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Long-time SeniorNet Whitianga administrator farewelled

By Francesca Dowling

After serving as SeniorNet Whitianga administrator for the past 14 years and being part of the original steering committee when the organisation first started 17 years ago, well-known Whitianga resident, Lorna Russell, has decided to step down and hand over her role to fellow member, Sheryl Carruthers.

“Like all old people, my memory is going,” said Lorna. “I’m now even getting a few things wrong myself and I hate getting things wrong. Besides, it’s definitely someone else’s turn by now.”

A farewell celebration was held on Wednesday last week to thank Lorna for her years of dedicated service. “Lorna is an icon and is much loved by all who have met her over the years,” said SeniorNet Whitianga chair, Ady Cole-Ewen. “We’re very lucky to have Lorna and Sheryl involved in our organisation, both ladies are very talented. Sheryl joined us only last year. She’s a chartered accountant with her own practice. She’s the perfect person to take over from Lorna.”

Despite her departure from her role, Lorna said the SeniorNet members shouldn’t miss her too much as she’ll never be too far. “I became a life member at last year’s Christmas social, so I’m not planning on leaving anytime soon” she said. “I’ll be remaining on the committee and may even begin teaching again as well as taking a few classes myself.”

When asked what she’ll be doing with all her newfound spare time, Lorna took a moment to reply. “Gosh, I haven’t really thought about that yet, I suppose I’ll have quite a bit of extra time now since being administrator was a big job,” she said smiling. “Besides writing columns for the Masonic retirement village in Whitianga, which I’ve been doing for a little while now, possibly twiddling my thumbs.”

Her reply led to Lorna receiving, in the spirit of the SeniorNet hallmark of friendship, some quick suggestions to take up time management classes instead.

During Wednesday’s celebration, those members who attended have also discussed the importance of the organisation in the Mercury Bay community, particularly in the face of bank branches being closed more often than not, making online banking a necessity and the older generation an easy target for malicious hackers.

SeniorNet caters for people 55 years and older. Many of them find the world of modern technology stressful. Providing classes on the use of laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones, including internet banking, editing and repairing photos, and even installing bluetooth into vehicle speakers, SeniorNet Whitianga has seen lives turned around with the simple click of a button, mouse or key.

“The thing that has kept me coming back all of these years is just the joy of being able to help people,” said Lorna. “If I see a need, I’ll always do it.”

It was acknowledged on Wednesday that the work SeniorNet Whitianga does would not be possible without the generosity of organisations like Whitianga Social Services providing the premises they run their Tuesday and Wednesday classes from and Mercury Bay Area School for allowing them to tap into the school’s WiFi free of charge. “Although we mostly fund ourselves, we also receive the occasional grant from Pub Charity and COGS (the Community Organisation Grants Scheme) to help with expenses such as having devices available for those who don’t have their own to use in their learning journey,” said Ady.

Lorna’s passing piece of advice for anyone thinking about joining SeniorNet is to do it. “If you’re scared or confused about technology, come see us,” she said.

Or as another member put it, “You will never find another two hour tech class for $8.”

Caption: Lorna Russell (left) and Sheryl Carruthers during Lorna’s farewell as SeniorNet administrator on Wednesday last week.

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