SeniorNet was started in 1986 at the University of San Francisco as a research project designed to examine whether computers and telecommunications could enhance the lives of senior citizens. The research clearly demonstrated that older adults are able and enthusiastic computer users and that computer skills can be advantageous in many different aspects of their lives.
SeniorNet is a nonprofit organization, administered by a national staff of 12. The vast majority of the organization's work, however, is done by 2,000 senior citizen volunteers at 141 Computer Learning Centers nationwide. These volunteers are responsible for every aspect of Learning Center life, including locating space to house each Center, developing curriculum, scheduling courses, instructing classes, installing software and upgrading equipment.
The learning centers provide opportunities for students who have never before used a computer, to learn basic skills such as: how to turn the system on and off; how to use the mouse; how to write, edit, save and print a letter; how to manage personal finances; and how to access and use the Internet and other online services to send e-mail and to participate in a chat or discussion group. In addition to learning basic computer literacy skills, students can take a variety of more advanced courses.
Since 1986, SeniorNet has grown from a small research project to a national organization. The number of affiliated centers of SeniorNet has grown from 5 to 141, operating in 35 states. Each center is locally sponsored and managed. SeniorNet participation has grown from 20 individuals in 1986 to approximately 25,000 active members today. More than 100,000 older adults have attended SeniorNet Learning Center classes and in just the past year, 20 new learning centers have been established.
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