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CENTER GIVING ELDERLY COMPUTER ACCESS OPENS

Some senior citizens are going high-tech, thanks to a new computer-learning center designed to put the latest technology into the hands of the city's elderly.

The ribbon was cut Thursday on Lutheran Social Services' Neighborhood Networks Center at 8 Crane St. The computer-learning center will serve about 200 residents of five Lutheran Social Services senior housing units.

Coordinator Jeffrey Crist said the program is an initiative of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"It is designed to make computer technology more accessible to seniors," Crist said. "There is a whole segment of society there that doesn't have a lot of knowledge about computers or access to the hardware, so they are locked out of that whole learning experience."

Crist pointed to the case of an 85-year-old man who went to the center after his son in California discovered the new system was operating.

"When he got here there was an e-mail from his son, and he got a chance to e-mail his son back," Crist said.

"But this opens up a whole new opportunity for communication for these people, and there are others who just like learning games or getting onto the Internet. They can also take virtual tours of the White House or the Smithsonian," he added.

Crist will help teach for now but said there is also an effort under way to get other senior citizens involved in a peer-tutoring program.

The center is equipped with six networked computers, and the Internet is accessible from two of them.

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