In 1993 the founders of Seniornet predicted they’d be out of a job within a couple of years, as soon as the few seniors in Nelson who owned a computer learnt how to use it.
Twenty years on, they’ve never been busier.
“When we first started only one of the original committee had a computer,” says committee member Duncan Fuller. “Now we’ve had thousands come through our courses or become members of Seniornet and it just keeps going.”
Seniornet Nelson celebrates its 20th anniversary on October 15 and over that time their main goal has been to up-skill and teach people over 50 years of age how to use their computers. They say the goal is to get people using their email, Google and able to up load photographs. From there Skype and other features like Google Maps are introduced.
There are also interest groups that members can join, like those interested in learning more about Apple computers, photographs or the technical side of how a computer works.
Duncan says the challenge of new technology means tutors are never standing still. When asked how the tutors stay up with the play of the latest technology, Duncan replied: “With difficulty.”
Another committee member, Lindsay Hunter, says learning how to use smartphones and tablets is new to them all, including the tutors. “We’re not struggling as much as our members though. We’re just ahead of them. We just need to be a day ahead.”
They say they’ve had some great stories for those who have learnt how to use a computer over the years and it’s been a great way for them to connect with family and loved ones. “Some of them get really excited when they figure it out and they squeal with delight when it makes sense to them, when the light’s come on,” says Lindsay.
“I have one elderly friend with a grandchild in London and she has the same children’s book as her grandchild and reads to her via Skype, which is really great for her.”
“We do regularly get comments like ‘oh, it’s so brilliant, I can now Skype my kids’ and that’s what keeps us going,” says Duncan.
The group now has 616 members (as of last week) and Duncan says many of them are now independent on a computer but like the comfort of having a group that they can continue to learn from and ask questions if they get stuck.
And they think new technology may just mean they’ll be around for at least another 20 years.
“We have been predicting since 1993 that eventually we’d have nothing left to do because we would have taught everyone how to use a computer. But it just seems to get busier every year and you think what else can they come up with, but they seem to just keep going, so we’ll keep going.”
Seniornet Nelson is hosting its anniversary on Tuesday October 15 at Annesbrook Centre. For more information about the function, or if you’d like to attend, visit seniornetnelson.org.nz.