65-year-old Margaret Byrne from Tallaght in Dublin, is the overall winner of the 2018 open eir Silver Surfer Awards. She was presented with her award at a ceremony in eir Head Office by well-known fashion designer, TV and radio personality Brendan Courtney. The ceremony was officially opened by Minister of State at the Department of Health with special responsibility for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly T.D.

In addition to winning the overall award Margaret also picked up The Hobbies on the Net award. Margaret (also known as The Crafty Irish Girl from her hugely popular blog) is a crochet, knitting and jewellery making enthusiast who uses social media to grow the craft community, and help keep hand craft skills alive. She has a Facebook page which she uses for sharing ideas and knitting patterns and she also provides online tutorials. Margaret is also a keen Pinterest user with almost 1,000 people following her. She loves Twitter too, but Instagram is her favourite social media channel.

On top of embracing technology to promote her chosen craft, she actively campaigns for survivors of mesh implant complications through the online support group Mesh Survivors Ireland, of which she is a co-founder. The group has grown to 250 survivors and has provided help to those suffering through meetups and support groups. Margaret uses Facebook, Twitter and email to reach out to younger generations who represent their older parents online, and who are suffers of mesh implant complications. Because of her online campaigning, Minister Simon Harris has agreed to carry out an investigation on the matter.

The Community Champion Award was presented to David Rowe from Sandyford in Dublin. David uses technology to observe planning applications for An Taisce, and frequently makes comprehensive, online, submissions on the Dun Laoghaire County Development Plan. At 98, David doesn’t shy away from using technology to make his voice heard and often contacts policy makers with detailed maps and suggestions. He contributes to the community magazine & Three Rock Panorma, using his computer to author articles and design covers, and has edited eight books since his retirement. David also uses IT in a number of voluntary organisations.

Dominican College Griffith Avenue, Dublin was presented with the Schools Tutor of the Year Award. This is the first time in the history of the awards that a separate schools category has been included. The Dominican College has been tutoring older people since 2014 and in that time the school  pupils and staff have gone above and beyond to help their older learners embrace the benefits of technology.

John Church, CEO of Age Action, said “We are proud to celebrate today some truly inspirational people. These Silver Surfers are challenging ageist stereotypes that the internet, social media and new technologies are only for young people. They’re not just doing so to improve their own lives but, in many cases, to assist their neighbours, support their communities and reach out to people who need help. We hope they will inspire thousands more like them to dust off the laptop or tablet sitting at home and get online. There is an entire world of information and entertainment waiting for them. And who knows, maybe some of those inspired by this year’s Silver Surfers will be joining us at next year’s awards. ”

Carolan Lennon, CEO, eir said: “Today’s winners are a fantastic example of what can be achieved by embracing technology. We are delighted to support an initiative that celebrates older people and those who support them. The awards are a fantastic opportunity to shine a light on some of the remarkable ways that older people are taking advantage of the possibilities that connectivity offers. The variety of online activities celebrated today includes the adoption of technology into everyday life, building online communities and even piloting a flight simulator! Our Silver Surfers are ambassadors for a digital landscape and reinforce our belief that everyone should have access to a best in class broadband and mobile network”

Minister Daly highlighted the benefits of older people engaging with technology, saying “Developing technological skills is a great benefit as it can help nourish a sense of independence and in turn give older people increased confidence that they can take forward into all the other aspects of their lives.”

Minister Daly also congratulated all the open eir Silver Surfer award winners and nominees, noting that “Age Action’s Getting Started Computer Training Programme, along with eir’s commitment to provide the best mobile and broadband network to every household and business across Ireland, is instrumental in helping older people experience the benefits that technology can bring to their everyday lives”

Pictured is 65-year-old Margaret Byrne from Tallaght, in Dublin with Carolan Lennon, CEO, eir and John Church, CEO, Age Action. She was presented with her award by well-known fashion designer, TV and radio personality Brendan Courtney.