Introduction To Digital Learning For Older Adults
SeniorNet was first established in Wellington in 1992
The concept of SeniorNet emerged in 1986 in the USA from a PhD research project (by a lady called Mary Forlong) at the University of San Francisco. Her subject was communicating with the elderly and the idea of imparting computer skills to Seniors in an informal atmosphere. The project’s aim was to determine if computers and telecommunications could enhance the lives of older adults. This led to the formation of SeniorNet Learning Centres in the USA.
The idea was brought over to New Zealand by Telecom and the first Learning Centre was established in Wellington in 1992. At that time Grant Sidaway was working at Telecom and agreed to set up SeniorNet in NZ – Telecom was, for a long time, a major sponsor of SeniorNet Learning Centres in NZ.
SeniorNet brings older adults and technology together in a friendly, fun, and stress-free way. It’s for people over the age of 50 who’d like to learn (more) about technology and what it can do for them. Learning Centres set their own agendas but all offer small, well-organised classes, with volunteer tutors, about the same age as their students. On offer is a wide range of courses normally starting with introductory sessions on PCs/laptops, phones and tablets and moving on to focus on “How to use” those devices to get the most out of them. Special Interest Workshops are also commonly offered where members with common interests or devices can compare experiences and share their knowledge in plain language. Most Learning Centres also offer regular Help Sessions for members to get personalised technical assistance with their devices and software.
Tutor training sessions are run by Learning Centres and are also conducted at Regional Meetings.
There are independent Learning Centres established throughout New Zealand. Each is run by a management team (Chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer and Committee) which organises all aspects of their Centre. The Federation of SeniorNet Societies in New Zealand was jointly established by the Learning Centres in 2006 to support learning activities, undertake national fundraising and to present a unified voice at the national level with government and sponsors.
Grant Sidaway, MNZM helped establish SeniorNet in New Zealand and was the Federation’s Executive Officer until his retirement at the end of 2019.
Heather Newell, MComms, FFINZ was appointed Executive Officer in 2020. Heather is passionate about ensuring that technology is a useful tool in our everyday lives and that using it should always be enjoyable, sociable or productive.