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Seniornet Comes To Waimate

Telecom is helping senior citizens in Waimate to hit the information superhighway.

SeniorNet is to open a learning centre in the town tomorrow, to teach people over 55 about computers, email and the internet in a user-friendly way.

SeniorNet is a community-based organisation sponsored by Telecom that has so far helped over 15,000 older New Zealanders to connect with the on-line world.

The Waimate centre will be the 56th to be set up around the country, and members will be able to gather there in a friendly environment to learn at their own pace.

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.

"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,” Telecom’s SeniorNet National Ambassador Grant Sidaway said today.

"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.”

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.

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 said.


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