Google's Silver Surfer Awards including Mayo's Averil Staunton

Google Headquarters, Dublin
Averil Staunton grand finalist for Google award
Mary Farragher, Ballinrobe Librarian, with George Hook. Mary nominated Averil for the Google award
Some of the finalists receiving their Google certificates from Minister White. Averil beside George Hook

Ireland is going to hell in a hand basked as callow politicians are failing to live up to their responsibilities in their frantic need to get elected.

There is a generation of Irish men and women who made this country by dint of their application of what are now seen as redundant principles. Living within one’s means, saving for the rainy day, or giving a fair day’s work in turn for a fair day’s pay are considered out of date and old-fashioned.

Recently, I was reminded of the great strength of that generation. I saw their ability to adapt, their unwillingness to give in and above all an astonishing faith in the future, which was inspiring.

As regular readers to this column know I am very strong in by belief that being involved with young people is the only antidote to ageing badly. Sometimes, however one needs a reality check. It’s good to see how my co-pensioners are doing.

I got it in spades, when I was master of ceremonies at the Google Silver Surfer Awards with Age Action last Monday.  You would be forgiven for thinking that the event, in Google’s multi-coloured hip Dublin headquarters, was all about technology.  It was anything but.

It was about fun, about living, about communicating with family and friends; it was about the passionate love of hobbies, about curiosity and learning. It was about living. It was a day spent in the company of inspiring people in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s who are living life to the full, and using technology to do so.

Among them was John Walsh (99) who cycled 153 miles from Clonmel to Knock at the age of 93.  With that determination it was no surprise that he has embraced technology to write his memories and research his family tree.  Trudy Nealon (70) took to new technology like a duck to water, using her computer to organise the finances and database of the busy Portlaoise Active Retirement Club, as well as producing CDs of photos from trips and making a DVD of the club history.

Paddy Crean (85) explained how he used software to translate written scores into music for members of his Wicklow Male Voice Choir who cannot read music, so that they can rehearse new material at home.

Finding free computer classes in Ballinrobe’ Library  changed Averil Staunton’s life. Once she mastered the computer, she embraced digital technology. Her passion for history led her to set up the very successful  website which is now networked with the National Museum of Ireland.

Along the way she cracked photo editing, designing and creating historical calendars and now hosts three social media pages: Ballinrobe Active Retirement, Ballinrobe Chronicle and St. Mary’s Harry Clarke Stained-glass Windows.

Due to the volumes of interest in her website worldwide, Averil wrote a history of her town in 2013 called Ballinrobe – Aspects of a Visual History, which is 109 pages long and contains 150 illustrations. Her second book, Harry Clarke’s Liquid Light – St Mary’s Church, Ballinrobe, Co Mayo was published  for the church’s 150th anniversary.

The awards challenge the public perception that older people cannot use new technology and there is nothing online for them.  Too often “new technology” is presented as “young people’s technology”.  Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, new technology can have even greater benefits for some older people, especially those with disabilities and those without transport.  From banking and paying bills to shopping and remaining in contact with family and friends, new technology has much to offer older people.

But the real winners on Monday were not in the room when the awards were being presented. In fact, they were not even in the Google building.  Some 70% of over-65’s in Ireland are not currently online. The real winners of this week’s awards are people who, having read about the award winners and how they use technology to improve their lives, will decide to take the plunge and sign up for a computer class. If you, or an older person in your life, would like to learn how to use a computer, sign up for one of Age Action’s computer training courses.

So much is dependent on the availability of broadband across the country. The Minister for Communications, Alex White, has reiterated his government’s commitment to the roll-out of a service that will connect every corner of the country. Most of us are cynical but this does seem like a reality. It will mean a whole new lifestyle for young and old, but the specter of loneliness and fear could be banished forever for the older amongst us.



Comments about this page

  • Wow Averil, never knew you were so well regarded outside Mayo…Congrats…you are amazing.

    Apologies this is so late as was just browsing site…Best wishes Averil until your next award for all your achievements.

    Editor’s reply: Noelene congratulation on your own world wide reach with the Mayo Genealogical Group. Well done!

    By Noelene Beckett Crowe (13/09/2019)
  • Well now Averil, many congratulations to you from the National Museum! Well deserved!

    By Lorna (30/10/2014)

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