Since COVID-19 temporarily shuttered senior centers across the country, says Stella, “there’s been an opportunity to reach many more people than those coming to the Center. Since March, there’s been a 51% increase in new [Senior Planet] users.”
In this program focused on older adults and technology, Stella also speaks to the ways the pandemic has “lifted the veil” on America’s digital divide– and the inequities in the way relief programs have addressed it. “The voices of those that are speaking are mostly towards the youth… Nowhere in the conversation have I heard giving tablets and computers to the elderly. All I hear is that we’re more likely to get the virus, we need to stay at home and isolate. I’ve seen the economic barriers that prevent people from getting access to affordable technology and devices. With Senior Planet, not only do they do things virtually, but people can call in by phone. So when things are going on every day by Zoom, you can call in and hear the same thing.”
OATS has advocated for increased support for older adults amid a sea of new digital access programs for families with school-aged children. Recently, we partnered with the City of New York to provide ongoing training programs, tools, and phone support for 10,000 seniors in low-income housing who received free tablets. Read more about the initiative here.