Seniors become well connected

ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 05:00 17/12/2013
Anne Smith
JOHN BISSET/Fairfax NZ
KEEPING UP WITH THINGS: Anne Smith, of Timaru, has become profficient with a computer.

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A cross-section of South Canterbury's older people are well connected, according to SeniorNet.

SeniorNet president John Bain said initially many older people were pushed into getting a computer by younger family members so they could keep in touch, but have since embraced the technology.

"Young people don't know what a stamp is. The only way they can communicate is through email and smart phone," he said.

About 30 to 40 people aged 65-plus attend SeniorNet's six six-week classes each year, learning basic operation or more advanced computer skills.

The main difficulty with technology arose when there were updates such as the Windows 8 changeover which had a different front end, Mr Bain said.

"There's no start menu. So people are coming back to relearn," he said.

SeniorNet did not have a tutor for Apple products and only taught Microsoft but was planning to address that next year.

There was a spike of students in 2011 with 40 to 50 students per class and SeniorNet thought numbers would taper off as people became more knowledgeable but that had not been the case. "We're not as doddery as some people think. We teach people up to their late 70s and 80s" Mr Bain said.

According to the latest census, access to technology such as cellphones and internet had increased in Timaru, though 237 people had no access to telecommunication systems which was three more than in the 2006 census. Out of the 18,354 Timaru households 15,837 had access to a telephone, down from 16,002 in 2006. The use of fax machines had also declined.

"Older people used to get cast-offs but now they are buying new laptops, not desktops," Mr Bain said.

Timaru 73-year-old Anne Smith said there was an expectation for people to own a computer and they often missed out on things if they didn't have one.

She acquired her first computer about 10 years ago to work on a book for the Timaru Croquet Club. Now, with a touch smart HP, she only uses it for making cards or emails.

"I don't go online, I don't have time," Mrs Smith said. She prefers to telephone to keep in contact with family and friends.

About 50 per cent of her friends in a similar age bracket had computers. "I think more lonely people would get pleasure out of one if they had one."

Senior Citizens co-ordinator Robyn Baldwin said she had noticed more houses than ever with computers.

"Some of the seniors are really good with it. It keeps the lines of communication open and it's a new challenge."

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She said she admired people that had a go and it kept them abreast of what was happening.

- The Timaru Herald

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