While significant strides have been made to fight agism, the younger culture often places older adults in a category that characterizes them as out of touch and irrelevant. But an elder disrupter in Manhattan is helping older adults turn the tables and learn to engage with social and economic technologies thanks to community centers that prepare seniors to live out their dreams.
The non-profit Senior Planet teaches older adults not only how to use social media and email but also can help seniors realize their commerce dreams; designing websites or creating Etsy storefronts and PayPal accounts. As older adults continue to live longer and healthier lives, many retirees are taking a stab at a second career that follows their passions. And according to a recent report in the MIT Technology Review, a growing number of seniors are in debt and have less savings than they need to fund a comfortable retirement.
Having a purpose and discovering ways to feel useful has been found to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and depression in older age. And by staying socially active and learning new things, older adults can enjoy a sense of empowerment not only to stay connected with friends and family or to start a new business but also to be part of the conversation politically.
The idea of tutoring older adults in technology has grown into Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) which provides free instruction and computer labs to seniors in New York, Maryland, Texas, California and Colorado; there is also a center in Israel and plans for more in Spain and Japan. By mastering new technologies, older adults are able to continue to work in their field, start a new venture turning a hobby into a career or organize with others to work for important social change.
Tech training for seniors is often available through the public library, seniors centers, at local colleges or universities and through computer retailers. Older adults who want to learn technology at home can also employ the help of a private tutor that provide lessons tailored specifically to the client’s needs.