Category Archives: Ageing in Ireland

Sensational Silver Surfers 2018

I am always thrilled to get an invite to attend the annual Age Action Silver Surfer Awards! I attended this year’s awards on Tuesday last in the Eir building in Dublin. The sponsors are internet providers Open Eir who excelled in hosting a real celebration of older internet users and those who support them across the country.

I was absolutely blown away by the achievements of the nominees and in awe of the way that silver surfing has developed over the years. It was especially great to see so many  ‘older’older people feature as finalists! My very first Age Action Silver Surfer event was 7 years ago when I was a winner in my category. Since then the categories have changed, people are no longer on dial-up. With fast internet speeds available, smartphones and a myriad of apps, the internet has become even more user-friendly and life-enhancing for older people.

John Church, Age Action’s CEO, opened the proceedings welcoming the finalists who are challenging ageist stereotypes and making the internet work for them.

Carolann Lennon CEO of Eir commended the ways the finalists are embracing connectivity and building online communities as well as improving their own lives.

The Minister of State at the Department of Health with responsibility for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly T.D. began the ceremony. He said that by developing technological skills older people increase their independence and confidence. He praised the Age Action Getting Started programme and Eir for providing a nationwide mobile and broadband service that enhances lives. Hi

Broadcaster, fashion designer and TV  personality Brendan Courtney was the host for the awards ceremony.

The finalists in each of the six categories were loudly praised and warmly welcomed by the audience.

Getting Started IT Award – Awarded to an older person who is new to technology and
has overcome challenges to become an IT user.

Tom with his assistang and trusty Guide Dog!

Tom Langan from Renmore County Galway was the winner. Tom is totally blind yet he embraces technology in many ways – he listens to Audio Books on Audible, converts printed word to either sound or braille using KNFB reader, connects with sighted volunteers for visual assistance using  ‘Be my Eyes’ app and uses a dedicated GPS system suitable for visual impairment to get about. He encourages and assists other visually impaired people to get the most from their devices.

 

Hobbies on the Net Award

Margaret Byrne from Tallaght Co Dublin took this award for her crochet, jewellery and knitting activities on Facebook and her blog ‘The Crafty Irish Girl‘. She connects with the craft-making community and shares her patterns and ideas with her readers as well as providing online tutorials! She loves Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram. A busy, busy lady!

IT Tutor of the year.

Many individuals and groups volunteer with Age Action. They offer thousands of hours tuition on the Age Action Getting Started programme, helping older people to get online.  Individuals can be school going teenagers or seniors themselves or may be part of a workforce. There were three awards in this category. The Schools Award went to the girls of the Dominican College, Griffith Avenue, Dublin. I have a particular soft spot for intergenerational interaction and I was delighted for them!

The individual IT Tutor or of the year was Marie Hogan, from Birdhill Co Tipperary. Marie began tutoring when working in Milford Day Care centre and has continued her excellent work in the Tipperary Nursing home where she now works.

The winners of the Corporate Award were the volunteer tutors from the VMware company in County Cork who have given over 1500 hours of their spare time to the Getting Started programme.

All these volunteers are at the heart of the Age Action programme to help older people become comfortable users of technology.  Their contribution is priceless!

IT Enthusiast Award

This is for an older person who embraces the internet or technology with a sense of fun and adventure and 76-year-old Mary Dunne was the winner. Mary is a member of the Ardee County Louth Active Retirement Group and thanks to her, 80% of the membership of that group uses the internet! She handles group bookings in Ireland and across Europe and is a big fan of Pinterest when looking for ideas to decorate her local church. Her 6 children and 16 grandchildren are all on Whats App and Mary likes to use Bet Finder for backing horses! Mary is a promoter of internet safety and aims to alleviate fears of some older people around using the internet. A worthy winner!

The Community Champion Award is for an older person who uses the internet to the benefit of their community locally or nationally.

The very impressive winner of this award was 98-year old David Rowe from Sandyford in Dublin. David keeps a close eye on planning applications in his area on behalf of An Taisce. He prepares submissions for policymakers and contributes articles to his local community magazine as well as designing covers. He has edited 8 books since his ‘retirement’ and uses IT for the benefit of a number of voluntary organizations.  David is a real treasure in his community!

One of my favourite awards is the Golden IT Award for someone over the age of 80 who uses technology to enhance their life.

From Carrigtwohill, Co Cork Gordon Lawson came to grips with technology in his 80s. Now aged 99, Gordon enjoys staying downloading music, online banking and social media to stay in touch with friends and family. As Secretary of his local church group he keeps minutes up to date and has downloaded flight simulators to keep in touch with his former career as a pilot with the RAF!  Gordon loves to help others by using technology and he coordinates the delivery of the Meals on Wheels service locally, even delivering meals to people older than himself!

From these 6 category winners, an overall winner of the OpenEir Age Action Silver Surfer Award was selected. And the overall winner was…

Margaret Byrne, who had picked up the Hobbies on the Net Award!

IMG_3600.jpgNot only does she do her craftwork online, but she also campaigns for survivors of mesh implant complications through her online support group ‘Mesh Survivors Ireland’ which she co-founded. (Mesh implants were seen as a ‘cure’ for postnatal incontinence, but many women who received them have been incapacitated as a result). The group provides support to 250 members through online contact as well as at meetings and through support groups. Margaret’s campaigning has led the Minister for Health Simon Harris to agree to carry out an investigation into the impact of mesh implants.

 

Congratulations Margaret and congratulations to all the category winners and the nominees – all are truly inspirational as they continue to challenge the ageist stereotype. These wonderful role models are improving their own quality of life and make a huge difference to their communities.

I hesitated to make this post as the quality of the images is not great, but I decided to go ahead in celebration of the wonderful work of the Age Action Getting Started Programme. Age is no longer a barrier and if you or someone you know could benefit from free one to one tuition to broaden their horizons and to connect them to the world, please do contact Age Action by clicking on the link above.

For excellent images of the event see here.

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Filed under Age Action Ireland, Ageing in Ireland, Ageism, Digital Inclusion, Ireland

Mandatory Retirement

I was delighted to be interviewed by the Irish Independent journalist Kim Bielenberg last week for his feature on Jobs for the over 65s. My input was on the far-reaching effects of mandatory retirement at age 65 and how it affected me.

The full article can be read here.

 

 

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Filed under Age Action Ireland, Ageing in Ireland, Ageism, Ireland, Older Generation, Older workers, Retirement Age

Leaving the world behind #5 – The kindness of strangers

In the summer of 2016 I spent 6 weeks in a care facility following surgery on a multiple leg fracture. Six long weeks. Six weeks when I wondered what ever would become of me, six long weeks when I had time to contemplate what might lie ahead should I need care that could not be given by my family. Here I observed daily life in a rural nursing home/ care facility populated by elderly who were cared for by enthusiastic young girls and men, and by mostly Phillipino and immigrant nurses. This series of posts are my thoughts on those surreal weeks.

The kindness of strangers.

Totally immobile and in need of help with basics like food preparation, managing stairs, showering etc, the knowledge that I could not go home after surgery dawned slowly but surely. Added to this, a cocktail of pain relieving narcotics frequently resulted in ‘out of body’ type sensations, such as floating and light headedness, or something similar to having had one or two too many glasses of wine, so a solution had to be found. This being that I  would be transferred from hospital to a care facility for 6 weeks until such time as the  plaster cast could be removed and a boot put in its place to prevent weight bearing.

The transfer itself was interesting.  In and out of elevators and wheeled along endless hospital corridors by ambulance crews, we ended up in what looked like a back yard with bins and sundry stuff  lying about. It was lashing rain. The ambulance was parked some distance away and we had to make a dash for it. Brian and Kate were both deeply apologetic that I had to be run through the rain as they could not park any nearer the door! Apparently I was fortunate that this was high summer and not the depths of winter with hailstones and high winds to contend with.

The care facility turned out to be a nursing home populated mainly by elderly and staffed, in the main, by some of the loveliest and kindest human beings I have ever met. Mainly Phillipino men and women, the nursing staff were always smiling, always kind, always helpful, always concerned and always attentive. These people were thousands of miles from their families, yet appreciated that they had jobs, could work and look after the family at home in the Phillipines. One of the senior nurses had worked in Ireland for 15 years. Her husband and 8 children were at home, while the two youngest were with her in Ireland.  Another had been in Ireland for 8 years while his wife and children remained in the Phillipines. He tries to get home once a year to see them. A few of them also had other jobs, caring for elderly in their own home, or perhaps working a shift in another establishment so they could look after their families on the other side of the world.  If asked about their family at home, the tears would well up in their eyes, yet they always had a smile and you would never think that they had such sadness to deal with on a daily basis. 11,500 kilometers is a huge distance between spouses and children.

The care assistants were mostly local young girls, students working through their holidays from nursing or other courses at university. At a guess, the average age of the assistants was about 20 years, desperately young to be caring for older people I thought. But I was wrong. I have never seen such affection and gentleness as these young girls had for the people in their care.

An elderly man, hands gnarled and with his back almost doubled over with arthritis, holds on to one of them, shuffling along as she gently guides him to the comfort of a big armchair in the sitting room. His face is expressionless, he does not speak, yet she talks away to him, encouraging him to take every step.

A frail white haired lady with a walking frame is gently guided towards the dining room; the short journey along the corridor from her room taking all of five minutes but is filled with cheerful banter from the carer about the beautiful flowers by her bedside. There is no response.

Flowers. Guaranteed to lift the spirits. (Image the silver voice)


A girl, who I discovered is all of 19 years old, wheels a profoundly disabled man to lunch in his huge wheelchair with lots of equipment attached. She chats away in an imaginary one sided conversation, and you would hope that he heard what she is saying even if he cannot respond.

At the weekly singalong, a young girl delights a profoundly incapacitated man in a wheelchair by holding his face and singing ‘You are my sunshine’ at close range. Only his gladdened eyes seemed to register what was happening.

A man who has lost his mobile phone for the fifth time in as many hours is distracted by a young girl who invites him to go out to the garden to look at flowers. He forgets his phone and follows her obediently as she expertly distracts him from his huge concern about the phone which  is not in fact lost at all.

All of this personal care is in addition to changing beds, helping patients get up and dressed for the day, serving meals, showering patients, providing cups of tea, all so willingly done, often on 12 hours shifts and on the minimum wage of just over 9 Euro an hour.

disco

Disco Girls (By Dossier – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29792495)

At the end of their shift on a Saturday night these young girls change into their disco gear, apply their make up and false eyelashes, don short short skirts, do their hair ( one, a brunette in uniform even had long grey tresses), splash on the scent  and head off for a night on the town. They look the same as all the other young things at the pub or disco, but believe me these fabulous girls on minimum wage are making a huge difference to many lives!

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Filed under Ageing in Ireland, Emigrants from other countries, Ireland, Life in a Nursing Home, Seniors

Leaving the world behind #1 – the ancient mariner. 

In the summer of 2016 I spent 6 weeks in a care facility following surgery on a multiple leg fracture. Six long weeks. Six weeks when I wondered what ever would become of me, six long weeks when I had time to contemplate what might lie ahead should I need care that could not be given by my family. Here I observed daily life in a rural nursing home/ care facility populated by elderly who were cared for by enthusiastic young girls and men, and by mostly Phillipino and immigrant nurses. These are my thoughts on those surreal weeks.

The Ancient Mariner

Tall and distinguished, gold chain hanging from a waistcoat pocket, white shirt, with a perfectly knotted tie and wearing an exquisitely cut grey mohair suit, he arrives to the ‘library’. Probably in his 80s but looking younger, he is walking with a crutch, held backwards. He studies the library shelves, tilting his head slightly to one side to read titles on the vertical spines. Danielle Steele, Maeve Binchy, Patricia Cornwell do not stir any interest. Ian Rankin, Nelson DeMille, Andy McNab? No! The so-called Library consists of two lots of shelves in a chair lined room, with a table on one wall, covered in white linen.

He makes return trips on several consecutive days after his first arrival. The mohair suit and the beautifully knotted tie, to my surprise, are evident each day too. How long before these sartorial  items will be replaced by track suit bottoms and a tee shirt?

Sitting in the corner of a ‘library’ in a care facility, I observe the comings and goings of older people who must leave the world behind when they pass through the locked door. Some for weeks, some for longer, some forever. I wait for my broken leg to heal over possibly six weeks. In six weeks I hope to be on the outside again. Will he ever be back out there to choose his very own reading material, to peruse his own bookshelves for his reading of choice?

He turns and walks towards other shelves and I catch a glimpse of a hearing aid. Other residents are being escorted to the dining room for the last meal of the day, some walking with support, some in wheelchairs, some slowly making their own way on legs that are no longer strong. ‘What  do you like to read’ I ask, quite loudly. ‘SEX’ he responds, in as strong a voice as I have heard within these walls!  ‘ I don’t  think you will find much of that here’ I respond as he goes back to scrutinise the book shelves only feet away from a table shrouded in white linen, adorned with artificial flowers and a pair of  extinguished candles, that lies in wait for the weekly Wednesday morning mass.

SEX. Nothing could be further from life in a care home, in a nursing home, in a home for the elderly. Yet this man seeks it on the few miserable book shelves, populated by popular fiction, easy reading, chick lit, in all likelihood donated on a charitable basis by family of the patients.  What, after all would an older person want? What else could they be expected to read? Several times a day he returns to the bookshelves, almost in disbelief. Where are the books he is interested in? Where are the books suitable for a single former merchant navy seaman on these shelves beside the stark white linen altar, prepared for mass? Bent in disappointment, he swings his reversed crutch and klonks his way towards the dining room.

I need  to get out of here.

 

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Filed under Ageing in Ireland, Ireland, Living in Ireland, Older Generation, Seniors

The Silver Voice Finalist Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards 2016

Littlewoods-Blog-Awards-2016-Website-MPU_Finalist

It has come as a tremendous surprise to have been selected for the finals of the Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards 2016. To make the long list was great and then the thrill of making the short list in two categories was wonderful. But here we are now in the final of the Education and Science category! It is an honour indeed to be in the company of such excellent bloggers and I send congratulations to all them for  having made it to the finals. I also wish to acknowledge those who did not make the final cut – among them are some of Ireland’s most dedicated and expert bloggers who spend untold hours researching their subjects and generously getting their information on line to share with others! A huge ‘Bula Bos’ to them all!

As a senior citizen who was encouraged and advised by younger techies, I must say what a thrill it is to be in the final list. How I wish more of my generation in Ireland would join the blogosphere! We have stories to tell; we have a perspective that is uniquely ours; we have history to record; we have peers to encourage! And there are wonderful people all over the world who read blogs and who communicate and relate back. To each of them I want to say a big ‘thank you’ for the encouragement to carry on! To the judges who took time to pore over these pages and deemed them worthy of a place in the final, a huge thanks! The Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards Ireland 2016 Finalist badge will be worn with great pride on this site.

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Filed under Ageing in Ireland, Blogging, Ireland, Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards 2016

On Growing Old

In my previous post on Retirement: Smelling roses, enjoying brandy and learning to spit, I quoted the Jenny Joseph poem When I Grow Old.
My friend Chris has crafted her much more elegant and stylish aspirations into a thoughtful poem for the distant day when she arrives in that time in her life.  I think it’s a beautiful poem that deserves to be widely read!

WHEN I GROW OLD…

WHEN I GROW OLD….
When I grow old, I will not long for youth,
rather I will celebrate what has gone before
and look forward to what each day brings.
I will enjoy the company of myself, as well as that of family and friends..
of new discoveries, of revisiting old interests and developing new ones.
I will revel in choosing yes or no or maybe.. without guilt or reason.
I will enjoy friendships, both near and far….
I will take time to watch butterflies flit among the flowers
and listen to bird song every day…
I will drench myself in summer showers..
and sing in the moonlight…
I will write what I wish and read all I can…
Silken threads will be my palette
as I create simple things of beauty…
I will surround myself with roses and violets and daisies
I will bake at midnight if I wish
and eat fruit and cream for tea…
When I grow old, I will be me…
 (c)Crissouli Jan 24, 2016
Inspired by the post of my friend… Angela…
Thank you Chris!
You can read more of her musings at The Back Fence of Genealogy .

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Filed under Ageing in Ireland, Healthy Living, Ireland, Older & Bolder, Older Generation, Retirement Age, Seniors