Since its inception in November 2015, Senior Planet North Country has provided technological classes – and much more – to more than 1,500 rural seniors in Clinton, Franklin, Jefferson, and St. Lawrence counties in New York State. In its four years, the program has offered over 150 courses and workshops, ranging from basic device use to online banking and social media. The impact that Senior Planet has had on North Country seniors goes beyond the classroom and technology.
The impact has not gone unnoticed over the last four years. Year after year, New York State Assemblyman Billy Jones has secured funding for the Senior Planet North Country program in the New York State budget. Jones has been supported by our North Country members who go to Albany each year to lobby for their right to technology and all the other services offered by Senior Planet to rural Upstate New York residents.
This year, on February 4th, 15 North Country residents drove down to Albany for our annual “Lobby Day.”
Why would a group of members take the time – and the drive – to meet with legislators?
“I was fearful of new technology and feeling left out,’ said member Elaine Panton. “Now, I’m here learning something new pretty much every day. And, every day, I feel more and more confident. Senior Planet has encouraged me to expand my horizons.” “We are going to do whatever we can to help secure funding for Senior Planet because we know how valuable the service is to us here in the North Country,” added member Carol Solari Ruscoe.
Together with Older Adults Technology Services/Senior Planet Executive Director Tom Kamber and other senior members of the OATS team, the group met with six legislators: Senators Little and May, and Assembly Members Bronson, Jones, Stec and Waczyk. The members shared their learning experiences with their representatives, asked them insightful questions and encouraged them to support Senior Planet North Country and ensure that the program stays in the New York State budget for the 2021 fiscal year.
“I believe the legislators felt the genuine feelings we have about the programs, the instructors, and the desire to continue this far into the future,” said Elaine Panton. “Getting to speak with the elected officials was important because we were able to see our tax dollars at work,” added member Cecile Hanfield.
Senior Planet members enjoyed their advocacy experience in the state Capitol and even had the honor of being officially introduced to the New York State Legislature. “I really enjoyed the whole trip. I had never been to Albany before and being able to experience the Capitol was something I won’t forget. Everyone we spoke with seemed very receptive to the idea of Senior Planet and I really hope this support is continued into the future,” said Deb Gouge.
The final vote on funding for the 2021 budget year takes place as early as middle of March or as late as mid-April. We’ll keep you posted!
Photo: NYS Assemblyman Billy Jones (D) surrounded by members of Senior Planet North Country on “Lobby Day.”