Google and Age Action seek to award Ireland’s ‘silver surfers’

29 Jul 2013

Silver surfers Marie O'Gorman (age 79) from Walkinstown, Co Dublin, and Dorothy Harrington (age 78) from Sandymount, Co Dublin show off their computer skills at the 2013 Google Silver Surfer Awards launch. Photo by Jason Clarke Photography

Google and Age Action have once again put the call out for nominees for their annual Silver Surfer Awards, celebrating older people who have embraced new technology.

Last year’s Google Silver Surfer Award winner was gaming granny Pauline O’Connor. The 70-year-old from Carbury, Co Kildare took up playing computer games as a way to connect with her 10 grandchildren, and even held tournaments in her house.

O’Connor fought off plenty of competition for the top award in 2012. “Last year we had more nominations than ever before and we hope to continue this trend in 2013,” said Sinead Gibney, Google’s social action manager.

“The Silver Surfer awards are a great way to show an older relative or friend your appreciation and we urge everyone who knows a great example of a silver surfer to nominate them,” Gibney added.

This year there are five categories for nomination in the Google Silver Surfer Awards:

  • Google Silver Surfer Award: An older person who embraces the internet or technology with a sense of fun and adventure.
  • New to IT Award: A person over the age of 50 who is new to technology and has overcome challenges to become an IT user.
  • Hobbies on the Net Award: An older person who uses the internet to pursue their passion or hobby, or who uses IT for communication and social networking.
  • IT Tutor(s) of the Year Award: An individual or group of any age who provides voluntary support to older learners.
  • Golden IT Award: An individual over the age of 80 who uses technology to enhance their life.

Getting older people online

“As a charity which works to improve the quality of older people’s lives we passionately believe that new technology has a key role to play. From helping people to stay in contact with the local community, family and friends, to shopping and accessing information about rights and entitlements, computers and the internet can transform older people’s lives,” said Robin Webster, CEO of Age Action, a charity that promotes positive ageing and better policies and services for older people.

Age Action runs its own Getting Started Programme, which teaches older people in Dublin, Cork and Galway basic and improvers’ internet and IT skills.

During today’s launch at Google’s EMEA headquarters in Dublin, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD, highlighted the importance of closing the digital divide, having just today announced a new Government initiative to get 280,000 more people online by the end of 2016 with the help of the BenefIT training programme, which will receive a further €1.4m investment over the coming year.

“The Google Silver Surfer Awards play a really important role in showcasing what older people can do online. We all should do what we can to highlight the positive stories that will emerge from this competition. I hope people all across the country will be inspired by the silver surfers to get online themselves,” said the Minister.

Nominations for the Google Silver Surfer Awards are open until Sunday 15 September. Those wishing to nominate someone they know can fill in an online form or call (01) 475 6989. Winners will be announced at a ceremony in Google’s Dublin HQ on 2 October.

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic