Dear friends of OATS and Senior Planet,

As we’re all dealing with the realities of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak, we at Senior Planet and Older Adults Technology Services (OATS), the nonprofit that sponsors Senior Planet, want to affirm that the health and safety of all members, participants, trainers, staff and volunteers is of the highest importance. Right now, we’re continuing to monitor the situation, facilitate best practices, provide support, and adjust course as needed to ensure the wellbeing of our community.

All OATS and Senior Planet staff are abiding by precautionary measures as recommended by the CDC and WHO, including thorough hand-washing and remaining at home if sick; our staff is also undertaking additional cleaning and safety measures for our buildings. We recommend that older adults consult the CDC website for up-to-date guidelines on how to best care for themselves and their local Department of Health for information specific to their area.

OATS and Senior Planet staff also will abide by any additional precautions recommended by the relevant local governments, including the North Country, NY; New York City; San Antonio, TX; Montgomery County, MD; Palo Alto, CA; and Colorado. Senior Planet Centers and programs operate with the school districts in which they are located. If schools close, Centers and programs will close as well. This information will be posted on our website here, on the relevant locations pages, and conveyed via email.

We also want to take a moment to reflect on how COVID-19 may impact older adults in particular. In times of so-called “social distancing,” seniors are often left with the fewest resources. Older adults are among the most significant users of public programs and social services, including senior centers. In the event that centers are temporarily shuttered, older adults may be left without access to vital social connections and services.

OATS and Senior Planet are actively developing ways to combat the social isolation that may result from necessary COVID-19 protective measures, including offering increased online programming and resources. Senior Planet already offers blended-learning, including online modules on Senior Planet U, Zoom lectures, and videos on our YouTube channel, and we’re taking steps to shift our in-person programs to these platforms. We’ll be in touch via email when these programs are available; they’ll also be posted on the relevant locations pages on seniorplanet.org. Please stay connected with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter as well. Let’s get through this together!

As a primary measure, OATS recommends that all older adults get online as quickly as possible. This public health crisis is also an information crisis: according to the Pew Research Center, in 2019, 37% of adults over the age of 60 do not use the Internet, where the most accessible, up-to-date information on COVID-19 and local and national guidelines is kept. Older adults, who are among those most vulnerable to the virus, must have access to essential information and services. It’s important to note that there are low-cost internet service options available, including through Comcast’s Internet Essentials, which is offering 60 days of free internet for new subscribers in light of COVID-19, and Spectrum’s Internet Assist program.

We urge everyone who’s connected to an older adult who may not have Internet access to encourage or help them to take that step now, and we urge older adults without Internet to apply for low-cost Internet or purchase it outright immediately. We’re also call on government officials and policy makers to include support for Internet access in COVID-19 relief and protection measures.

We’ll be doing our best to continually offer opportunities for information, connection, and support via digital channels in the time ahead. Many older adults in the Senior Planet community are in a good position to take advantage of their newfound skills, their links to fellow members and participants, and their willingness to adapt to a changing world. Let’s join hands (virtually) and stay strong as we support one another.

In hope,
The OATS and Senior Planet team