Prizes For Web Pioneers Over 50

Posted on: 25 June 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Have you or someone you know helped older people get online? You could be 'Silver Surfer' of the Year 2008.

What makes an exemplary 'Silver Surfer'? Digital Unite are on the hunt again this year and want as many nominees as possible from over 50s resident in the UK who are using internet and email.

A winner could come from any background, and may be relatively inexperienced. Their important qualities are to do with how they've used their knowledge and how it has helped them to connect to others.

The overall winner will receive a high-spec laptop and two runners-up receive £250 of Amazon vouchers. They'll be awarded on 23rd October 2008 at the Houses of Parliament by MP Stephen Timms, Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform at the Department for Work and Pensions.

People over 65 tend to be less involved with media than others in the population, according to Ofcom. The increase in take-up of the internet at home over the last two years among over 65s is lower than the UK average. This means that the gap between older people and the population in general in take-up of the internet has remained the same, if not slightly widened.

Entrants may nominate themselves or be nominated by others. So if you have helped people join the online community and experience its enormous benefits, or know someone who has harnessed the internet to make life more enjoyable in retirement, why not enter for the opportunity to win a prize?

Entrants need to download a simple form from the Digital Unite website. Nominations close 31st July 2008.

McCarthy & Stone, Britain 's largest providers of private sheltered housing, are principal sponsors of the Silver Surfer of the Year Awards 2008.

Last Year's Winners

Silver Surfer 2007 JoanSilver Surfer of the Year 2007, Joan, 75, of East London, won a £500 laptop from BT. She says, "I was so shy! Learning the computer has helped give me the courage to be active within our Housing Association."

"Joan's confidence in herself and her abilities has soared through the roof," says her nominator, Lisa Down, Community Development Officer for Genesis Housing, East London.

"She began learning how to use the internet and email in 2004 by taking part in Genesis' Digital Unite project. She became a Digital Ambassador, to encourage other tenants to use the computers, and subsequently became one of Genesis' Golden Ambassadors, helping and representing tenants in all sorts of other ways."

Joan says, "I'd been a driving instructor and a shop-worker - I used to "pat the butter up" in Sainsbury's - throughout my working life. When our DU trainer came to our community lounge, I shocked myself with how quickly I could learn. I'm quite persistent, and I just sat in front of the computer every afternoon that I could, fiddling around."

"To think, I used to be frightened of bank cash machines. Even though people in the bank would show me how to use them, I still didn't feel I could. Now, I can, of course."

Joan emails and send photos to her children and books flights, theatre tickets order flowers through the Internet. In her own sheltered scheme she is the focal point of information and assistance. She has also participated with Lisa in four launches of computer training projects within other Genesis sheltered accommodation in East London and Essex. She demonstrates the Internet, talks about what it can do and answers questions.

"People are often frightened of making fools of themselves; they worry about breaking the machine, about the dangers they hear about, how youngsters get trapped into looking at unsuitable sites or making unsuitable friends. I just reassure them and say, 'It's your choice! And you can't break it, have a go!'"

Encouraged by her new skills, she plucked up the courage to stand for the Customer Association and now she is Vice Chair. She also sits on the Housing Association's main board and attends high level meetings and events. She helps spread the word that you are never too old to learn and be involved.

Silver Surfer 2007 RichardEntrepreneur Richard, 59, of Martley, Worcestershire, won a £500 laptop from BT. Richard lives and works as a bee farmer in his home village of Martley, Worcestershire.

He explains, "Broadband was a bit hit-and-miss in our village - so we developed our own wireless network. Our 1200 strong community was only patchily served by broadband suppliers until 2004 when neighbours got together to solve the problem."

Now Martley folks can have a high-speed broadband connection, using wireless technology to bounce the signal from user to user, for £100 one-off payment and £12 per month per user. The supplier is a community business, not-for-profit co-operative, run by volunteers, called Martley Web Mesh and Richard was the innovator and remains a prime-mover.

For those interested in technicalities, Richard and co can get 2-5 meg of bandwith through their - bouncing - wireless mesh, whereas ADSL, which diminishes in strength the further you are from an exchange, provides as little as a quarter or half meg. The 'mesh' seems to involve everyone in the Uncle Tom Cobley song plus a solar and wind powered hayloft. It has an expanding number of 'gateways' to the internet which in turn 'mesh' together to give a fairly robust network. The villager then connects wirelessly either to it or via another mesh box.

Above all, the Mesh arose from a community need, which was met by a community response. As Richard says they're lucky to have "two radio hams, a chartered accountant and a solicitor" in Martley who lend their expertise to management and maintenance.

Web Links

Further details and entry form:

Martley Web Mesh:

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