Dear Senior Planet Supporters and Friends,
As we round out another milestone year at Senior Planet from AARP, I want to take a moment to share a few reflections on all that our community has accomplished.
In 2021, we sought to strengthen the bond among Senior Planet participants, enlarge our footprint as the leading nonprofit providing free classes to older adults across the country, and change an outdated system that no longer serves those who need it most. I am proud to say that with the power of our community behind us, we did just that:
Senior Planet online programs welcomed new and returning older participants more than 275,000 times. After making a 180-degree digital pivot in 2020, we continued to roll out new digital courses and programs in 2021 that have allowed us to gather with friends from across the nation and world. We also continued to provide training and technical support to 10,000 participants in the second year of the Connected NYCHA program. Over the year, 8,246 people received help from our NYCHA contact center, and seniors took part in NYCHA programs 18,746 times.
An integral part of building connections has been highlighting the voices of our community. In 2021, we launched the second year of our Sponsored Athlete program, featuring five older adults who shared their unique approaches to fitness – like powerlifting and lawn bowling – inspiring others and helping to flip the script on aging along the way.
While others reported that virtual contact was worse than no contact at all for older people during the pandemic, our community proved the opposite. Through an online survey our community members reported:
-73% said Senior Planet has provided them with a feeling of community
-82% said they use technology to keep in touch with loved ones who live far away
We found that the Senior Planet network was more connected than ever before. And as an extension of this work, we unveiled our new, ground-breaking social engagement platform Senior Planet Community, which will allow older adults a safe and ad-free space to gather online and connect around shared interest topics – because we know there is a lot to say.
Speaking of our growing network, our Supporter program experienced more growth than ever before. With over 1,600 older adults opting-in to the program to deepen their unique Senior Planet experience, grow our community’s impact, and support their peers as they change the way the world views aging.
And the world was open to hearing us. We shared our view that senior matters and technology can change lives through press and media coverage throughout the year. Some of our favorite press highlights include The Today Show, NPR, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and Vox. The power of our online platform was also recognized as SeniorPlanet.org was honored for Best Community Websites and Mobile Sites in the 25th Annual Webby Awards.
We raised awareness of the importance of internet connection. Through the Aging Connected initiative, launched at the start of 2021, we worked to change the system around a longstanding pattern of excluding or overlooking older adults in efforts to close the digital divide in-home broadband connectivity. With COVID highlighting the urgency of helping older adults get online at home, our mission to raise awareness of low-cost broadband programs and catalyze new initiatives that would extend the benefits of subsidized internet access more broadly to include people of all ages was more important than ever before.
Another big win happened in Texas, where our San Antonio community successfully advocated to direct $500,000 of the City’s budget towards broadband access and tech training for older adults through the local Senior Planet program.
I’m exceedingly proud of what our community has achieved in the face of uncertainty, isolation, and Zoom fatigue. We’ve done a lot this year, but we need to do more. And with your support, we will. I’ll ask three things of you as we step headfirst into the new year:
- First, make the most of Senior Planet by continuing to attend our online offerings and sharing our online content. Have you checked out our easy-to-follow tai chi yet?
- Second, use your new technology skills and knowledge to help another older adult. And that could mean getting your neighbor connected to low-cost internet.
- And finally, if you are able, take a moment and donate to help Senior Planet increase our impact. We simply cannot succeed without you, and I promise we will put every penny to good use.
I wish everyone a safe and extraordinary new year.
Founder and Executive Director of Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) From AARP