- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2002

RICHMOND Betty Newell is not a computer expert, but put her on the SeniorNavigator Web site and she acts like one.
Miss Newell uses the Web site to find rides for people through the Community Association for Rural Transportation (CART), a nonprofit transportation provider that serves low-income and elderly riders and riders with disabilities.
"You don't have to be a techie to use it," she said.
SeniorNavigator.com is an Internet guide to link seniors, their families and caregivers with information on health and aging.
The Web site, co-founded by the Virginia Health Care Foundation and the AOL Time Warner Foundation, contains a database of more than 17,000 community-based services across the state.
The site is both high-tech and high-touch, said Debbie Frett, SeniorNavigator executive director.
Users can search for services and providers by ZIP code. They also can seek answers to medical questions, learn about power of attorney or research nursing homes or assisted-living facilities.
Unlike traditional Web sites, SeniorNavigator offers a personal touch: About 5,500 trained volunteers across the state help seniors without computers use the site.
"It's a wonderful way for us to disseminate information," said Miss Newell, a SeniorNavigator who frequently refers CART riders to the site.
Miss Newell said she personally has benefited from the site as well, such as the time she wanted to research knee surgery.
"There have been questions I've had that I could've gotten somewhere else, but I've gone to the SeniorNavigator site just because it's so easy to use and it's so credible," she said.
While much of the same information on the site can be found at senior centers, it is available only during normal business hours, she said.
The site also contains additional information, such as Medicare and Medicaid availability and whether a medical provider is accepting new patients, Miss Frett said.
She said the site has received about 140,000 visits since its February debut, an average of 4,000 hits per week. The average visitor spends about 25 minutes on the site per session.
Lois Brittell, a registered nurse at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital in Fairfax, uses the site almost daily to help patients. As a discharge planner, she must find nursing home placement and social service resources for them.
"I have found resources that I wasn't totally aware of in the community," Miss Brittell said. "Every time I use it, I find something new."
She has discovered that many of the site's resources can be translated into other languages for patients who don't speak English.
Miss Brittell would like to see SeniorNavigator expand on a national level. "I wish everyone could have something like this," she added.
"Obviously, there are aspects of this that we think could be replicated" on a larger scale, Miss Frett said, citing programs for children and the disabled that could overlap with existing services.
But for now, SeniorNavigator will continue expanding its presence in Virginia.
"We're trying to reach all Virginians folks with and without computers to get the information to the people who need it most," Miss Frett said.

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