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What We’re Doing to Address COVID-19

For a complete listing of COVID-19 news, updates, and resources for older adults, visit our information page at seniorplanet.org/coronavirus

These last few weeks have been the most challenging since OATS began in 2004. With the lives of so many older adults depending on support and connection, and with the key role played by technology in a time of “shelter in place” and “social distancing” our work has taken on a new level of urgency. In light of the new restrictions on in-person gatherings, OATS has made some important changes to the ways we’re delivering our Senior Planet programs.

For the past several years, OATS has been delivering all of our programs using a model called “blended learning” where in-class courses are supplemented with online materials including Zoom lectures, digital content on our education platform (“Senior Planet U”), and streaming videos on our YouTube channel. We have over 350 digital educational modules already available online, and our main priority right now is to optimize these materials and consolidate them with our course offerings so older adults everywhere can participate in all our programs and classes from home as long as necessary.

Here’s what we have done so far:

· We are now offering daily online programs, including interactive discussions on topics like Locating Online Health Resources, Mindfulness, Video Games for Seniors, and more. There are dozens of free programs each week. Click here for the schedule.

· We are relaunching all our lectures, workshops, and 5- and 10-week courses for online dissemination, including offerings on technology topics, telemedicine, online banking, fitness at home, and virtual social gatherings. We’ve already revamped eighteen of our most popular lectures and workshops. Click here for upcoming events.

· We have created practical new resources to help seniors learn to use video-conferencing platforms like Zoom and OneClick, find affordable internet, and select the most appropriate devices. Click here for our guide to getting online.

· We are turning the already-popular SeniorPlanet.org into a true social community, offering ongoing resource guides for essential services and virtual entertainment, and hosting social events, like our virtual book club. Click here for all our resources.

· We initiated a nationwide calling campaign, offering support to thousands of isolated older adults and helping them get online.

· We’re advocating on a policy level for greater investment in technology, training, and innovation as essential services for older Americans.

According to the Pew Research Center in 2019, 41% of seniors don’t have broadband internet at home. As nursing homes are refusing visitors and services like Meals on Wheels are being stretched thin, older adults without internet are lacking critical social connections and services. We see this as a national connectivity crisis: loneliness can be as detrimental as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and without the Internet, older adults are the least equipped to stay up to date with urgent public information and manage their ongoing needs.

As an emergency measure, OATS recommends that all older adults get online as quickly as possible. We urge everyone who is connected to an older adult without internet access to encourage or help them to take that step now, and we urge older adults without Internet access to apply for low-cost Internet or purchase it outright immediately. We’re also calling on government officials and policymakers to include support for internet and device access for low-income seniors in COVID-19 relief measures.

In the meantime, we’ll continue offering opportunities for information, connection, and support via digital channels. Interested in supporting our work or partnering? Drop us a line here and let us know how we might work together.

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