As part of its mission to help older adults thrive in the digital world, Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) from AARP is launching Tech Tank, an innovative program that allows participants to engage with new technologies in a supportive environment. The program, which launched this summer at Senior Planet centers in New York City and Palo Alto, will expand to Senior Planet centers across the country—including in Denver, Plattsburg and Miami—starting in 2023.
The Tech Tank was created to help demystify modern technology for older adults, too many of whom are on the wrong side of the digital divide. By offering a space, free of barriers, where older adults can interact with new digital devices with the support of in-person trainers, the program aims to empower older adults with the skills needed to use and benefit from today’s innovative technologies, including the Amazon Echo 8, VR headsets, drones, telepresence robots, and gaming consoles.
“From day one, our goal has been to help older adults harness the power of technology. The Tech Tank was born out of that goal,” said Tom Kamber, Executive Director of OATS from AARP. “By giving Senior Planet participants an educational environment to touch, see, and experiment with new technologies in-person, the Tech Tank provides older adults the opportunity to explore digital devices that could improve their lives in transformational ways.”
Since the launch of Tech Tank’s pilot program in July 2022, over 50 participants across two Senior Planet centers have had the chance to test out new tech devices through its pilot program. After testing the concept with the Amazon Echo 8, Senior Planet conducted a survey with participants and found that, despite finding it extremely useful, over 50% of participants had never heard of the device before engaging with it in the Tech Tank.
“As someone who loves to learn, but isn’t admittedly the most tech savvy, I’ve found the Tech Tank to be incredibly useful. It’s also been a huge confidence booster” said Tech Tank participant Dorothy Zelder, an 80-year-old from Queens, NY, who participated in the Tech Tank Pilot Program. “The program offers a much-needed space for older adults like myself who are eager to get up to speed on new technology in today’s evolving digital landscape. I encourage all older adults to get out there and try it out!”
“I have seen older adults who are at the center for a class or 1-1 tech tutoring find themselves exploring and learning about new products organically thanks to the Tech Tank,” said Center Manager of Senior Planet in NYC Stella Fosu. “It’s amazing to see the intimidating veil of technology instantaneously lifted when someone picks up the plays around with actual products. And it also reminds us to have fun with technology!”
Next year, the Tech Tank pilot will expand beyond voice-automated devices such as the Amazon Echo to provide its members a range of new experiences including virtual reality (Oculus), Ring Doorbell and Fitbit.
OATS from AARP helps older adults learn to use and leverage technology to transform their lives and their communities. Through its flagship program, Senior Planet, OATS works closely with older adults to create extraordinary experiences in-person and online. As one of AARP’s charitable affiliates, the mission of OATS from AARP is “to harness the power of technology to change the way we age.” To learn more, visit www.oats.org or follow @OlderAdultsTech on social media.
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