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The Silver Surfer
When I was a kid, I used to read comic books. Well, who of my generation didn't?! Every week, I worked myself through new editions of Superman and Batman stories as well as through the many many super hero titles that were being published by Marvel Comics.
One of my absolute favourite comics back then were those about the adventures of a very mysterious super hero: The Silver Surfer. The fact that he traveled at will on a craft that was clearly designed after a surfboard was a brainchild of the late 1960's (when the comic was first published), but I didn't bother about that back then.
This guy was the herald of a cosmic entity called Galactus, and as a super ability, he had the so called Power Cosmic, which I found really cool, because "it enables the user to manipulate 'cosmic energy' according to his own desire". And that seemed kinda like the ultimate super power to me!
The Silver Surfer
Now who would have thought that, over 40 years later, I would become witness to a new embodiment of this super hero character - someone who probably will not hover and zoom around on a surfboard anymore, but surely has done his share of cross country motorbike racing in his life?!
And just like the fictional character from the Marvel universe, this guy has a kind of Power Cosmic, shaping things according to his desire, just with a few hand motions and clicks ...
I am talking about Peter Oakley, of course, an ageless English gentleman of 84, who has been around in the new universe of marvels, called the Internet, for more than five years now - recording a video per week to upload on his YouTube channel geriatric1927 (adding up to over 300 now, and counting!), maintaining a personal website called askgeriatric, and putting a lot of his time and energy into an effort that has become a very important topic of our times:
To help enabling elderly persons to use computers and benefit from the social possibilities of the Internet - based on his own experience with the online world, of course, which is a very rich and positive one.
Oakley's involvement in all of these matters has not gone unnoticed - interviews on TV and with newspapers (in England and also abroad) have become part of the pensioner's life, like in a recent article by the Daily Telegraph, that headlines
Yes, the article was still published before Peter Oakley celebrated his 84th birthday on August 20th this year :-) ...
His involvement for the cause of the elderly has brought Oakley in touch with quite a few organizations (e.g. being invited to meetings and events at Google Headquarters in London several times), and he has been in the company of celebrities, too - in the UK as well as in the United States. They share the charming video-blogger's and campaigner' ambitions, and call on him ever so often, to report about his personal experiences with the online community, of which he has become a notable asset himself.
|Martha Lane Fox|
UK Digital Champion
Among those who Peter Oakley had the privilege to meet and work together with over the years is Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of Lastminute.com and the English government's appointed Digital Champion, who works on the ambitious and important task to actually bring every household in the whole country online by the end of 2012.
Her campaign Race Online 2012, which is backed by the English government, not only focuses on the young generation, as one might think at first sight - as the Internet is mostly connected in the public opinion (especially of those who still don't want to get in touch with it!) with the cliché of a virtual space where only kids (or childish adults) play games and watch silly videos.
Well, nothing could be more wrong, as has just been documented today by The Daily Telegraph:
The article states that, according to recent studies, 5.7 million of elderly people in the UK are not online yet, but also "that those who are use the web for longer and to great effect".
As Martha Lane Fox points out, "It’s older people who have the most to benefit from being online. The internet is a vital tool to help reduce isolation and ensure people stay independent for longer."
And the example of Peter Oakley proves this statement right to a tee:
Being online on a daily basis enables him to take part in the modern world vividly, to catch up with latest news from around the globe, allows him to communicate with friends, co-YouTubers and even family from remote parts of the world, and made himself become a respected and cherished figure, a role model even (the "Internet Granddad") - for many out there, who add up to more than 55 thousand (and counting!) subscribers on YouTube, and for many friends online.
And so, in a really most memorable and make-me-smile way, I look forward to a world where the Silver Surfers will become more and more a part of the online community.
True, they may not look like the super hero character of my childhood days, and in most cases, the surfboard will remain a memory of times gone by ... but still, they all have the new version of the Power Cosmic, shaping their world by their will and creativity, when they start using the Internet and contribute to the colourful space out here.
I am convinced that elderly people will benefit from the online world just as much as they can give back to the community here, each in their own special way.
How I got to know that?
By the best teacher there is: Experience - by the experience of being friends with Peter Oakley for years now ... The Silver Surfer 2011 :-)!