New York state Assemblyman D. Billy Jones visited a senior technology program in Plattsburgh that serves rural residents of the region to discover how those who use it benefit from the service.
At one end of the Champlain Center Mall in Plattsburgh there’s a storefront where seniors gather. They’re not purchasing items but rather learning how to use computers, I-Pads and the vast array of technology encountered in modern life. It’s called Senior Planet and it’s operated by Brooklyn-based OATS, the Older Adults Technology Services. The Plattsburgh facility was initially funded with a grant from Empire State Development’s Broadband Program office. It now relies on grant funding secured by 115th District Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, a Democrat who met with seniors there on Thursday. “I’m firmly behind this program because it improves quality of life. It also connects you with family members, with neighbors, with people all around the world and that’s extremely important. You’re getting a valuable lesson in technology that, let’s face it, it’s here. And another thing I will point out we’re the only other place in the state besides New York City that has this available.”
The second Senior Planet location is in Manhattan. Director of Operations Alex Glazebrook says OATS launched Senior Planet there about eight years ago to, as he puts it, help shape aging through technology. “We provide a whole range of different opportunities for people. We can teach you how to use tablets and I-Pads or the Mac’s or digital cameras or pretty much anything you can name we can teach you. But keeping in mind that we’re not just teaching technology for the sake of teaching technology. We’re helping people use it to change their lives.”
Manhattan’s Senior Planet began as part of a federal stimulus grant and is now supported by the New York City government. Glazebrook says the site in Plattsburgh evolved about three years ago from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to create statewide broadband access. “It was a partnership. After the infrastructure, so the actual cable is laid, we were brought in to help people with what they call adoption. So getting people on line and getting them using technology.”
Assemblyman Jones says programs like Senior Planet help secure broadband technology in the region. “This actually accentuates the importance of having that technology here. These people are taking advantage of this great program and we need to have them connected. But they also need to have the technology to connect them. So anything we can do to do that and like I said I‘m a big advocate for bringing broadband to the residents here. We need it. We need it for educational purposes. We need it for our businesses. And we need it for this interaction and socialization. So we need to keep this program in place as well.”
Bunny, who didn’t give her last name, has been living in Plattsburgh for about 44 years. She comes to Senior Planet to expand her technology abilities. “I’m actually very computer literate. I came here to learn Apple and Chrome so that if a friend has a different computer I can help them.”
Bunny finds Senior Planet important not only for education but also socialization. “I think it brings people together. I think being a senior myself I have lots of friends. I do lots of things. I’m out with people. And to meet the people here was really lovely. I think it’s sharing. It’s being together.”
Senior Planet will have five program sites in the North Country through its Plattsburgh hub this year in Chateaugay, Malone, St. Regis Falls and Tupper Lake. There is also an at-home program available in Clinton and Franklin counties.