Wired Seniors Surf 'Net

The Internet is bringing the whole world together, but there is one group that has been left out -- seniors. People born long before the computer was even conceived are less likely to be part of our hyper-connected world.

But that is changing. A recent study found people over 65 make up the fastest growing segment of Internet users, outpacing even their wired grandchildren.

In the United States, an estimated 10 million seniors are currently on line and that number is expected to double by 2010.

Bea Lewis, 89, is an old pro at surfing the Internet.

"One day my son said, 'Mom, you … always said you have to learn something new every day, now get with it,'" she said.

There are thousands of so-called cyber-grandparents at retirement centers around the country like Asbury Methodist Village in Gaithersburg, Md., where Lewis lives. They use the Internet to stay informed, to pay the bills and most importantly to connect with family.

Hardware is being adapted to the needs of the elderly. Keyboards at the retirement center are bright with large letters, and the cursors magnify the screen.

A stroke made speaking difficult for 81-year-old Dave Moore, but he has no difficulty communicating through his PC.

"I use e-mail constantly with my kids and my friends to find out what's going on," he said.

But it's not just family and friends who want to hear from these elderly Web surfers. It turns out there's a whole new generation that's hungry for their wisdom.

About a dozen seniors at Asbury Methodist make up one chapter of a national group called "the elder wisdom circle." Through its Web site www.elderwisdomcircle.org, members dole out online advice.

At one session, the members discussed how to respond to a woman whose fiance had cheated on her.

"Dump him because he's bad news," and, "Have it out with him put him on the spot," were a few of the ideas tossed around the table.

The group has answered 60,000 questions about love, finances and life's little challenges.

Twenty-year-old David Molinet of Bowie, Md., wrote them with one of life's big challenges. He was overwhelmed with work, friends and school.

"I could sense I was starting to lose my direction," he said.

Molinet got a long e-mail in response that served as a shot of motivation. It began with a quote from Thomas Edison: "I have not failed. … I have just found 10,000 ways that don't work."

Click here to read the full message.

It was followed by a full page of advice about managing time and setting goals. He said the advice got him back on track.

"They've been through so much in their lives," he said, "that I could only imagine the amount of information they could carry."

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