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The age gap blurs
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Teaching Technology to Older Adults
From SeniorNet's executive director Ann Wrixon  
Computer and Internet Education for the 50+ adults
From SeniorNet  
Surfing Seniors Buy While Others Browse

The age gap blurs on the Internet

Mohamed is among a growing population of senior netizens who have taken the technological plunge. The common currency they have with younger counterparts is the luxury of time, and their motivations are not too dissimilar.

"Curiosity; to stay in touch with family and friends; to remain engaged with the world'' are reasons cited by Laura Fay, Assistant Director of Development and Public Relations at SeniorNet, a US-based non-profit organization that teaches computer-use to adults age 50 and older. ""What they do online is also similar. They exchange email, research particular topics and play games - although the games they play are different than younger folks," she says.

The similarities between the generations far outweigh the differences. "Certainly, on SeniorNet's site the contributors are more courteous and get to know each other more personally than at sites geared toward teenagers, but debates still get heated and flames have, on occasion, been exchanged," says Fay.

Established in 1986, SeniorNet has over 160 volunteer-run Learning Centers throughout the US, providing computer training for older adults. It also sustains online communities with hundreds of discussion groups in which older adults can collaborate and support one another and share their wisdom with younger generations.

"Older people have lifetimes of experience to contribute, and first-hand accounts of the major events of the 20th century, their online voice is terribly important, " she says, citing SeniorNet's World War II Living Memorial as an example. The Internet has also been a powerful medium to overcome distance and disability, and has become a window to the world for the house-bound.

Fay cites one contributor on SeniorNet's writers' discussion who is deaf and confined to a wheel chair. "The Internet has made it possible for her to connect to other people and to share her passion for writing. The encouragement she received has made it possible for her to publish her work, something which probably would not have happened without this medium."

Fay estimates there are about 20 million adults over 50 on the Internet in the US accounting for about 20% of the online population.


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