Ex-soldier Don, 92, gets on his bike to surf the internet in Kinmel Bay

A 92 year old silver surfer is being hailed as a role model for people half his age.

Energetic ex-soldier Don Thomas has signed up for a weekly computer class in Kinmel Bay – and hops on his bike to get there.

The free classes are being organised by housing association Catrefi Conwy at the Community House on Chester Road Avenue East.

Don, a grandfather of two,  is now getting to grips with word processing and using the Internet.

A native of Blaina, in the South Wales Valleys, he worked as  a steelworks inspector in Sheffield.

After serving in the Royal Corps of Signals in the Second World War, he moved to the Midlands where he built bridges.

Don’s much loved wife, Kathleen, died in 1991 after 52 years of marriage and he moved to the Argoed sheltered housing complex  on the Chester Avenue estate10 years ago.

When he’s not surfing on the Internet, Don loves riding his bicycle and recently peddled all the way to St Asaph and back.

He’s also a dab hand on the keyboard and regularly plays and sings hymns at the Apostolic Church in Rhyl.

Don said: “The way Cartrefi Conwy look after you is wonderful, the warden comes around every day. It’s marvellous.

“I come to the Community House on my bike. Before coming on the course, I’d never done anything on a computer. The tutor is very patient.

“It’s going really well and I find it very interesting – it’s good for the brains.

“I could never type when I was younger but I’m getting into it by degrees. You’re never too old to learn.

“I would recommend this to all older people, I’d encourage them.”

Retired pub landlady Mary Walker, 80, also loves the computer course.

She said: “I am really enjoying the course, it’s wonderful. It’s opened a whole new world for me.”

Among Don’s biggest fans is Vicky Welsman, Cartrefi Conwy’s Community House Development Manager.

She manages the 10-week course that is put on in partnership with Coleg Llandrillo.

Vicky said: “There’s a need for many tenants on the estate to learn how to use a computer especially with the welfare benefits reform. They need to be able to fill in application forms online.

“This is the second beginners’ course so we have a mix of tenants and residents. 10 week course, three hour sessions.

“It’s really important for people to have these skills and Cartrefi Conwy are focusing on supporting tenants.

“We have a suite of computers available for tenants in the Community House to use them for whatever they want – whether that’s paying bills or whatever. Six computers and two laptops.

“This is a much needed facility and our aim is to work with learning and educational providers to offer this type of training and facility  in more community hubs in the future.

“Don is our star pupil. He’s a lovely bloke and the life and soul of the estate – he’s got a heart of gold.

“He’s thrown himself into this computer course with great enthusiasm – as far as I can tell that’s Don’s approach to everything.

“He doesn’t seem nervous about it at all. A lot of younger people are phased – but not Don.

“He’s getting stuck in and enjoying the course and he’s definitely making real progress.”

Community Lecturer Tean Williams, from Llandrillo College, said: “The class is split into two groups, one for beginners and the other for those with more experience.

“Don is in the beginners group and they are learning word processing and Internet use, how it works and how to get information from it.

“All the members of the class are really enthusiastic but we could also do with a few younger ones.

“Don is showing the way, he’s a fantastic role model. He’s brilliant.  I can’t believe he’s 92.”

For more information about the classes at Chester Avenue Community House contact Vicky Welsman on 01745 331825 or
email vicky.welsman@cartreficonwy.org

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