Fellow Field Day: Exploring Technology with Third Age

Third Age is a national voluntary organisation that recognises and celebrates older people as a diverse group with different needs, abilities, backgrounds and experiences. Third Age has a deserved reputation for innovation, and through a variety of national programmes, such as the Senior Helpline, and Fáilte Isteach, demonstrates the value of older people remaining engaged and contributing in their own community for as long as possible.

Part of meeting the challenges of ageing in Ireland, is tackling technology. To address this problem. Mary Nally, social entrepreneur and founder of Third Age, regularly hosts workshops to teach technology skills at their national headquarters in Summerhill, Co. Meath. It is her philosophy that older people should not be excluded from society simply because they did not have the opportunity to use computers as young people. “Older people haven’t embraced technology in a lot of cases. We want to take the fear out of computing and create a classroom setting. We are all learning, so if you have a fear let’s address it.” The purpose of the workshop was exactly as Mary said: to encourage older people to who have a “fear” of computers to connect and embrace the positives associated with technology, like communicating with loved ones abroad. 

We want to take the fear out of computing and create a classroom setting.”

Early in May, two special guests were invited to join the group of Third Age tech workshop group: Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, legendary GAA commentator, and Lord David Puttnam, renowned film director and current Digital Champion for Ireland. In an intimate, town hall setting, they discussed common fears, like accidentally pressing a button and losing hours of work, and the learning curve that comes with each new device. The group also extolled the many benefits of technology, such as Skyping with family members overseas, the convenience of shopping online, and using GPS to avoid getting lost.

Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh demonstrated how to use his laptop, calling it “the best investment I ever made, to be able to communicate in an instant.” Lord David Puttnam encouraged participants to “stop worrying about what you did have. Technology is moving so fast and there is always a new set of rules. The only thing constant is change.” He also cautioned that, “the sentence, 'I can’t be bothered' is the most dangerous mindset to adopt." Mary Nally introduced a similar guiding principle that her organisation follows: “At Third Age we are not allowed to say ‘I can’t do this.’ We aren’t afraid of a challenge and know that we can learn so much if we embrace it.” 

Young people have all the information they need right at their fingertips to ensure they have the necessary skills in an increasingly competitive world. Everyone must ask, why should this older generation be left behind and denied opportunities? As Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh said, “This time next year may we all find ourselves alive and well here looking forward to the next brand of computer.”

A film crew for Lord David Puttnam’s 4-part documentary series for RTE recorded the event. The series’ working title is “Ireland's Digital Futures” and it’s set to air in October 2016. 

Find out more about Third Age: www.thirdageireland.ie

Follow Third Age on Twitter: @ThirdAgeIreland 

This post was written by Quincy White, Intern at Ashoka Ireland.