|Throughout New Hampshire—Of the 18 Neighborhood Networks centers in the state of New Hampshire, 15 are located on senior properties managed by Southern New Hampshire Services, Inc. (SNHS). The SNHS New Hampshire network of centers stretches from Pittsburg, the state's northernmost town located minutes away from the Canadian border, to Nashua, the state's second largest city that is miles from the New Hampshire/Massachusetts state line. Together, these centers serve the residents of more than 600 apartments and provide residents access to more than 20 computers. From one end of the state to the other, SNHS is delivering technology access to seniors living in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-insured and -assisted housing communities.
All Part of the Plan
With funding from a variety of sources, including federal and state grants and local organizations, SNHS is committed to helping residents secure and retain meaningful employment, attain an adequate education, and make better use of available income. The organization also seeks to reduce the causes of poverty within a community; to meet urgent and immediate individual and family needs, including health, nutrition, housing and employment-related assistance; and to address the problems and barriers to self-sufficiency. One way SNHS fulfills this mission is by opening Neighborhood Networks centers on many of the properties it manages.
"When a housing community is being built, SNHS makes sure that each property's community room includes ample space for a Neighborhood Networks center that delivers access to computers to residents who otherwise may not have the opportunity to learn and take advantage of technology. In addition, the computers help us in our efforts to alleviate elderly isolation, offer continual learning opportunities for personal development, and provide access to up-to-date resources. We are also discovering that the computer centers are helping us to attract more residents. Many senior housing communities do not offer an onsite computer center. Because the center is part of the start-up costs, it becomes a small expense that offers big payoffs for everyone," explained Laurie Palmeira, a housing manager for SNHS.
Reaching Out and Tuning In
Because the Neighborhood Networks centers are located in each property's community room, the centers are open to residents 24 hours a day, seven days a week. After an initial group introduction to computer basics, classes and training are offered on a periodic basis. Center managers and volunteers also provide one-on-one training as requested.
"Some of our centers work with local high schools and colleges to receive interns who teach computer skills classes. For example, students from St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, teach computer skills to residents at the Sundance Village Neighborhood Networks Center and the Derryfield Village Neighborhood Networks Center. The students, who are working at the centers as part of a service-learning course, each spend about three hours a week at the centers. The centers are already working with the director of St. Anselm's service-learning program to expand the level of support offered by the interns to include an e-mail pal program, card making, and PhotoShop classes," described Palmeira.
Other SNHS-managed centers work with local businesses and organizations to obtain computer support. In February 2007, Frisbie Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New Hampshire, donated six new computers to SNHS after being notified about the center's need by Dr. Charles Richmond from the Institute on Gero-technology. These computers were placed in the Chaplain Adrien Chasse Village Neighborhood Networks Center, the Laurel Terrace Neighborhood Networks Center, and the Mayor Roland Roberge Manor Neighborhood Networks Center. The hospital also provides routine equipment checks.
To ensure that the residents make good use of the new equipment, Dr. Richmond taught an introduction to computers class to eight residents over a two-week period. Dr. Richmond provided an illustrated handbook that each resident used as a reference.
"Residents may have some reservations about learning to use the computer in the beginning, but they quickly overcome them. Then, they can't live without the computers. Residents go online to read the newspaper, communicate with family and friends, and access health information. We're working to build partnerships with local businesses and organizations so that we can offer more programs and cover the costs that go with operating the computer centers, such as ink cartridges and paper. The creation of the Neighborhood Networks centers has had a very positive impact on our residents. In the future, we hope to add more computers at each property. We're going to have to if we're going to keep up with the demand from residents," concluded Palmeira.
For more information about Neighborhood Networks Centers in New Hampshire, contact:
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Manchester Field Office
275 Chestnut Street, 4th Floor
Manchester, NH 03101
(603) 666-7510 x3031
For more information about the Neighborhood Networks centers mentioned in this story, contact:
Southern New Hampshire Services, Inc.