Photo: Thomas Smith, Positive Age member; Debbie Ward, regional sales manager, Vodafone Ireland; Stephen O’Connor, Siro corporate affairs director and Philomena Smith, Positive Age member trying out the new high-speed broadband service available in Castlemanor.
The unveiling the new 1 Gigabit fibre broadband service at the Centre for Social Gain, Castlemanor Community Centre, Billis, Cavan, last Friday [June 29], was part of celebrations for Positive Age’s 30th anniversary of delivering social inclusion projects for older people in Cavan and Monaghan.
Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, was among the guests on hand at the event.
Positive Age’s members recalled bygone times that seem like a different world. The first speaker at the launch was Frances O’Callaghan one of the founders of the local Positive Age group. The group are celebrating their 30th anniversary in a manner that befits its commitment to lifelong learning by linking up with the world thanks to SIRO broadband.
In the last three decades, Positive Age has helped countless members find new friends and interests in their retirement years.
Since Positive Age was first established in this region in 1988, it has grown to include a vast life-long learning programme, trips abroad and above all a strong network of friendship for its 2,500 members throughout Cavan and Monaghan.
Francis said a positive attitude was at the core of the Positive Age’s ethos and the greatest thing in life is to keep learning: “We have come a long way since 1988. Older people are in a position to make a huge social contribution. Some of our members remember a time when they wrote to family members around the globe by candlelight, when it would take weeks to arrive.
Now, through our computer classes, they can use Skype, WhatsApp and Viber to instantly communicate with family.”
Frances said another valuable feature of Positive Age is organising group trips for members, particularly the annual foreign holidays. She spoke of the group’s first trip abroad to Amsterdam, which even included a tour of the Red Light district!
She said all the trips helped to broadened the life experience of the Positive Ageing members. Extending her thanks to a list of volunteers and supporters, Frances said she thoroughly enjoyed her experience over the last 30 years.
Member Philomena Smith gave a wonderful account of her own personal journey from pre-electrification to the digital age. The dynamic octogenarian spoke of her early life experience from a time of rationing to her use of digital communication tools. Philomena said that being a member of Positive Age has been a very rewarding journey and added: “I have no plans of retirement just yet.”
Tommy Smith commenced by telling of his experience delivering telegrams in his youth. He gave a vivid account of growing up and the transformations that have taken place since.
Patsy Smith recalled using rush candles, a construct of the innards of rushes and bacon fat, as a light source. He said: Knitting, crocheting and reading the Celt were all done by the light of the rush candle. Today it is a different story.”
Stephen O’Connor, SIRO director of corporate affairs, said SIRO is helping to bridge the so called “digital divide” between Dublin and regional towns like Cavan: “There is another divide that we are very conscious of, and that is the differing levels of computer literacy and digital skills in Ireland particularly across the generations.”
SIRO ran its initial technical trials in Cavan in 2015 and the whole town now has access to the same level of broadband connectivity as cities like Hong Kong and Tokyo.
“This partnership with Positive Age helps to make sure as many older people as possible get to experience SIRO and enjoy the benefits of a connected world.”
Dr Emer Coveney, Cavan Age Friendly programme manager, spoke of the projects and services delivered under the first Cavan Age Friendly strategy. Dr Coveny stressed the importance of keeping active and involved in the local community for older people to prevent isolation: “In a world where an increased number of services are available online, it is vitally important that the elderly are not left behind.
“Positive Age provide basic training and encourage people to avail of more advanced training. The provision of broadband at the Centre for Social Gain is extremely welcome.”
Speaking at the ceremony, Minister Humphreys said: “This project is a fantastic example of how we can help connect different generations both at home and abroad, as well as being testament to the Government’s policy to improve regional broadband connectivity. The initiative also demonstrates how the not for profit sector and enterprise can collaborate for the good of society.”
Brian Daly of Positive Age and Debbie Ward, Vodafone Ireland, were also among the speakers.
After the official launch was completed the assembled guests enjoyed music and dancing on the balmy summer afternoon.