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At 82, Tom Farr is clicking along.
"I go online four times a day, half an hour per session," says Farr, a resident of the Scarborough Retirement Centre in Toronto. He says he spends 80 per cent of his time on e-mail with friends and relatives in Canada and the U.S., and 20 per cent surfing the Web.
Farr is among friends. Jupiter Research says that the number of people aged 50 to 64 using the Internet is expected to double between 2001 and 2007. The number of users in this age range was 17.7 million in 2001, 20.7 million in 2002 and is expected to jump to 23.7 million in 2003.
Farr, a retired graphic arts business owner, was a ham radio operator for 35 years. When he moved to the retirement residence, he was unable to put up an antenna, but received a second-hand computer from his son-in-law. He says it has changed his quality of life.
His new hobby has allowed him to research other interests. As a veteran war night-fighter pilot and an avid landscape painter, he has visited the Web sites of the British War Museum and the Louvre.
Farr thinks it's a good idea for seniors to take a computer and Internet course before taking the plunge.
"They should be taught properly . . . or they'll be floundering," he says. Many public libraries offer courses for seniors, as do universities and community colleges.
Ryerson University in Toronto, which opened its senior computer lab in 1997, offers free online courses about connecting to the Internet. Courses are developed and moderated by seniors affiliated with L.I.F.E. (Learning is Forever) at Ryerson and the Seniors Education Centre at the University of Regina. Their Web site, www.seniorcentre.ca, also links to an electronic magazine, which accepts creative writing and photographs of artwork.
For those with arthritis or tremors, which can make it difficult to use a mouse, software is available to adjust keyboard settings so that keys won't repeat when held down for an extra second. As well, on-screen print can be enlarged to suit those with poor eyesight.
Since Farr's initial Internet experience, he's purchased a new computer online. "Above all, I'd like to be back to the amateur radio, so the computer is my salvation," he says.