Project #10940

Help older people learn basic IT skills

by Age Action Ireland
Margaret Mullett
Margaret Mullett

For the past 7 years Age Action's Silver Surfer Awards has been raising awareness among older people of the benefits of being online and to encourage those who have not gone online to give it a try. 

The awards recognise the achievements of older people using technology and also the volunteers who teach these skills.  Retired science and chemistry teacher Margaret Mullett from Dublin was this year's winner of the overall Silver Surfer Award 2015.

Margaret was inspired to get online after she lost her husband, George, to a genetic disorder called haemochromatosis, an overload of iron in the system, just six weeks after being diagnosed. If identified early enough, haemochromatosis can be easily treated. Determined to ensure that no other family would suffer a loss like her own, Margaret used the internet and digital media to build a national awareness campaign, highlighting the dangers of haemochromatosis and urging members of the public to get tested. Since she began in 2005, her work has focused new attention on the illness and more than 20,000 people have been diagnosed.

Corkman Philip O’Donovan was the winner of the Golden IT Award, which recognises the achievements of people over the age of 80. Every morning, at 7.30am more than a 100 people in Ireland, the United States, Australia, the Netherlands and Britain wake to a ‘thought for the day’ email message from Philip. He has also used his computer to write a book about a local specialist school for children with complex disabilities, the Lavanagh Centre, and still does the taxes for family members and his local church.

The awards ceremony was hosted by Dublin City University, which became the first age-friendly university in 2012, leading a global initiative.

Thanks for your support which allows us to run computer classes for older people and run events like this which encourages older people to go online for the first time. Being able to use the internet can have a very positive impact in the lives of older people, giving independence, opening up a whole new world of information, entertainment and communication with family and friends. It can combat isolation and loneliness and transform people’s lives

To read more about the other winners see the link below 


It was a busy summer for the Getting Started team in Dublin, Cork and Galway. We ran a number of summer camps for older people to learn how to use their computers, phones and tablets which were a great success. 

Some of the community centres where we run classes closed in July and Aug. and it gave the team some time to plan for the hectic autumn term and also the chance to take some leave and enjoy the summer holidays. 

Our corporate partners were very busy with classes run in Dell, VMware and EMC in Cork and with IBM, HP, Salesforce and Paypal/Ebay in Dublin and with Cisco in Galway. The volunteers in VMware made a great video about the classes they were involved with which you can see below

We continue to get wonderful positive feedback from our learners such as the email below 

Dear Julie

Many thanks for making it possible for me to join the course as I found it so worthwhile and have got rid of a lot of fear of the computer. Terri was terrific and she could explain things so clearly.

Very many thanks and best wishes.



Students and Volunteers at EMC, Cork
Students and Volunteers at EMC, Cork

For the first 4 months of 2015 our volunteer tutors have provided training to over 1,000 older people across Ireland with a phenomenal 9,000 volunteer hours logged.

We have been expanding the programme and continue to source new venues in libraries, family resource centres and in local communities. We have a number of schools join the programme and transition year students have been teaching older people from their local areas and are now on a summer break. 

Our corporate partnerships have also been busy with employees from IBM, HP, Salesforce and Ericsson in Dublin volunteering as well as Cisco employees in Galway and EMC, Dell and VMware employees in Cork. In VMware 28 volunteers quickly built friendships with 24 students ages 55 to 86. Sharing Friday afternoons together, their eager and active local students also overcame the fear of using a laptop/iPad/tablet/smartphone and connecting with the digital world. A wonderful learning opportunity and experience for all.

here is what one of the learners had to say 

I felt this course and tuition was terrific. My tutor was very patient and very helpful. The training model used on the programme was excellent 1 – 1.
I earned very useful skills and would be very keen to recommend it. I only just got broadband at home. There will be no stopping me once set up –I don’t think it could be improved on. I found the course very useful. I was able to ask for help with difficulties I had with my computer skills.

Jacqueline & her fantastic cake
Jacqueline & her fantastic cake

It has been a very busy start to 2015 with the usual increase in demand for classes after many older people received a gift of a computer from their families for Christmas.

 In Dublin we moved offices from the city centre to Inchicore in Dublin 8 and held an open day to show off our new computer classroom. We had over 130 people dropping in to take a look and we now have lots of classes up and running in our new venue. To make up for the loss of our city centre classroom we secured a room in Trinity College to run a number of classes there thanks to Trinity Foundation.

 In Galway we have sourced new venues in Clifden, Spiddal, Moorehall and Manorhamilton and the class in Spiddal will be through run Irish. A new project to provide IT training to housebound older people has also started in Dublin and Galway. Volunteers will visit people who are unable to attend classes in their local community and give them the opportunity to learn at home. 

 In Cork our regular venues are all up and running and we have created new partnerships with transition year students in Deerpark CBS, Gaelcholaiste Mhuire, St. Brogan’s Community School in Bandon and Kinsale Community School.

We have continued our successful partnership with Dell in Mahon and the older learners were offered a special treat at the last class when Anna Geary, the Cork Rose (of Tralee) presented them with their certificates.

EMC² also got involved in the programme tutoring older learners from Ballincollig ICA and one of the learners Jacqueline Cullinane baked a special computer cake as a thank you to all the wonderful employees who volunteered their time to tutor. 

We are all looking forward to a very busy sping time and helping lots more older people to get connected online. 

Gaelcholaiste Mhuire students and older learners
Gaelcholaiste Mhuire students and older learners


September time is always "back to school" time and not just for the younger folks, we had lots of older people sign up for computer classes and wanting to get to grips with the online world.

In October we held our annual Silver Surfer Awards in Google in Dublin with some amazing stories of older people who do extrordinary things online like John Walsh aged 99 from Tipperary who having led a very active life including cycling from Clonmel to Knock at the age of 93 (153 miles) he has since taken a more easy going lifestyle and has embraced technology. He is proficient at excel, word, email and serching the internet and more. He has written his personal memoirs and researched his family tree. As a result there are regular visits from abroad from his 5th cousins!

John's story has inspired many others to call us and sign up for classes. Between September and November we will have provided training to over 1,500 older people with the assistance of over 800 wonderful volunteer tutors. 

Getting Started wishes you a Happy Christmas and New Year and we know that Santa will be bringing lots of computers for Christams so we are expecting a busy Jan. with lots of new learners who want to join the online world. 

Thanks again for your support in 2014. 

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Organization Information

Age Action Ireland

Location: Dublin - Ireland
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Pauline Power
Dublin, Dublin Ireland