An increase in costs, coupled with a drop in income has left Hibiscus Coast SeniorNet in a difficult position.
The organisation, whose motto is ‘seniors helping seniors’, has been providing opportunities for older people to become confident users of computers on the Hibiscus Coast for 18 years.
National pulled the financial rug out from under SeniorNet two years ago when it re-prioritised adult learning. Previously that Government money, which was distributed to the 74 branches nationwide, subsidised computer courses so they were affordable and was also used to cover ongoing expenses such as rent.
Hibiscus Coast SeniorNet committee member Shirley McGinley says that rent is their biggest expense – currently they lease a building from the Anglican Church in Orewa to use as a Learning Centre.
She says since the Government subsidy came off, SeniorNet has put up fees for courses to try and cover the rent, but that cannot continue, as making the courses affordable for people on a limited income is key.
Anglican Church treasurer Linda Marshall says that SeniorNet recently advised the church that they wish to terminate their lease, which comes up at the end of the year. She says the church is working with the group and discussing flexibility in case they need to go earlier. “The church is still considering what it wants to do with the space, and no decisions have yet been made,” she says.
The need for affordable rent has seen SeniorNet approach the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board to see whether any Council-owned facilities are available. They have expressed interest in the former Red Cross building in Silverdale Pioneer Village.
“We have done a lot of leg work looking for a place, but so far nothing has come up,” Shirley says.
The group is also looking for sponsorship to put their finances on a more sustainable footing, as well as considering options that would allow them to use a smaller or shared space.
Shirley says learning about the online world makes things like bill paying and communication with family easier for seniors. She says it also helps reduce the feeling of isolation – even the classes themselves are an opportunity for social interaction.
If you can help, phone SeniorNet on 426 1509.