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The aged of the Internet
Social networking sites arent just for the generation that grew up with blogs and instant messaging
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Jan Rosenthal, left, friend Zita Goldberg, center, and Rosenthal's daughter Patti Atwill meet for a birthday lunch at Rudolph's in Gainesville. The two old friends reunited after 50 years when Rosenthal's daughter searched for Goldberg on the Internet.

0921OLDWEBAUD

New York native Jan Rosenthal talks about her childhood friend Zita Goldberg with whom she recently reconnected. Rosenthal's daughter found Goldberg through the Internet.

Older generations may be used to and more comfortable with low-tech living, but computers — and particularly the Internet — can open doors that might even amaze them.

Such was the case with Jan Rosenthal and Zita Goldberg, a couple of area residents who were close childhood friends in the New York City borough of Brooklyn.

Rosenthal, who lives in Gainesville, had been wondering for decades what had happened to her long-lost friend when her daughter, Patti Atwill, also of Gainesville, decided to do a little digging on the Web.

Atwill, who found an address for a Zita Goldberg in Cumming, "wanted to surprise me, so she went to the house," Rosenthal said.

Atwill left a card with a note attached and later received a call from Goldberg.

With excitement in her voice, Rosenthal described how she and her daughter went to Goldberg’s house in July for the reunion. A photograph from that day shows the two side by side and smiling broadly.

"From then on, we’ve been having lunch like once a week, talking about old times and so happy we have some roots from our childhood," Rosenthal said. "And all because of a computer."

Middle-age and older folks are finding that the Internet and particularly social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, aren’t just for people who have grown up with laptops and blogospheres.

Gainesville State College’s Continuing Education department has scheduled adult computer classes this fall, with the aim toward social networking sites.

One of the classes focuses more on parents keeping a close eye on their children’s online activities. Another one, however, examines how to "Put Facebook & MySpace to Work for Your Business or Organization."

How the classes will go over is yet to be seen.

"This is the first time we’ve offered it, so I don’t really have a feel yet," said Kim Savage, program coordinator for the department.

The college has conducted basic Internet and e-mail classes, which have drawn typically smaller, older crowds, she added.

But those classes "haven’t touched on

MySpace or anything like that," Savage said.

Ann Bryant with Coldwell Banker Heritage Real Estate in Gainesville said she primarily started her Facebook account as a way to extend her business ventures.

"I read about in a Realtor magazine how agents were joining Facebook for networking purposes," she said. "I called a young friend (and asked) if she knew anything about the program."

The friend "did not encourage me to participate as she felt it was more for young folks," said Bryant, 66.

But she laughed off the response.

"She’s a very good friend. I think she was thinking it was more of a social network."

After consulting with some young co-workers, she went about setting up a Facebook account.

"I have found that I am renewing friendships, getting exposure with fellow Realtors in all parts of the country and it’s fun," Bryant said.

She added, "I use it more for business ... to contact other agents in other areas of the world. I use it for social (purposes) too, but that was not my purpose in setting it up."

Bryant said she was at a funeral home in Rome last week and ran into someone she knew who "had just asked me to be her friend" on Facebook.

"We laughed and joked about being friends on Facebook," Bryant said.

She said she would encourage older people to open up social-networking accounts as a way to hook up with friends from their past.

Although not through such a site, Rosenthal and Goldberg certainly have reconnected, meeting each other frequently.

With both preferring to keep their ages private, Rosenthal took Goldberg last week to Rudolph’s restaurant on Green Street in Gainesville to celebrate her friend’s birthday.

"They either reminisce or make up new stuff," Atwill said, drawing laughter from the pair. "I think it’s wonderful, because my mother doesn’t have a lot of connections from (her youth)."

"From my olden days," Rosenthal interjected.

Goldberg said because of her weak eyesight she doesn’t have much use for computers. And Rosenthal doesn’t have Internet access at her home but said she enjoys it when visiting her daughter, who lives nearby.

"When I was at my daughter’s house living there, I used to use it to e-mail everybody and look up things," she said.

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