2006.

“I love the articles,” she said. “I learn something new every issue. It’s always filled with positive and informative news.”

Short also said she’s grateful to Jill Blue, who is a member of the Commission on Aging, for allowing her newspaper to publish information about aging for Brevard residents. “They’ve done a wonderful job for us,” she said.

Donn Weaver, the chairman of the Brevard Veterans Council and past president of the Military Officers Association of America’s Cape Canaveral Chapter, said Senior Life has been an amazing tool to connect Brevard veterans with the community.

“I like the way they write stories about individual veterans,” he said. “Their articles also have helped create greater attendance to the museum and community events. Senior Life has grown with the veterans community.”

Teri Brant, the director of marketing at Buena Vida Estates, a continuing care retirement community in Melbourne, said Senior Life has been “wonderful to us” and great to work with. “They’ve done a great job with distribution and following up whenever we’ve needed them,” she said. Brant said Buena Vida Estates has been a Senior Life advertiser for more than 13 years and will continue to advertise, especially in the yearly Boomer Guide.

Bayhill resident Chiffone Sandberg said she’s been an avid reader of Senior Life since 2007.

“Anytime I’ve ever needed anything like golf bags, Jill has always been there for me,” she said.

“I love Jill. She’s very personable and generous. She’s done so much for my projects.”

Blue said the company has five full- and part-time employees and about 35 contractors

(freelance writers, editors, photographers, videographers and distributors).

Blue said she’s most proud that she’s never missed publishing an issue in those 25 years, even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blue said future plans include a redesign of the publication. “We get to meet needs of the growing number of boomers and seniors in the county,” she said.