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Siblings Help Seniors Connect To The Digital World

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Credit: AP

Credit: AP

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FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — Manbir and Sukhi Gulati want to change your life.

Inspired by teaching their grandmother, the brother-and-sister team are reaching out to help the local senior citizen community with SeniorNet America Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps senior citizens connect to the digital world.

Just 14 months apart in age, Manbir and Sukhi are close, like twins, they said. Working together comes easily to the siblings, who each have specific roles in the company — Manbir, 15, president and instructor of the program, handles teaching and maintenance; Sukhi, 16, director and liaison, is the public relations coordinator, providing outreach to seniors.

“Our fields of study are diametrically opposed, which actually helps us work well together,” Sukhi said. “When we come together, we’re a pretty good team.”

Sukhi describes SeniorNet as both a source of fundamental computer literacy and a way to provide computers to those who don’t have one.

But before they can take their company any further, they need resources to get the company up and running.

“It is an entity, but since it is a nonprofit organization, the fuel is essentially the community,” Sukhi said.

The nonprofit is built on a three-tiered goal: direct interaction with seniors, including regular teaching workshops; follow-up training and available support; and a constant resource for new computers and additional help.

When the Gulatis introduced their grandmother to the Internet, they used a simple, intuitive interface of common links and big buttons.

Now, they are taking their system on the road, hoping to reach retirement communities and help seniors connect to the Internet with an aggregated website of links such as “news,” ”medicine,” ”banking” and “search.”

The teenagers are willing to put whatever it takes into their company, even sacrificing a new car and time for normal teen activities to make sure seniors are getting the help they want, Manbir said.

A work in progress, SeniorNet has been an idea mulled over by the siblings for a long time.

“We’ve had the idea for a while,” Sukhi said. “We finally decided to act on this idea.”

For now, Manbir and Sukhi will manage their organization part-time until the school year ends.

This summer, they will devote more of their time to working with seniors on a more regular basis.

“We want grandparents and kids to be in touch again,” Sukhi said.

Still under construction, the SeniorNet America website will be accessible at www.seniorsnetworked.com.

The Frederick News-Post

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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