June 15 , 1999

A community of seniors

by ANITA MATTHEWS

 

NICHOLAS Negroponte, director of MIT's Media Lab's, once predicted that the initial population of the Internet would be under the age of 20, and above age 50.

He may be right after all -- in the United States, numerous websites have been set up to cater to senior citizens.

Sites like SeniorNet offer members online computer classes, as well as discounts on software and computer related products.

The growing ``silver surfer'' population has also prompted big companies like IBM, Bell Atlantic, Intel and Microsoft to kick off volunteer programmes to help senior folk learn to use computer technologies. These programmes generally also include discount rates for the purchase of computer hardware and software.

SeniorNet grew out of a research project funded by the Markle Foundation to determine if computers and telecommunications could enhance the lives of older adults.

It was formally set up in San Francisco in 1986 with a mission to provide education and access to computer technology for senior citizens. The aim is to enhance their lives and enable them to share their knowledge and wisdom.

The nonprofit organisation teaches adults above 50 to use computers and the Internet via more than 140 learning centres across the United States.

It has taught over 100,000 people to use computers and the Internet, the organisation says. It has a global membership of 30,000 and two thriving online communities.

The website (www.seniornet.org) also won the 1999 Webby Awards in the community category and was voted one of 100 best sites by PC World.