New York City Department for the Aging

The challenge

The system of community technology labs serving older New Yorkers was fragmented, lacking ongoing technical support, and in poor physical condition. In many cases, networks used outdated security and software systems, putting senior participants at risk.

The strategy

Develop a citywide “anchor” location to increase overall coordination and program quality, develop and renovate community sites in low-income neighborhoods, provide sustained training and technical support, and link online content to programs and activities.

The solution

OATS collaborated with the New York City Department for the Aging and Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications on a successful application for $2.7 million in federal stimulus funds through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. OATS was responsible for development and implementation of a citywide program that included delivering 3,000 free technology classes, building 23 new technology labs, launching the digital community, and, in 2013, opening the country’s first technology-themed community center for older adults: the Senior Planet Exploration Center.The newly created citywide technology network is the country’s largest and most comprehensive municipal technology program for older adults. The Senior Planet Exploration Center receives nearly 15,000 visitors per year, OATS manages 24 technology labs across all five boroughs, and the website and events calendar are visited by more than two million unique visitors each year. In its first year, the program leveraged over $750,000 in new public and philanthropic support for the Exploration Center and related programs. The initiative is a national model and has appeared extensively in the media, including The New York Times, National Public Radio, USA Today, MSNBC, Univision, and The Today Show.