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Last Updated: Friday, 21 May, 2004, 07:46 GMT 08:46 UK
Over 50s urged to catch net bug
Geoff Adams-Spink
BBC News Online disability affairs reporter

A York to London express train equipped with the latest wireless internet technology is one of hundreds of initiatives aimed at encouraging the over 50s to get online.

Elderly people using laptops
Events across the UK designed to tempt the elderly online
Events are taking place at football clubs, livestock auctions, bingo halls, hospitals, pubs and libraries across the UK to mark Silver Surfers' Day on Friday 21 May.

The day is being co-ordinated by Hairnet - a 'social enterprise' which aims to combat digital exclusion by making technology relevant to people's lives.

The organisation has given a number of awards this year to people whose lives have been changed by technology or to people who have made imaginative use of it.

Birthday treat

Dennis Rogers from Southampton has been named Silver Surfer of the Year for using a computer to improve his literacy.

Photo of Dennis Rogers
My friends can get in touch by e-mail and we discuss things and help each other
Dennis Rogers, Silver Surfer of the Year

Mr Rogers spent large parts of his childhood in hospital and eventually was sent to primary school classes at the age of 13 - a humiliating experience that still haunts him.

After a spell in the Army he made his living as a wood turner and, like many people with poor literacy skills, made excuses to avoid doing written work.

In January this year he went to a local learning centre and quickly acquired computer skills.

"To begin with there was no one more nervous than me," he said.

"Now I find I can do things for myself. My friends can get in touch by e-mail and we discuss things and help each other."

Mr Rogers, who is also dyslexic, celebrated his 69th birthday a month later by buying himself a computer.

A Suffolk woman who runs computer clubs for elderly people, having taught herself the necessary skills, was named Silver Surfer Entrepreneur of the Year.

Ro Williams was so put off by the computer classes available locally that she thought she could do a better job herself. She now runs six clubs in two separate venues and is hoping to open more soon.

A freephone number has been set up (0800 100 900) so that anyone interested can find out what is happening in their area.

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