S.F.s Montefiore opens its first online resource center

Using antique scissors from pre-state Palestine handed down to her from her husband's grandfather, Montefiore Senior Center board president Jean Weiner cut the ribbon at the center's new Online Resource Center last month.

The special scissors marked a special occasion. For the first time, the 1,000 members of the San Francisco center will be able to access information the high-tech way.

They will, for example, be able to explore housing options for seniors, access financial advice, and find information on such health and psychological issues as stress, physical exercise, memory loss, loneliness and depression. The computer database was conceived and compiled entirely by Montefiore board members, who culled their information from library research, computer databases, personal interviews and personal experience.

The center is "very exciting," said Ada Burko, Montefiore director, largely because "it was something initiated by the older adults themselves."

That's significant, she said, because "we find a lot that professionals define needs of a certain population, but this is the population itself defining their own needs and saying `this is how we're going to meet this need.'"

The online center, which opened earlier this month, currently consists of one computer with a CD-ROM, a printer and a modem. Eventually, that computer will not only contain listings of resources, but will link to one of the various interactive online services now available.

In the planning stages are online forums enabling seniors to find companions and dates . In addition, the senior center will offer classes for those interested in learning the ins and outs of computers.

"We hope to expand it," Weiner said, "because we honestly feel that with the baby boom population now in their fifties, they're just about ready to start moving into what we call `mature adults.' We feel this is something they would be interested in."

A number of trained Montefiore volunteers, Weiner added, will be on hand at the new online center not only to help members access material, but to help them interpret it.

"We want to provide a personal touch," Weiner said. "We will meet individually with each of the clients who comes in."

At last month's ribbon-cutting ceremony for the online center, which took place the same day as other celebrations marking Montefiore's 45th anniversary, State Sen. Milton Marks attended the ceremony and presented an official resolution commending Montefiore for its new addition. Also attending was Zev Hymowitz, executive director of the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, where Montefiore is housed.

For information on Montefiore's new Online Resource Center, call (415) 292-1261.