The 10th annual Age Action Silver Surfer awards were held yesterday at Dublin City University (DCU) and what an inspiring event it was! The image of the overall winner 95 year old Florence McGillicuddy is all over the newspapers today. He was the winner of the Golden IT category for people over 85 years of age, and then went on to take the ultimate prize. Flor is a ‘grandad’ to boys at Ballyroan School in Dublin. He runs a blog at grandadonline.com on which he records his memoirs for his young friends. There you will find some of his activities and ways in which he interacts with the scholars. I think this must surely rank as the most inspirational winner of the title to date. It would be good to see similar inter generational projects all lover the country!
An Acorn tablet was presented to each winner. It is designed specially for older users to help overcome social isolation and open up communications using safe and secure platforms. It is designed around secure Apps covering Independence, Health, Finance, Communications and Security and has been extensively tested by groups of older users. It sounds to me like a wonderful idea and will be most welcome when it comes to the market in July. Another sponsor of the awards was Doro Phones – smartphones designed with older users in mind, another splendid idea. It’s great to see the technological needs of older people being facilitated by these companies.
DCU is a particularly appropriate venue for these awards as it was the world’s first Age Friendly University. The President of DCU, Prof. Brian MacCraith, whose mother will reach her 100th birthday this week, established the ‘Age Friendly’ status in 2012 and is proud of the fact that this model has now been replicated in 50 other establishments across the world.
The entire event was presided over by the very genial radio personality Shay Byrne who was chivalrous and delightfully entertaining. An excellent choice as host! Paddy Connolly, CEO of Age Action reinforced the main messages of the organization – challenging stereotypes, embracing new challenges and empowering older people.
So, back to the real stars of the show- the finalists!.
First up was the category for people who have just discovered IT and have enhanced their lives as a result.
Sr Barbara Molloy hails from Galway and had to leave her work in Egypt when her congregation considered it unsafe for her to remain. On her return to Ireland she got online and found she could keep in touch with friends she had to leave behind when she mastered email and apps.
Patrick Douglas from Clonmel has discovered internet technology and uses it to keep up with his former army colleagues who served in the Lebanon.
From Limerick, we met Patrick Begley who does work with the Southhill Community and George Virgo who hails from Cork .
Eleanor Lynch from Togher came out winner. Eleanor was profoundly deaf but following a cochlear implant she has embraced technology to enhance her life. She is now never far from her phone and her laptop. Well done Eleanor!
The next category ‘Hobbies on the Net’ had some fascinating finalists!
81-year -old Stan Philips from Ferrybank uses his digital skills to enhance his poetry and music collections, while Corkman Tim Hegarty has taken up Furniture Restoration since retirement and uses music and TED talks to keep him motivated while he works. 83-year-old Kevin McDermott has a body of work on Youtube and the Liberties History Group, ranging in age from 60 to 89, research local history and genealogy and are currently undertaking a project on Quakers in their very old part of Dublin. All are doing excellent work, but the winners chose The Three Paddys from Mallow as winners. Paddy McAuliffe, Tobin and Buckley learned filming and editing skills that they now use to film and record the life stories of local residents. Excellent work!
The Community Champion IT Award brought finalists from Meath, where Ita Healy does trojan work for the age friendly town of Trim, from Dublin where Roderick Hanley is the chief ‘techy’ person in Kiltipper Woods Residential Centre. Sr Catherine Kelly, an 82 year old in Kilcock Co Kidare has her community up to speed with laptops and ipads and smart phones while in Millstreet Co Cork Séan Radley runs the Millstreet .ie website as well as the local museum when he is not busy editing music and being an historian. Margaret Culloty, 77, from Co Kerry was the winner in this category for her selfless work in keeping online records for over 3,000 participants in the Kerry Community Games. Well done Margaret!
Tutors are vitally important to Age Action as they are the crucial links for overcoming digital exclusion in older people. We have two categories here – Tutor(s) of the Year had some impressive contenders for the award. Brian Lennox of Dublin has guided 79 learners on the Getting Started programe, as well as volunteering at the LauraLyn childrens hospice. We then heard about Michael Dangerfield from Malahide who has patiently steered 72 Getting Started students through the course and Leslie Thornton who has tutored 88 older people. The dedicated staff of Deloitte Ireland have shared their expertise with over 100 older learners. Amazing and life changing contributions from them all! The winner of this category was Sr Margaret Kiely a retired addiction Councillor and now an Age Action volunteer, based in Cork who enthusiastically helps older learners, keeps excellent records and produces certificates for those who complete the courses.
Schools are also involved in upskilling older people – Transition year students in 27 schools have so far had 680 trainees. It was so nice to see so many young people at this event this year and huge thank you to all of them! The schools making it to the short list were Bantry Community College in Co Cork, Newpark Comprehensive in Blackrock Co Dublin, aided and abetted by the Gardaí from Blackrock police station. The title of Schools IT Tutors of the year went to the students of Bandon Grammar School- well done to them!
Huge thanks to Age Action and all their sponsors for making this such a wonderfully positive event, and a thousand congratulations to all those finalists who have inspired us all.