SeniorNet - Connecting older people in person and online

Published on June 22, 2022

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The last few years has taught us the importance of connecting with others. In a COVID-19 world, making these connections can be challenging as we maintain social distancing, but SeniorNet is here to help.

The community training network equips our older people with the necessary skills and confidence to use technology to text, chat, video call, email and share photos with friends and family around the globe.

Learning about new technology can be daunting, but SeniorNet aims to make learning fun and easy, whether you want to find your way around a smartphone, laptop, PC or tablet.

You may be wanting to navigate the internet, understand the basics of sending and receiving emails, or discover new ways to communicate with loved ones, and SeniorNet are up for the task.

Originally a research project at the University of San Francisco in 1986, SeniorNet’s aim was to determine if computers and telecommunications could enhance the lives of older adults. Their findings highlight the benefits technology can provide.

It was bought to New Zealand shores in Wellington during 1992, and evolved to provide small, friendly stress-free computer classes for like-minded individuals to make information technology more accessible. 

There are now more than 80 SeniorNet learning centres nationwide.

The Horowhenua group was founded in 1999. A meeting was held at Freyberg Lounge in Levin during March and 40 people were expected to attend. To the organisers delight, more than 100 people filled the space with many signing up on the spot. The first class commenced May 17 that year.

SeniorNet has been busy in the Horowhenua since then. Students have become teachers, and classes have been held around the district. The content of each session has remained flexible with classes created for areas of interest.

Learning alongside your peers, confidence and skills will increase as you learn how to get the most out of digital technology.

SeniorNet have hosted technology help sessions at Speldhurst Country Estate, St. John’s Methodist Church, and more recently have scheduled regular Friday drop-in sessions at Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom, Levin Uniting Church and Te Takeretanga o Kura-hau-pō.

SeniorNet Tutor and Foxton local Alan Maxwell has been involved with SeniorNet for around a decade, sharing his knowledge after attending a two-year technology course at UCOL in his early 60s. 

“SeniorNet is older people who know a little bit helping other older people with their digital devices” he says. 

Often well-meaning family members help older people with their IT queries by solving an issue, but SeniorNet empowers learners by familiarising them with their devices and offering tips and tricks.

“SeniorNet has more patience and can explain the ‘how-tos’. We are older people so we can relate to older people.”

Mr Maxwell urges those who are nervous about technology, or anyone wanting to enhance their skills to take the opportunity SeniorNet provides. He has assisted with a range of queries – from using devices, to word processing and creating festive table crafts. Mr Maxwell enjoys the concept of “older people helping older people”, where student and teacher both get value.

There are around ten SeniorNet volunteers in the Horowhenua and the format continues to evolve with recorded zoom meetings acting like “YouTube for older people” as SeniorNet builds a library of recorded content of commonly asked questions.

Mr Maxwell welcomes anyone to attend a drop-in session to discuss how SeniorNet can assist, and although targeted at an older demographic, SeniorNet volunteers’ also welcome younger people who also need some digital assistance.

To learn more about what SeniorNet Horowhenua offers, or how you can get involved, you can check out the SeniorNet Horowhenua website or get in touch with Alan Maxwell on alanfoxton@hotmail.com