Office for the Aging

 
 

OATS, Part 3: Older New Yorkers Tell Their Stories

Links to previous OATS articles:
OATS, Part 1: Helping Older NYers Embrace the Digital Age
OATS, Part 2: Technology and Older Adults

Since 2004, Older Adults Technology Services (OATS), has helped more than 30,000 older New Yorkers embrace the digital age by providing free technology programs that enable them to get online and use mainstream devices to connect with friends and family; manage their health and finances; express themselves creatively; and engage in civic and community affairs. In addition to providing high-quality multi-week courses at scores of local community partner sites throughout New York City, OATS has also established two flagship Senior Planet Exploration Centers, one located in Manhattan and the other in Plattsburgh, NY. These venues are the first technology-themed community centers for older adults in the nation.

Here are some of the stories attendees and volunteers told us when NYSOFA visited OATS in Manhattan earlier this year.

Arthur, age 60+, male team leader/volunteer

Senior Planet/OATS moment:
“My daughter is 20 years old and away at college. I saw a story about the centers on NY1. I had no patience for modern technology, but this has put me back in touch with people I care about.

“I was eventually hired to help lead Team Senior Planet, a fitness program that integrates exercise with technology.

“The center has a range of users from the homeless to Park Avenue retirees.”
***

Marian, age 71, female attendee

Senior Planet/OATS moment:
Marian is a retiree who enjoys creating beadwork. She spent many years with the NYC Board of Education, and also was a social worker for 30 years specializing in substance abuse counseling.

She went to a meeting at another center on health advice in December 2012, and heard about Senior Planet. There was an Etsy course that would teach her how to put her art for sale on the Internet. Thanks to a number of classes at Senior Planet, she learned how to launch her Facebook business page.

She is a successful “graduate” of the OATS digital entrepreneurs program. She’s enjoyed classes in genealogy, Etsy, basic digital photography, branding, marketing, using the Internet, website building, and Facebook.

She sold her first piece of art just minutes after launching her Facebook page on a computer at the Senior Planet center.

Quote:
“I didn’t know anything. Now I feel very comfortable with basic computer technology.” I met some wonderful friends. People here are very motivated to learn.”

Top three words/phrases associated with Senior Planet experience:

  1. Learning about business
  2. Doing business
  3. Forming relationships

What would she tell other older New Yorkers?

“You can do it. You can be a digital entrepreneur. I knew nothing. I was digital device phobic; I really was.”

“This is an amazing place. It changed my life. It made me see another part of myself.”
***

Tedi, age 81, female attendee

Senior Planet/OATS moment:
Her computer-savvy niece looked at her old phone, which was “terribly outdated” and said “this is ridiculous.” Tedi said she’d always felt out of the loop with the new generation’s social media skills.

Tedi is a member of Team Senior Planet, the center’s tech-fitness program. She comes to the center three times per week and loves the flexibility of the free classes and open hours. She saw the beta test class for iPad.

She realized that she had learned how to use her iPhone, and the center’s iPad course became less intimidating, so she took it. She “has not looked back,” she said

Quote (on iPad class):“It’s the same operating system as the iPhone,” she said. “The cutting edge is going on here.”

Top three words/phrases associated with Senior Planet experience:

  1. Getting the word out about this place is important
  2. Flexibility
  3. Cutting edge

***

Geraldine, age 86, female attendee

Senior Planet/OATS moment:
Geraldine was taking Spanish classes at a senior center on 25th Avenue in Queens. Two people she met there were volunteering and taking fitness classes at Senior Planet and invited her.

“I didn’t come right away.” She said she was nervous, and wasn’t sure what to expect.

She saw the pair again at the laundromat, and they convinced her to come. “I immediately felt comfortable because when I walked in they smiled. There are other people here my age.”

Since then, her 60-year-old son has bought her a desktop computer and she has learned to use it, first by taking a basic computer course at Senior Planet, and then advancing to other courses.

Quotes:

“I thought I could break the computer and it couldn’t be fixed.”

Top three words/phrases associated with her SP/OATS experience:

  1. You are not alone
  2. It’s a “we” program
  3. Comfortable
What would you tell people like her that might hesitate to attend Senior Planet classes?

“Just because you’re a senior, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn new stuff.”

***

Joyce, age 63, female attendee

Senior Planet/OATS moment:
Joyce heard about Senior Planet through the NYC Department for the Aging. She’s a regular at Team Senior Planet, and likes to exercise. She said she was very excited and filled with anticipation, and that after her first experience at the center, she felt her expectations were met and even surpassed.

She’s been attending for three years. She takes two trains to get to the center, investing 90 minutes each way to spend time with her friends and take classes at least twice a week.

Quotes:

What she would tell others who may be hesitant to come: “Come, because you’re going to love the experience. You’re gonna get a positive feeling.”

Top three words/phrases associated with Senior Planet experience:

  1. Welcoming
  2. New relationships
  3. Friendships
***

Richard, age 68, male attendee

Senior Planet/OATS moment:
Richard, a retired postal worker, said he “feels like a member of a family” when he’s at Senior Planet.

“We lived in Staten Island and heard about Senior Planet by word of mouth. We looked online and we saw free classes, talked to some people, and decided to go.”

He says there was some anxiety about the unknown. He and his wife knew something about computers but wanted to improve their basic skills to be more in tune with what his younger family members were already comfortable doing.

“Attaching pictures to email, basic computer skills like that… we needed help with that,” he said.

After coming to the center for a just a few months, he said “It’s become part of my life.”

Quote:

“I don’t usually schedule appointments for the morning, but I want people to know about this, so I made sure I came for this interview. I want people to know about this place. I want to share it.”

Top three words/phrases associated with Senior Planet experience:

  1. Friendships
  2. What new skills are out there
  3. Love

What would you say to encourage others to come here?

“I don’t feel so left out anymore. I’m part of something. I know if you come you’ll do things you would not and maybe could not be able to do otherwise.

“As a senior living in New York City, sometimes I felt left out. I felt invisible, almost like I did not exist. I have much less anxiety about that now. I am part of what’s going on in the world.”

***

Barbara, age 75, female volunteer greeter at the center/attendee

Senior Planet/OATS moment:
Barbara takes the Money Matters course, and volunteers at the center. She walked in 2 ½ years ago after hearing about Senior Planet/OATS from a colleague in an older adults’ “back to work” program. On that same day, she became a Senior Planet volunteer.

“I wanted to be part of this. I like to give back, and I like to tell people all about Senior Planet.”

Her husband takes the classes at the center dealing with “learning how to use modern devices.” He’s also interested and has taken classes on artists using the Internet to sell artwork—the digital entrepreneurs course.

Quote about Money Matters:

“I’ve learned to be more frugal. My teacher was a young intern, and through Senior Planet University, which is the online part of the coursework (i.e., blended learning) I learned I was on the right track to saving money.”

“I really enjoy the connection and conversation between class members.”

Top three words/phrases associated with Senior Planet experience:

  1. I like the way Senior Planet makes me feel
  2. Very clean and modern
  3. Intergenerational aspect
***

Darryl, age 60+ male attendee

Sr Planet/OATS moment:

Darryl’s wife surprised him one day and said “guess what, we’re starting up with Team Senior Planet.” Through the fitness program, he has participated in “warmup training,” dance and yoga classes, and even Tai Chi. From those experiences, Darryl discovered other courses, first taking Money Matters, and “learning more about my own accounting.”

The operations/mainframe career he retired from did not leave him completely unfamiliar with computer technology, he said, but he nodded his head when I asked him if he felt like things changed very quickly after he stopped working.

“Yes,” he said with a big smile. “I took my first web class and learned how to use Wix, at age 68, right here at Senior Planet.”

Top three words/phrases associated with Senior Planet experience:

  1. Comfort of the center
  2. People I’ve met
  3. Technology and learning
***

Robert, age 71, male attendee

Senior Planet/OATS moment:
Robert lives near the Manhattan Senior Planet center and passed by for several months before he went in.

“I’d heard it was about tech and wasn’t sure how to go in, or if I wanted to. When I did, I was very glad I’d made the decision.”

Robert retired as a social studies teacher in 2014, and since then has been able to focus more of his time and energy on writing and publishing his poetry. He learned about word processing and basic printing at Senior Planet. With that knowledge he’s helped a group he is involved with publish a poetry anthology.

He’s also participated in Team Senior Planet exercise classes, and he’s found the volunteers and staff to be “excellent.” The exercise classes “got me into it. Even at an early stage it made a real difference. In 2-3 weeks I felt really good.”

He specifically pointed out that he finds the Senior Planet staff to be “competent, professional, and very caring.”

Top three words/phrases associated with Senior Planet experience:

  1. Access
  2. Motivating
  3. Fun
What he would say to an older person wanting to try the center:

“You ought to check it out; you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”

***

Fred, age 71, male attendee

Senior Planet/OATS moment:
Fred has been attending programs at Senior Planet for five weeks, and heard about the programs from his daughter. He’s enrolled in Team Senior Planet fitness classes, and is also taking a class on basic digital photography.

“I’m new. I’m excited to be part of something active and to be learning new things.”

Three words/phrases:

  1. Modern and nice facility
  2. Friendly and patient staff
  3. Learning
What would you say to someone that might be considering coming to Senior Planet?

“Everything’s fun here.”