For Immediate Release
New York—April 6, 2018—Vigorous advocacy by more than a thousand older adults has played a key role in securing $250,000 in state funding for the Senior Planet technology program serving rural senior citizens in the state’s North Country region. The program, which has already reached over 800 participants in Plattsburgh and Malone, was threatened by budget cuts until Assemblymember Billy Jones championed its inclusion in the State budget, supported by activism from Senior Planet members who wrote their legislators and traveled to Albany to advocate for the program.
“Social isolation is a hidden crisis among rural seniors, and technology access and training are essential to keeping older adults engaged in our communities,” said OATS Executive Director Tom Kamber. “We are deeply moved by the commitment of hundreds of Senior Planet activists who contacted legislators, attended briefings, rode buses to Albany, and helped make the case for funding. We also applaud the efforts of the Governor Cuomo’s Empire State Development agency, which extended broadband service throughout the North Country this year, and Assemblymember Billy Jones and State Senator Betty Little, who provided extraordinary leadership for their constituents.”
Begun in 2015, Senior Planet North Country is a project of the nonprofit Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) that trains residents aged 60 and older to use broadband access and digital devices to strengthen their social connections, manage their health and finances, create and learn, and become more active in civic affairs.
“Senior Planet is critically important in helping us get online and connect with family and friends, and to start using all of the tools and resources that are helpful in very practical ways. This is a rural area, and Senior Planet has been a life-changer for me. That’s why we all came together to rally for this initiative,” says Gary Senecal, of Peru, New York.
Assemblymember Billy Jones, who represents the North Country region, was a critical supporter of the recent funding push. “A lack of technology infrastructure in rural communities is preventing many older adults from getting online and connecting with friends and families, accessing healthcare information and potential jobs, and engaging with the outside world. Technology and Internet access have become lifelines for many older adults living in my district. We are all very pleased that Senior Planet will remain here in the North Country,” said Jones.
Senior Planet members themselves are also relieved. “Senior Planet helps keep me up to date with the latest technology, so I can stay in contact with my five adult children, nine grandkids, and friends who have moved away. Technology keeps changing and there’s no other organization in this upstate rural area, that provides this kind of service. We’re very excited that our elected officials heard us!” said Gary Nutt, a Senior Planet member from Rouses Point.
For more information about the North Country Senior Planet program, read “Connecting Rural Older Americans with Technology: Lessons from Senior Planet” a new report published by OATS, available at http://oats.org/white-papers/.
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