Seniors on the Net? You
bet your mouse
of The Sentinel Staff
Published in The Orlando
Sentinel, Oct 17 1998
Of all the misbegotten notions that people
believe about computers, here's one of the
biggest myths of all:
Computers are just for kids or young adults.
I know it's a myth because I have seen Senior
Net, a place where there are a lot of seniors who
can put their Pentiums through the same paces as
any wired whiz kid.
Senior Net is also where seniors teach seniors
how to use computers. You have to be at least 50
to get in.
Senior Net's Orlando chapter is based at the
Marks Street Senior Center, at 99 E. Marks St. in
downtown Orlando. For my money, Senior Net is one
of the most "happening" places in all
of Central Florida.
Every time I drop in for a visit, the place is
abuzz with activity. There are either classes in
session or there are groups of people gathered
around individual machines, going over the
nuances of programs such as Netscape or Word
Since the Orlando chapter was founded two
years ago, Senior Net has graduated about 450
people through its beginner and intermediate
training classes, said Tom Springall, president
of the nonprofit agency.
A retired IBM executive, Springall is all too
eager to disabuse seniors of the idea that
they're just too old to learn how to use
"This is a generation that simply was
there too early for computers," Springall
said. "A lot of our students left the
workforce before computers really took hold.
Consequently, they just weren't exposed to
With most of Senior Net's students, Springall
said, it takes only a few hours behind the
keyboard before they realize computing is not so
hard after all. "It's really fun to see the
light bulbs come on."
The Orlando chapter is part of a national
organization, based in San Francisco. Founded in
1986, Senior Net has 25,000 members and more than
140 learning centers around the country.
Like Springall, many of Senior Net's volunteer
instructors are retired IBMers, or formerly
served in the military. A lot of them got into
computing during the early days when it really was
hard, and only for the technically inclined.
More than many trainers in the corporate
world, Senior Net instructors generally
understand how and why a computer does what it
does. They tend to have a relaxed,
I've-seen-it-all-before attitude, giving off a
definite sense that you're in good hands at
The agency offers about a dozen different
classes, starting with a nine-hour course for
"absolute beginners." It covers the
basics of working with a keyboard and a mouse,
and exposes students to the range of jobs a
computer can tackle.
The intermediate classes take students onto
the Internet with demonstrations of how to send
e-mail and how to get the most from the World
Wide Web. There also are several classes that
focus on specific software, such as Quicken, a
financial management program.
Customarily, each class is limited to 10
students. And for each class, there is an
instructor, plus three or four coaches who assist
with individualized attention. There is a nominal
charge for each class. Course fees range from $20
Because of the limited class sizes, Senior
Net's sessions are often booked weeks in advance.
You can make a reservation by calling (407) 318
Or you can visit the Senior Net center during
its monthly open house. It's held on the fourth
Sunday of every month from 1 to 3 p.m. The next
one will be Oct. 25.
Or get one of your grandchildren to fire up
their computer and take you to the Orlando Senior
Net's Web site. The address: http://www.seniornet
[Posted 10/16/1998 18:24]