In April 2020, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $5 million investment, in partnership with T-Mobile to provide free tablets and internet service to 10,000 senior NYCHA residents and selected OATS as the official nonprofit partner to help seniors learn to use the devices successfully.
As of April 2021, that partnership to provide these 10,000 older adults with internet access and training has been extended for another year. OATS will offer sustained support and training for device recipients, with the goal of helping older New Yorkers combat social isolation, access critical health information, improve financial security and access to benefits, and remain engaged with government services and local community resources during the pandemic and as the country begins to reopen.
Many of the Connected NYCHA participants have praised this opportunity:
“I can do things I never dreamed of before.”
“I used to lay in bed depressed; now I have a reason to get up.”
“Please keep this funded. We need this.”
In addition to training and support, NYCHA seniors have access to a dedicated Senior Planet hotline, staffed by multi-lingual trainers, for individualized personal assistance and tutoring with any issue or question they may have related to the use of the device, how to locate specific online resources, or how to perform a particular task, such as ordering food online.
OATS is currently conducting a study to assess the impacts of Senior Planet interventions among tablet recipients in the Connected NYCHA program. The study is quasi-experimental in nature, featuring treatment and control groups (a first for OATS), and will allow us to definitively point to the effects of our programs from a scientific research perspective, helping to build our evidence base.