Senior citizens getting

WASHINGTON (AP) — The first question Herbert M. Ernst often gets when he begins a computer training session for fellow senior citizens is, “When will I learn e-mail?”
Ernst, 66, told reporters that senior citizens usually can’t wait to use electronic mail and other features of the Internet — once they overcome a fear of technology.
“They are afraid of the technology, unlike kids who naturally like to push buttons,” Ernst said.
He and other panelists at a Senate Aging Committee hearing Thursday warned against dismissing senior citizens completely, however, and said those who have been able to learn the technology are now hooked.
“Older adults are approaching the Internet with intelligence, enthusiasm and a desire to master the new technology,” said Mary Furlong, founder of SeniorNet, a computer group for seniors. “Once they get on, they are committed to it.”
A March survey by Neilsen Media Research and CommerceNet found that 7.6 million Internet users are 50 or older, making up about 15 percent of the Internet-using population in the United States and Canada.
Mickey Gordon, director of development for the Jewish Council for the Aging in Rockville, Md., said the Internet can help prevent seniors from feeling isolated.
“Time goes by so quickly” online, she said. “People have the ability to comment and get information, even if they don’t have the ability to leave their homes.”
Seniors use the Internet for such things as getting information about health plans and medical conditions, keeping in touch with friends and families, researching ancestral history and buying books.