Dear Senior Planet Members and Friends,
As we wind down the year and reflect on all that’s taken place, I want to take a moment to share a few thoughts from OATS and Senior Planet.
We cannot reflect on 2020 without acknowledging the devastating toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on our community and loved ones. Even so, every day throughout lockdown, I have been inspired and humbled to see how our community has turned hardship into personal growth, social change, and renewed resilience.
A lot of good things have indeed happened at Senior Planet and OATS this year, all of which are attributable to the dedication and strength of the people who make up our community.
We began 2020 with a host of new programs in fitness, finance, and social connection; plus, a new membership program. We taught hundreds of in-person classes before the virus forced the closure of Senior Planet locations in March.
Minutes after the news hit, our staff, volunteers, and members immediately got together and initiated the most comprehensive redesign of our offerings ever. Over a few weeks, we launched a fully digital set of courses and programs that have allowed us to gather with new friends from across the nation and world.
In this groundbreaking year, we partnered with AARP, Humana, Zelle, Comcast, NYCHA, and dozens of nonprofits in all our regional areas to create, market, and deliver thousands of class sessions, serving over 60,000 people during the pandemic. Our growth online means we now boast having official Senior Planet members in 46 of 50 states, allowing our members to build new relationships with people who they never would have met otherwise.
Beyond the classroom, we offered more volunteer opportunities than ever before, including the “Stay Connected” program aiming to combat social isolation in our community and our first ever virtual phone-a-thon. We continued the fun with our new slate of online social offerings, like Book Club and Short Story Discussion group, inspired by the suggestions of members. We heard vital but often overlooked voices and stories at special events like Raising Hell and Digital Inclusion Week.
Outside of Senior Planet, OATS has been busy with a slew of other exciting projects. We’ve launched our most ambitious project to date, Aging Connected, which aims to get 1 million older adults online. We provided training and technical support to 10,000 participants in the Connected NYCHA program. We began offering bi-weekly free capacity building webinars to assist other nonprofits as they continue to grow online. And there is so much more to come!
While we focused on using technology to change our lives and the lives of others, we also made waves in the press. Our world-class programs garnered attention from the New York Times, the New York Post, NPR, and many more news outlets.
I’m overwhelmingly proud of what everyone at Senior Planet and OATS has achieved in the face of extreme adversity, but daunting challenges remain. We’ve done a lot this year, but we need to do more. And with your support, we will do more. I’ll ask three things of you:
First, make the most of Senior Planet by continuing to attend our online offerings and sharing our online content. I encourage you to try something new in the new year! Have you heard we have belly dancing?
Second, use your new technology skills and knowledge to help another older adult overcome isolation, improve their finances, or stay healthy.
And finally, if you are able, take a moment and donate to help OATS increase our impact. All of our direct programs are delivered free of charge to older adults. We simply cannot succeed without you, and I promise we will put every penny to good use.
I wish you and your loved ones the happiest of holidays and a healthy new year. Thank you for your support!
Thomas Kamber, PhD is the Executive Director of Older Adults Technology Services (OATS)
Note: The Senior Planet website and The Orbit will go on hiatus for the holiday season and return to a regular posting schedule on January 4, 2021.