New York, NY – National nonprofit Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) received a $3 million investment from The Humana Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Humana Inc., to establish and lead Aging Connected, a consortium for accessible internet connections for older adults. Aging Connected will focus on getting at least one million disconnected seniors online, particularly those in marginalized communities, and will support equitable access to technology, helping older adults access critical digital health tools and maintain social connectedness.
This investment from The Humana Foundation is part of its overall efforts to provide immediate and long-term relief and recovery support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Support for seniors to access and use internet-based technology allows for improved health outcomes during the pandemic and beyond, giving people necessary skills for a range of activities including accessing telehealth services, managing online medical record portals and creating greater social connections by reaching out to family and friends via technology.
“Older Americans are experiencing a hidden crisis in connectivity,” said Thomas Kamber, founder and executive director of OATS. “Now is the time to build stronger connections among older adults and the institutions that support them. Since 2018 OATS has been collaborating with Humana and The Humana Foundation to build best-in-class models for supporting seniors and producing social and health outcomes. We’re deeply grateful that the Foundation’s investment will bring our partnership to the next level, addressing this crisis on a national scale.”
According to the most recent U.S. Census American Community Survey, only 67 percent of Americans over the age of 65 have broadband internet at home, compared to 86 percent of the overall population. This 19 percent connectivity gap for older adults translates to more than 9 million older people. As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the country, nearly 50 million older people face an ongoing and indefinite period of confinement in their homes. Lower levels of internet connectivity and access to internet-enabled devices have supported conditions of deep isolation and distress, making it difficult for older adults to access health care and supportive health resources.
OATS will use The Humana Foundation investment to help bring a significant number of affected seniors online by forming an active consortium of technology and telecoms providers, age-focused organizations, policy experts, and other key stakeholders to devise multiple means for barrier free internet connectivity and device access for seniors. OATS will also create free instructional resources and classes to be delivered by its program Senior Planet, supporting newly connected seniors in using the internet to decrease social isolation and improve their health and well-being.
“Our partnership with OATS illustrates The Humana Foundation’s commitment to long-term COVID-19 recovery work and helping communities rebuild with an eye for sustainable achievement and resiliency,” said Walter D. Woods, CEO of The Humana Foundation. “By enabling more seniors to use technology and access high-speed internet, we can help seniors understand and access digital health services and telemedicine, improving the quality of healthcare they receive. Additionally, Aging Connected will help seniors combat loneliness by connecting people safely at home.”
Aging Connected builds on the existing partnership between OATS and The Humana Foundation. Beginning in 2018, The Humana Foundation’s Strategic Community Investment Program began investing in OATS’ Senior Planet San Antonio program, which helps San Antonio residents aged 60 and older achieve measurable social connection by providing free access to mainstream internet-connected devices and outcomes-focused technology training curriculum. Senior Planet San Antonio has also created a local task force to create system-level change around seniors’ social isolation, and trains partners to deliver OATS curriculum and programs.
In 2019, 88 percent of seniors participating in the Senior Planet San Antonio program achieved a measurable improvement in their social connectedness, and participants experienced an average increase of 1.56 Healthy Days per month. In response to COVID-19 social distancing measures, Senior Planet San Antonio is offering online programming, and record numbers of participants are attending virtual classes.
Founded in 2004 in New York City, OATS is an award-winning social change organization that offers technology programs, community training, and strategic engagements to shape the future of aging. OATS applies a deep understanding of both aging and technology to engineer innovative solutions for cities, foundations, and leading corporations, shifting the narratives around aging and addressing the vital needs of older adults. OATS is also the creator and sponsor of Senior Planet, a national program that helps more than 30,000 Americans aged 60 and older thrive in the digital world and use technology to improve their social engagement, financial security, civic participation, health, and creativity. Its popular content and learning website seniorplanet.org has more than one million visitors each year. OATS has received extensive press coverage from PBS, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the TODAY Show, NPR, The Economist, and many other local, national, and international media outlets for its unique perspective on aging in America.
About The Humana Foundation
The Humana Foundation was established in 1981 as the philanthropic arm of Humana Inc., one of the nation’s leading health and well-being companies. Located in Louisville, Ky., the Foundation seeks to co-create communities where leadership, culture, and systems work to improve and sustain positive health outcomes. For more information, visit humanafoundation.org.
Humana and The Humana Foundation are dedicated to Corporate Social Responsibility. Our goal is to ensure that every business decision we make reflects our commitment to improving the health and well-being of our members, our employees, the communities we serve, and our planet.