... Silver Stringers, MIT's Media Lab, COA share State Honors
We are delighted to announce that the Melrose Council on Aging won a ROSE Award for the Melrose Mirror, an Internet publication written and produced at the Milano Senior Center by "Silver Stringers". At the annual Mass. Association of Councils Meeting, Elder Affairs Secretary Lillian Glickman presented the special plaque to Jack Beckley, Executive Director and Eileen Olsen, Chairperson of the Melrose COA.
The ROSE Awards reflect the highest honor the Commonwealth bestows, recognizing the excellence of efforts by Councils in volunteer programs, media/community outreach, use of non-traditional resources and innovative programming.
The special honor is shared not only by the Stringers and the Melrose Council on Aging, but also by yet another co-sponsor, the Media Lab of MIT. The Media Lab provided the impetus for the program four years ago, and has provided guidance for the new group ever since. In the meantime, the Stringers have become a familiar and respected name on the Internet around the world.
The following is a reprint of the application that was submitted on behalf of the Council and the Melrose Mirror.
Melrose Council on Aging Media Community Outreach Application
This is a brief introduction to:
Natalie - age 71 - recovering from major brain surgery, still suffers some memory loss - failing eyesight -has published 6 poems and 4 articles
Jini - age 72 - limited in walking and using stairs, arthritic hands, serves as editor, writer and meetings secretary for group
Bill - age 88 - a product of the depression in his youth - rode the rails - worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), has been approached by firms to publish his articles
The above are just three of the 30 plus seniors who have become re-vitalized and re-generated through a new venture into the world of cyberspace by the Melrose Council On Aging. Affectionately called the "Silver Stringers", these adventurers, from ages 66 to 88, are writers, reporters, photographers, editors - whatever it takes to produce monthly on the Internet an on-line publication, aptly called the Melrose Mirror. (http://silverstringer.media.mit.edu).
As a charter member of this enthusiastic group that meets weekly in the senior center, I am privileged to describe below the project and the impact it has had on the Stringer volunteers and senior citizens in Melrose and its rippling effect throughout the world.
The Beginning Of A Journey
In June 1996, the Melrose Council and the MIT Media Lab joined together to establish the "Silver Stringer" pilot project. The objective: to create an on-line Internet publication to be produced by Melrose seniors, focusing on past and present events, people and stories about the Melrose community; and also broad enough to include poetry, food recipes, movie reviews, the Council on Aging newsletter Looking Ahead, etc. MIT supplied the computer hardware, a printer, scanner and digital camera, plus software and training to help the group get under way.
At the outset, none of the seniors had been on the 'Net' before and only two or three owned and used computers. Those who could not type were encouraged to write in long hand and volunteers were found who transcribed their stories onto the computer. MIT advisors helped edit articles and insert photos. In time the Stringers took over those tasks and, today they publish the Melrose Mirror each month with less and less supervision required. It is interesting to note that there are now 14 of the Stringers who own computers and most are connected to the Internet.
The Mirror draws readers from all over the world and e-mail letters are received on a regular basis from foreign countries such as Ireland, Scotland, Finland and Japan. The most loyal readers are current and former residents, many of whom have become contributors or have suggested articles that would be of interest in the future. The most popular articles seem to be stories describing experiences during the Great Depression, World War II and the Vietnam conflict.
Spreading The Word
Because of the unique aspects of this pilot program and its success to date, it is encouraging to note that the basic systems and software are being adopted by school systems nationally and in two local Senior communities. When residents of the Jack Satter House in Revere visited the Melrose site on-line, they were so enthusiastic about it that they started their own electronic publication entitled the Modum Mavens. We have now learned that the Council on Aging group in Danvers is planning to start their program this fall. The Silver Stringers will be delighted to lend their assistance where needed.
This exciting project has generated wide media interest and the Stringers have been featured in local newspapers, the Boston Globe and national magazines. These publications are listed below and copies of the articles are attached. Also included in the exhibits are samples of e-mail letters which reflect Mirror reader interest and the scope of our readership.
It is evident that the Melrose Council on Aging and the Senior Center have benefited from the favorable publicity and the great interest shown in duplicating this type of electronic newspaper/magazine. From a personal observation, I can also state that the program has enriched the Silver Stringers, who have found a new purpose and a sense of personal accomplishment at a very critical time in their lives.
Jim Driscoll, Silver Stringer
Melrose Council on Aging
1. A recent front page from the Melrose Mirror's website
2. MIT publication Frames features the Silver Stingers/Melrose Mirror
3. Article from Editor & Publisher called "Seniors Take Their News Seriously"
4. Boston Globe article called "Cyberlinks".
5. Senior Network News, Inc. feature article on the Melrose Mirror
6. Letters (email) to the Melrose Mirror