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!
Not 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.