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Senior Citizens Embrace Digital Revolution

New Zealand's senior citizens have hit the information superhighway in droves - and they're celebrating a milestone this week.

It’s the opening of the country’s 55th SeniorNet learning centre.

SeniorNet is a community organisation sponsored by Telecom that teaches people over 55 about computers, email and the internet in a friendly environment, where they can learn at their own pace.

SeniorNet centres right around New Zealand have helped over 15,000 older people to connect with the on-line world, and membership has almost doubled in the last 18 months.

The 55th club will open at St Heliers in Auckland tomorrow.

“Since this is our 55th club, and 55 is the golden age at which you can join SeniorNet, we thought it was time to celebrate,” says Telecom’s SeniorNet Ambassador Grant Sidaway.

"Older people can feel isolated socially and left behind by technology, so SeniorNet helps them to stay in touch with their community and to share their valuable knowledge,” Mr Sidaway says.

"SeniorNet members tell us that there’s nothing to compare with their delight at suddenly realising that they can do it, and that the gap between them and their grandchildren isn’t so great.”

Telecom provides $1,500 towards each group’s set-up costs, two years’ unlimited internet access through a free connection to XTRA, and two years ’ free line rental on two free telephone connections.

Critical to the success of SeniorNet is the philosophy of peer training – with members taught by other members. Classes teach basic computer skills, moving on to applications such as word processing, databases and spreadsheets. Members learn to access the Internet, surf the web, use email, and join on-line discussion forums.

Mr Sidaway says SeniorNet members use their new skills in every area of their lives.

“It might be staying in touch with scattered family and friends, making new contacts on-line, following their interests in anything from genealogy to investment, or administering their own affairs and those of the community groups they work for,” he says.

The SeniorNet concept was brought to New Zealand by Telecom. The initial group, set up in Wellington in 1992, was the first to exist outside the United States where the idea originated.

Since then older New Zealanders have rushed to embrace the idea, and SeniorNet membership per capita here now greatly outstrips that in its American home.

An independent committee of locals manages each group; arranging tutors, setting modest course costs, and securing extra funding and equipment. Members who do not have their own computers use those at the SeniorNet Learning Centre.

ENDS


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