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CNN Today

Seniors Surfing the Web: Life is Changing for the Elderly in Nursing Homes

Aired January 19, 2000 - 1:57 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Life in a nursing home or assisted living facility can be lonely. Friends and family may be too busy to stop by or even call. But e-mail only takes an instant, and that Internet instant can be life changing for some older folks.

Here's CNN's Don Knapp.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID LANSDALE, GERIATRICS EXPERT: So let's go down one more, push your enter key.

DON KNAPP, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): David Lansdale's found a way to spark up the lives of the elderly. He gets them wired to the Internet.

LANSDALE: Now one more. Now type "au."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought maybe I was through with life, I was ready for a rocking chair because I was 86 years old, and I haven't found the rocking chair yet.

KNAPP: The average age of Lansdale's students is around 68. All are in nursing or assisted care homes. He used family relationships to introduce them to the Web.

LANSDALE: Here they are in California, a family was back in New York. The opportunity for them to connect, to cross that time and space, was an incredibly-precious opportunity to them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hear you are so beautiful.

KNAPP: Lillian Sher (ph) dictates an e-mail to a newborn great granddaughter. Working with one another, the seniors learn as a group, to both master the Internet and overcome what Lansdale calls the maladies of the institutionalized: loneliness, helplessness, boredom and cognitive decline.

MARY HARVEY, WEB SURFER: Bingo just doesn't appeal to me, but this does. Believe me, this does.

(LAUGHTER)

KNAPP: Ninety-four year-old Ruth Hyman is a star pupil and an instructor.

RUTH HYMAN, INTERNET INSTRUCTOR: When I sent a letter to my grandchildren, a great grandchildren, they hanged it up in their offices, just like I used to hang their drawings on my refrigerator.

LANSDALE: There's a collective benefit, there is an element of -- a tremendous element of therapy. And remember that we started as a support group.

DIXON MOOREHOUSE, WEB SURFER: I just wished I was 15 years old and getting to learn all this.

LANSDALE: The seniors call their weekly meetings Monday Night Live, and many say it's given them new life.

HYMAN: Three years ago they told me I wasn't going to live, but I showed them. I got on the Web and got work, and I worked ever since.

KNAPP: Don Knapp, CNN, Palo Alto, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATERS: Good for her.

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