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Bucking the trend: Expanding online access for elderly nuns

Bucking the trend: Expanding online access for elderly nuns - (26-03-2014)

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Photo: Sister Margaret Mary Bielinski, who turns 91 next month, is one of many Benedictine Sisters bucking the national trend of Internet use among the elderly.

According to a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center, 44 percent of Americans aged 65 and older do not use the Internet, mostly due to lack of interest or the perceived inability to use technology. Thanks to a recent renovation, elderly members of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde are bucking that national trend.

Our Lady of Rickenbach, the community’s healthcare facility that is home to 21 of its older members, has added computers to increase online access to activities such as email, games and educational resources.

“All but three or four of our residents use the Internet several times a week. Some go online every day,” facility director Sister Virginia Anne Argenziano, OSB said. “As our older Sisters became more computer literate over the years, we realized there was a greater need to provide access to online resources.”

An older computer was moved to the facility's library, and two computers were added to an existing one in what Sister Virginia Anne calls the Correspondence Room, a hub for online access, writing and creating greeting cards. 

The Sisters’ interest in venturing online isn’t too surprising, considering many of them have earned a variety of educational degrees before and after their entrance into the monastery.

Take for example, Sister Maureen Truland, OSB, 88 years young with a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees who is enjoying the increased access to the Internet.

“I really like using email to communicate with friends, one friend in particular,” she said. “It is so lovely to be able to do this.”

Sister Margaret Mary Bielinski, OSB, who turns 91 next month, is having a terrific time emailing friends and family. “I also use it for ministry, sharing God’s word with those I love,” she said.

In addition to connecting with people and places outside the monastic walls, Sister Virginia Anne points out another positive.

“Studies show that keeping your brain active helps ward off memory-sensitive issues such as dementia in the elderly,” she said. “These types of activities, whether it’s reading online journals or playing card games, help boost brain power.”

Monks never really retire, as a life to devoted to Christ is a lifetime endeavor. In Our Lady of Rickenbach, most residents no longer hold daily jobs within the monastery, but they still gather daily for Mass and are engaged in prayer throughout their day.

“Now, thanks to amazing courage to overcome any fear or anxiety of technology, they have another resource to share their ministry and express their love of Christ,” Sister Virginia Anne said.

(Cited: Pew Internet and American Life Study, 2013)