Tag Archives: Age Action

Celebrating Age with Silver Surfers

Flor McGillicuddy – Grandad in Chief with the boys from Ballyroan School

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.

The President of Dublin City University, Professor Brian MacCraith

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 who has found a new lease of life using IT.

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!

Margaret Culloty making a huge difference to Co Kerry

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!

Sr Margaret Kiely is a volunteer wtih Age Action in Cork

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.

Bandon Grammar School who pass on valuable IT skills to older people in their community.

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.

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

Retirement: A lament

This is the second of a trilogy of posts about my personal experience of mandatory retirement.

In my earlier post I mentioned that in Ireland Irish Labour T.D.(Member of Parliament) Anne Ferris, has tabled a Bill to abolish the mandatory retirement age. This Bill would prohibit employers imposing compulsory retirement ages on their employees. As a member of Age Action, I was asked to make a submission at the Public Hearings of the Committee stage of the Bill at Leinster House, the seat of our Parliament, the Oireachtas. This post can be seen here. Telling my story of compulsory retirement in Leinster House in November last, stirred painful memories of that difficult time, yet it was a bittersweet occasion. For the very first time, here I was, in a roomful of people who did not necessarily see retirement always as a happy huggy joyful state, but rather one that can create problems for many. It certainly was empowering to be there with people who shared my view or, at least wished to hear about the impact of compulsory retirement on someone forced to leave a job simply because of a birthday.

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Almost all discourse around retirement is that it’s ‘A Wonderful Thing’, a much yearned-for blissful state, that fills dreams for years leading up to the happy day. A quick Google search yields happy, light-hearted images of the joys and preoccupations of retirement, as can be seen in these illustrations. It’s all about having fun and doing fabulous things,or perhaps doing nothing at all, if that is more meaningful!

Only a few months ago I met a former colleague on the street in Limerick. ‘Oh’, she gushed, ‘Are you loving being retired? Are you having a fabulous time? Oh, how lucky you are not to have to go in to ‘that place’ every day!’ She meant very well and was being kind, but was rather taken aback and puzzled at my response. I am tired of the pretence and ‘going along’ with the happy chirpy notion of retirement that is NOT my experience, I responded: ‘None of the above’. I loved working there, I miss my friends and I miss the money’. The poor woman did not know what to say –  ‘Ah, you don’t mean that at all’, she said. But I did mean every word of it for that is the reality of MY retirement.

d7ae2973ca013f30fb42ad3867d35c82There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that many people, possibly the most, cannot wait for retirement. With children reared and gone and the mortgage paid off,the prospect of many years of hard work coming to an end is very appealing. This was and is particularly true in my workplace,where colleagues who had been in service for decades,often since leaving school or college,are eager for retirement after 40 years service,or very close to it. Dreams of travelling, doing voluntary work, spending more time with friends and family,long weeks soaking up summer sunshine, all on the list of new adventures just waiting to be enjoyed.

But not by all. In the early days of the then New Year of 2013, I had feelings of fear and dread that pervaded my every waking moment. The realization that my working life would grind to a halt in just three months filled me with panic. Anyone facing compulsory retirement and who lacks the means to continue in a comfortable lifestyle will await the dreaded date and the official dismissal letter with a heavy heart. Rather than being an occasion for celebration, it is in reality a very dark time. How would I pay the mortgage and Health Insurance? How could I manage Doctors bills and carry out repairs to the house? How would I keep warm all day-long at home when I was used to being in a comfortable centrally heated office? How would I meet other financial commitments? Would I have enough money for food, and the right type of food, to keep me well?  Could I afford to run a car? All these things milled about in my head for weeks and months, gnawing away at me, keeping me awake at night. The bank was unsympathetic about mortgage repayments, which would run for some years after my reduction in pay. They would, they said, deal with any arrears issues as they arose but sent me out a letter with heavy black print stating that I could lose my home if mortgage payments were not made as they fell due. Not only that, they also advised that I was already in arrears and every few weeks for a period of 15 months the threatening letters arrived, in spite of phone calls and hours of discussion. As it turned out they had made a mistake and there were no arrears, but that did not even warrant an apology.

But it was not only about loss of income.The loss of  a way of life, the daily interaction with friends and colleagues was of equal importance to me. Living alone in a rural location I had all the peace and quiet I needed after work or at weekends. Working in an office with over 500 people was rather like living in a small village for part of my day and I enjoyed the camaraderie of it all. Not only that, I also enjoyed the daily drive of 45 minutes or so each way, to and from the office.

In March 2013, in the days following compulsory retirement from my job of almost 20 years, I wrote the post below.  There are many aspects to forced retirement, similar I daresay to compulsory redundancy. The difference is that my job still existed, but I was no longer eligible to do what I had done well for a long number of years simply because it was my birthday. the prospects of finding work in Ireland once you have passed the age of 55 are practically non-existent. The terrible reality is that this ageist stance by employers is accepted as being ‘ok’. And the state is the worst offender. In 2008 Ireland’s most experienced detective, Assistant Commissioner Martin Donnellan mounted a High Court challenge to the law that made him retire at age 60. He lost.

The loss to me was at many levels, financial for sure, and at a social and personal level that bewildered me for a long time afterwards.  These were my thoughts at that time. The original post can be seen here.

The rising sun was turning the sky the deepest reddish pink as it edged towards the horizon to the east. I watched it for almost the entire journey and wondered how long it might be before I travel this road again and witness the dawn.There was no other traffic at this  early hour, so I was able to drive reasonably slowly to savour the journey in the quiet of this cold, clear  spring morning.

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The River Maigue and Castle Desmond in September

Crossing the bridge on the River Maigue has been a highlight of my life on each  morning that I have commuted across here for the past 20 years. Sometimes it is mysteriously misty, sometimes it is golden and lit by the rising sun, sometimes it is moonlit, most times it is just ordinarily beautiful.

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River Maigue and Desmond Castle in August

I  arrived very early to the office as there were things I needed to do before the buzz of new arrivals – drawers to be emptied, confidential papers to be shredded, files to be organized and a day’s  work to be done.  I (exceptionally!) walked up the 8 flights of stairs to  take a look again at the streetscape below. I continued on to the top floor  to get a cup of coffee and to look east wards again at the rose coloured  sky forming a beautiful canvas for the tall spire of St John’s Cathedral and the tops of the city buildings.

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The River Shannon on a beautiful misty morning

I have had an extraordinary bonus of enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery in Ireland every time  I looked up from my desk to see the River Shannon coursing below.

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The moody and ever-changing River Shannon flows by my office

I had developed a habit in recent times of taking photographs, as the River looks different almost every time you look at it.

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The Shannon is a very fast flowing river. The Abbey River flows into it on the lower right.

Being tidal, the river is constantly changing, rising and falling some 18 feet twice a day. In winter when there is heavy rain we may not see the stony river bed for months on end.

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Morning light on the Shannon

Colleagues arrived. There was debate about the news items of the day that impinge on everyone, including the new property tax – the pincers tightening yet again! Morale was not high on that particular day, but after some light-hearted banter we ‘got on with it’. I was surprisingly busy with phone calls to make, notes to write up.

 

View from my desk. (Copyright A .Gallagher)

View from my desk.

So this was it! One of my lunch group reminded me that it was time for lunch and I said that I had to pop out and that  I might be a while. (I was doing some research on Antarctic Explorers then , and ‘borrowed’ the quote!).

At about 1.45 pm I logged out of my computer, gathered up my security passes, placed them in an envelope, put on  my coat and walked away from my good friends, and hundreds of colleagues (most great, many very good and a small forgettable  few).  I was  walking away from a job that I loved, with tons of mental stimulation, camaraderie and social interaction as well as  wonderful scenery and the daily joyrides that were my commute to and from work. I had already hinted to close friends that they would not be given advance notice of my exact day of departure, and I was grateful that my managers respected my need for privacy. So I was able to ‘exit’ quietly.

Mandatory retirement is no longer allowed in many countries. Most people can now work for as long as they want, without fear of discrimination but here in Ireland it is ‘statutory’ for some employees who commenced employment prior to 2004 to retire at age 65.  It seems extraordinary that a person can go to bed at age 64 as an asset to the workforce, doing a good job efficiently and well for many years, yet wake up on their 65th birthday as unemployable. This is of particular significance in a country that is in the throes of an economic depression with huge numbers of people seeking non-existent jobs. Of course my ‘mandatory’ departure date did not come as any surprise. Long term contingencies were very quickly rendered useless however by the rapidly changing  social and economic conditions in Ireland in recent years – not least of which has been that my once geographically  closest family members have relocated to a place 10,000 miles away.

Officially ‘on holiday’ for another week, I plan on spending that time lamenting the loss of the social interaction of a large office and delighting in the friendships I made there. It is too early to reinvent – time enough for that in the weeks and months ahead. For now, I will relish the light-hearted moments and laughter that were bound to come along every day, as well as the quippy and often black humour that abounded in the place.

I will  recall the always cheerful early morning  greeting of the delightful woman in the canteen, for whom nothing was too much trouble! I will delight in the memory of companionship at early coffee, when you would not know who might happen along on an early break, and I will still ‘hear’ the very familiar footsteps of a special friend coming along the corridor, always looking beautiful and armed with her designer shopping bag and with her lively daily greeting of ‘Bonj’ before she rushed away to her ‘career’.

At lunch, we had time to bond – shepherded along by our ever precise and delightful clock-watcher, always in good humour and who managed to organize us all in the most charming way. Bringing up the rear was  our ‘Drama Queen’ who regaled us with stories ranging from her amateur drama society escapades to a too-close ‘encounter’ with shampoo on a shop floor, to the hazards of Roman toe ( or was it Greek?). These two, together with the above mentioned career girl and myself made up the hardcore lunch table. If we arrived slightly early we might join our ever thoughtful, ever smiling, quietly spoken elegant and wise friend, who always has time for whoever is in her presence.  From time to time we would be joined by the  ever-cheerful woman of the West  with the hearty laugh and oodles of common sense, or the witty ‘cuttie’ (girl) from further north who always had a sideways but pleasant view on life to make us smile. Sometimes another quiet but stalwart friend might join us – IF she remembered it was lunchtime – but invariably 20 minutes late! There are several others who fall into the ‘very special’ category and whose company was always well worth seeking out and one or two ‘long distance’ colleagues who had left our particular place. These too are a huge loss to me, and I am forever grateful for all of them.

I will miss all of this. I will miss these very special friends who were part of my days, part of my weeks, part of my joys, part of my tribulations, part of my highs, part of my lows, part of my hoots of laughter!  We have lived through births, marriages, deaths, personal trials and challenges both IN and BECAUSE of  friendship. I will not ever be able to replace any of this. It  is of its time and of its place.  Now is a time to remember. Now is a time to be glad for all of it. Now is a time to shed a tear or two.  Now is a time to smile at these memories.  Now, and always, I  will lament their passing.

The terrible reality is that this ageist stance by employers in Ireland is accepted as being ‘ok’ at a state level, at national level, as well as by ordinary people who seem to accept that to be a certain age is ‘too old’. Life and society have changed.People enjoy better health and longer lives; societal relationships break up and break down; people have children later in life. There are a myriad of reasons why people should not be compelled to retire at age 60 or 65 so long as they are fit to do the job.

Those of us who had to retire have had no choice but to get on with our lives as best we can. There is no doubt but that there is something to be said for having leisure time in abundance, but what we ask for is a choice, to stay part of the workforce for as long as we must, and for as long as we can do a good job and continue to contribute to society and avoid being a drain on it.

 

References:

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/senior-garda-challenges-compulsory-retirement-age-of-60-1.1216158

 

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Age Action Silver Surfer Awards 2015

 

imageOnce again it was such a thrill to be in the audience to see, hear about and celebrate with the finalists of the annual Age Action Silver Surfer Awards! This year we were in the lovely surroundings of the campus of Dublin City University (DCU), an appropriate place to celebrate involvement of older people who have chosen to advance themselves by learning how technology and engagement with social media can enhance their lives. DCU proudly carries the badge of an Age Friendly University and what an appropriate venue for the 2015 Awards.

George Hook, Silver Broadcaster extraordinaire.

George Hook, Silver Broadcaster extraordinaire.

The proceedings were in the capable hands of the larger than life radio and TV personality, George Hook who knows a thing or two about being a member of the older generation. His humorous and incisive introductions were heartily enjoyed by the audience.

Eamon Timmons, Chief Executive of Age Action made the very relevant point that the real winners of these awards are the older people ‘out there’ who are inspired by this years awards to engage with modern technology and reap the benefits of the positive change it will make to their lives at so many different levels.

The award that is one of my personal favourites is the New to IT Award as these people represent the hundreds who are taking first steps to discovering a whole new world, where information is literally at their fingertips, where new friendships can be developed, where family can be contacted, where new interests can be nurtured, where existing interests can be consolidated. Michael Monaghan was the winner. Following a stroke, Michael from County Meath trained himself to use modern technology for everyday tasks such as bill paying and keeping in touch with family via Skype and Viber.

Michael Monaghan was the winner

Michael Monaghan was the winner

Equally inspirational were all of the finalists in this category – shining examples of determination to get to grips with the modern world and technology. Well done to all of them for indeed they are all winners!

Winners all, these are all of the excellent finalists

Winners all, these are all of the excellent finalists.

The next category was to celebrate someone who uses the internet to pursue a passion or hobby. The very deserving winner this year was Stanley who is not only a vintage car enthusiast who sources parts on the internet, but also a sci-fi author whose first book is available on Amazon, entitled The Adam and Eve Chronicles. How about that! Congratulations Stanley!

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The job of judging must be such a challenge as each finalist was a wonderful example of how the internet can be used to indulge an interest in so many fields! Well done to every one of you !

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Up next was the Golden IT Award. This award is for someone in their golden years – over 80 – who uses technology to enhance their life.

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Cork man Philip took the honours here. Philip operates an inspirational ‘thought for the day’ service sending out meaningful messages all over the world every morning! Well done Philip…you are truly inspirational!

The Tutor of the Year award is pivotal to the great work of the Age Action ‘Getting Started’ programme. The Getting Started programme aims to introduce seniors all across Ireland to the magic of the Internet, to enable them to communicate and to participate at various levels in the new technology that can literally transform their lives. The winner this year was Waterford tutor Pat Power who has lead 15 courses of students in the programme. Well done indeed Pat!

This year too saw a very special award to an exceptional tutor Nicholas Simms who has not only tutored 50 + beginners but has also come to grips with technology that enabled him to tutor blind course participants! Well done Nicholas on such dedication, justly acknowledged!

The jewel in the crown of the annual Silver Surfer  Awards is THE Silver Surfer Award. This  year’s deserving winner is Margaret Mullett, who used the tragedy of losing her husband  to hemochromatosis to get online and raise awareness of the condition and thereby possibly saved many lives. Many congratulations Margaret!

As Eamon remarked earlier, all of Ireland’s Silver Surfers are the winners here…we need to get online, we need to embrace modern technology, we need to identify how we oldies can influence society, we need the support of the hard working volunteer tutors and we need the support of Age Action to help get us there!

Finally, and as ever, the entertainment at the event was simply wonderful, and how lovely to meet up with Silver Surfers from across Ireland…these feisty women made my day!

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I was delighted to meet old friends and make new ones!

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Don’t Stop Me Now!


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This very arresting title headlined an article in Woman’s Way magazine in which I was featured a couple of weeks ago, resulting from an interview/long conversation with the journalist Arlene Harris. Arlene was trying to discover how the lives of people have changed since our younger days and how they are so different to the lives of younger people today, and indeed older people of just a few decades ago because of our attitudes and most of all because of modern technology.
Being featured  with Marie O’Gorman, the renowned Skype Queen and great-grandmother was a real privilege. Imagine teaching your grandchildren to knit on Skype! Marie is a great example of someone who grasped modern technology with both hands, knowing that it would enhance her life and reduce social isolation and shorten the distance between her home in Ireland and her daughter’s home in Armenia.
My own life has been totally transformed by social media and I am fortunate to have as close friends people who live in Australia and the United States. I have met some of these wonderful people in person, and it is as though we have known one another all of our lives. One very special lady has visited me in Ireland and stayed at my home, while I meet other followers on social media on a regular basis at events and confereces across the country..  The encouragement and support of other social media users is phenomenal and can only have a positive effect on older people who may otherwise be living in social isolation.
I am very grateful to Age Action for the inspiration and encouragement to keep going as a ‘Silver Surfer’ and for the excellent programmes they have in place to encourage older people to engage with technology especially through their ‘Getting Started’ classes that run across Ireland. Age Action also co-ordinates U3A , which is an abbreviation for University of the Third Age. I like to think of these as ‘Discovery’ programmes for older people where we can learn from our peers in  the University of Life by sharing skills and life experiences. Bingo and sing alongs are wonderful for many of our generation but are not for everyone. How about outings to historic places, museums, art galleries,concerts, theatre events,long walks or short holidays abroad? The world really is our  oyster!
And a huge ‘thank you’ to Woman’s Way for featuring  Silver Surfers  and spreading the message of a whole new world that is there to be explored in our later years! !
The text of the full Woman’s Way article can be read here  180815 Women’s Way article. (Published with permission). My photo is  by the very talented Eva Birdthistle in Limerick .

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Filed under Ireland, Irish Culture, Living in Ireland, Loneliness, Older & Bolder, Older Generation, Social Change

The Silver Voice – Finalist in European e-inclusion awards !

Some time ago I was nominated by Age Action Ireland for the prestigious European wide  e-inclusion awards.  The email received just a few days ago had to be read and re-read and read again! It stated: ‘You have been selected as one of 3 finalists in the ‘I am part of IT’ Award Category to attend our e-inclusion Awards ceremony in Brussels ‘.

Established by The European Commission, the  e-Inclusion Awards  aim to ‘raise awareness, encourage participation and recognise excellence and good practice in using ICT and digital technology to tackle social and digital exclusion across Europe.‘  With the aim of collecting  all the great practice across Europe in supporting people to go online and with  the stories of people who have benefitted from their internet experience, the awards have two categories, and my nomination was made under  the ‘I am part of IT’ heading.

With Michael D.Higgins (now President of Ireland) at Google HQ, Dublin, Ireland , September last  at Google Age Action Silver Surfer Awards 2011

Nominated for the Google Age Action Silver Surfer Awards 2011, I was thrilled to win the  Social Networking  category, to which I had a very  heart-warming and supportive response. As a result of winning that award I have had enormous support and increasing readership of my blog and supporting Facebook page. Now, to have been chosen as one of  only three finalists in this category, with entries from 35 countries is quite honestly flabbergasting!

The real winners here  are Age Action, a charity that promotes positive ageing and has as an objective that Ireland will be a great place to grow old. (‘Old’ is  relative of course, and it  is a condition I wish upon you all! ). Age Action has recently won the national Aontas Star Award for adult education for their ‘Getting Started’ programme, that  assists older people (55+) to learn basic IT, internet and email skills.  They aim to help this section of society  to beat exclusion and isolation and thereby increase independence and equality.

By showing that I have managed to do this, I hope to be an ambassador for the excellent work of Age Action and look forward to being with them in Brussels later in the week!

I am indebted to Age Action for the enormous encouragement I have received by participating in their Awards schemes and to my mentor and critic Damian who nominated me for the Silver Surfer Awards and who set the bar very high with his own blog at  irishinamericancivilwar.com  and to many friends who have been so supportive.

Age Action Facebook Page is here – they would love a LIKE!

Age Action Web page is here

Damian’s excellent blog  is here 

E-inclusion website is here 

E-inclusion Awards list of Entries  is here

My Facebook Page is here 


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Filed under Ireland, Older Generation

Google Silver Surfer Awards with Age Action 2011

Seven  Silver Surfer Awards for 2011 were handed out in the ceremony at Google Headquarters in Dublin recently. Three finalists were shortlisted in seven categories. The shortlisted entrants were chosen for the dedication and passion they showed in their quest to get online, regardless of their age.  Hearty congratulations to all the amazing people who were nominated and a ‘well done’ to the award winners!

The recipient of the Golden IT Award was 90-year-old Larry Wilmott.Larry lives in a nursing home and has over the past 3 years learned all about computers. He is now active on Facebook, Twitter and Skype.  Larry’s achievements were recognized by Sarah Jenkinson who works at Larry’s nursing home and who nominated him for the award. 

Dorothy Harrington, a 76-year-old grandmother-of-four from Sandymount, Dublin,was the overall winner of the Google Silver Surfer Award with Age Action. Dorothy, proudly nominated by her husband Paddy, sold their home online, saving a small fortune in professional fees. She then went on to find a new home online, where they now live.  She also makes Christmas cards and conducts  much of their business online and has enormous fun doing so.

The Family Tutor Award is open to anyone UNDER the age of 50 and the winner was the lovely 12 year-old  Aine Fleming  from Kildare, who patiently helped her grandmother get to grips with her laptop, and who says that accessing the internet has changed her life for the better. Aine’s Aunt, Kathleen King, nominated Aine  for the award.

Penny Pennefeather,62, from Wicklow computerized the scoring system for her Bridge Club of over 400 people and enthusiastically undertook to help other members come to grips with the new system. Nominated by her daughter, Jane Court, Penny was the worthy winner of the Hobbies on the Net Award.

The Winner of the Most Dedicated IT Learner Award was 53-year-old  Bernie Wansboro, from Swords, Co Dublin who taught herself basic computing skills using computer manuals. She then bought a laptop that has opened up a whole new world for her.  Bernie nominated herself for this category, and anyone who has ever tried to read a computer manual can only be in awe of her wonderful achievement!

James Richardson from Dublin was Winner of the IT Volunteer of the Year Award. This award which was open to people of all ages went to 63-year-old James who has helped over 1,500 older  people learn basic computer and word processing skills over the past 7 years. James was nominated by colleagues who  are impressed with his patience and empathy at the community based non-profit organization in Coolock. 

The winner of  the Social Networker Award was myself, 63-year-old Angela Gallagher,from Co. Limerick.  With the initial help and extraordinary patience of my son Damian, who lives a considerable distance away,my blog and Facebook page got up and running.  ‘ A Silver Voice from Ireland’  looks at issues facing older people as well as  our social history and our diaspora and has opened up a whole new world to me. 

Speaking at the awards ceremony the  Minister for Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources,  Mr Pat Rabbitte said: “The Internet is no longer the exclusive domain of the young or indeed the technically oriented.  A happy convergence of peer pressure, reducing costs, more user-friendly devices and smarter software design is encouraging us all to go on-line. Today’s winners are champions in the application of peer pressure. They have not let their age hold them back from being part of Ireland’s digital society and are setting a wonderful example for people of all ages.”  
Sinéad Gibney, Social Action Manager, Google Ireland said: “This year we have seen a 50% increase in nominations for the Google Silver Surfer Awards with Age Action which shows how many people over-50 are determined not to be left behind by new technology. At Google we are committed to helping people of all ages get online and to help them get the most from the Internet. These awards provide us with a fantastic platform to celebrate older people who have embraced modern technology and are reaping the benefits it has to offer. Everyone shortlisted today should be very proud of their achievements.” 

Age Action Chief Executive Robin Webster said: “Computer skills are becoming increasingly important for everyone, enabling a person to keep abreast of what is happening in society and providing them with the means of having their voice heard.  Some older people are still unsure as to whether or not they will be able to learn how to use a computer. Today’s winners should be an example to them of how people of all ages can attain these IT skills and how these skills can greatly enrich the quality of their lives. I would urge all older people who do not know how to use a computer not to be afraid and explore it. Learning how to use a computer and how to navigate the Internet can be a life-changing experience.”

Thanks to Google for a wonderful event, and to Age Action, a very special charity deserving of our support.  Ciara Sherlock Events Manager at Age Action Ireland was extraordinarily friendly and helpful. Minister Pat Rabbitte and three of the candidates in the upcoming Presidential election in Ireland   – Michael D Higgins, Martin McGuinness and Sean Gallagher, together with the MC – TV Personality  Derek Davis,made it a very special and memorable event for all the participants.  Thank you all!

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Filed under Celebrations in Ireland, Living in Ireland, Social Networking, Uncategorized