Never too old to be digitally savvy

00:31, Feb 13 2013
Kapiti SeniorNet
Computer savvy: From left, Peter Thomson and Ian McLuckie at the Kapiti SeniorNet learning centre.

Not even retirement - traditionally dedicated to bowls, golf or vegetating on the sofa - is sacred as digital upskilling gathers pace in Kapiti.

Kapiti's Erik Thorsing left the business world several years ago with an eye on fulltime retirement, instead endeding up a fulltime webmaster and technology blogger for SeniorNet.

He and fellow members spoke to the Kapiti Observer in the build-up to open days run by the community group that demystifies technology for over-50s.

Mr Thorsing said it was after he complained that the group's website was neglected and ''left to die'' that he was asked to bring it back to life. After 18 months the site is humming - Mr Thorsing adding onsite blogging to his list of jobs.

''Ideally of course we'd like people to write for our blog on the website, but there is a reluctance of people in our age group to do this so basically I'm the one who writes all the blogs ... although not on a daily basis. It takes up a lot of time.''

Mr Thorsing joined Kapiti SeniorNet about three years ago and is part of a group of dedicated volunteers that includes tutors Ian McLuckie and Peter Thomson.


After decades in Wellington with his family fabric business, Mr Thomson retired in the mid 90s - taking up a role as student then, rapidly, as tutor with the group. The digital age was still in its infancy and the courses were based on manuals, with learning developed chapter by chapter.

''You looked at the course the night before and taught it the next day ... in other words you studied, and imparted your knowledge straight afterwards.''

The chapter-by-chapter approach has changed over the years - tailored to become more friendly to the target demographic.

Mr McLuckie, a retired Massey University senior lecturer in computer-aided engineering design, said the approach broke learning down into bite-sized chunks.

''Our target always was that they left at the end of every session confident they could go home and do something they couldn't when they came.''

Confidence is key, Mr McLuckie said, with his stripped-back workshops including monthly iPad gatherings.

The tablets are the latest development in personal computing: part of a hardware proliferation that plenty of people below 50 struggle to keep up with.

However Mr McLuckie said having older people working with older people on the subject is probably still the most effective way to help them learn.

''I think you need the patience. And that tends to come with age.''Kapiti SeniorNet open days, today 9.30am to 2pm, and Saturday 10am to 2pm, at 200 Matai Rd, Raumati Beach.

The Wellingtonian