Cyber Talk Radio: OATS - Engaging Seniors with Technology

Bret Piatt, CTR Host, and DeAnne Cuellar, Texas state director of Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) for Senior Planet - Episode 153 of Cyber Talk Radio

This past Sunday, September 1, episode 153 of Cyber Talk Radio hit the air on 1200 WOAI and iHeartRadio streaming. I was joined by DeAnne Cuellar, Texas state director of Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) for Senior Planet, to discuss how the Senior Planet program is engaging San Antonio seniors with technology and entrepreneurship.

To kick off the episode, DeAnne explains what OATS Senior Planet is — nine months ago they received a grant from the Humana Foundation that made it possible to create a membership-based program for technology-focused devices and programs. It allows seniors who are 60 years or older to be able to connect using technology. Their primary goal is to reduce social isolation, which is a huge problem with seniors. DeAnne recalls the results of a shocking survey about the social isolation that they’re trying to combat — being alone for just one day as a senior has the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day! If you or someone your know is interested in the program, look out for a calendar coming soon to the Senior Planet San Antonio website. In addition, the local community has a strong referral network, and they are available at over 35 locations city wide with more than 20 different classes. Call (210) 504-4862 to find out about those opportunities. The OATS courses cover a range of topics and levels. In them, seniors can take the six foundational courses, learn how to use devices, and go in many directions after finishing the basics. Classes are mostly Monday through Friday before noon in mostly senior and community centers, but they are also coming to other places, such as cafeterias and laundromats, where people who are not connected online hang out. The commitment for those taking OATS classes is five to 10 weeks, twice a week for 1.5 hours. The best part is that the classes are free! This means OATS provides a device, WiFi and textbook for all students! Their five core areas are: lifelong learning, financial security, health and wellness, civic engagement and social engagement. Some classes even have capstone projects! Looking into their upcoming goals, the Humana Foundation funding that they currently have goes through the end of this year, and they would like to make the program sustainable, so they’re looking for public and private partners for future funding. Before the break, we talk about the importance of digital financial literacy and how a lack of that can cause seniors to be targeted more in phishing, malware and identity theft.

After the break, we shift to discussing that hopefully soon they’ll have a Senior Planet center in San Antonio with everything seniors will need, because they’re currently working at partner spaces in San Antonio, where course instructors have to bring OATS’ devices and course supplies to the students. It will be a great entrepreneurial space for older people to express their creativity, hobbies and business ideas. DeAnne talks about one of her favorite students and success story, Dolly. When she first met Dolly, she could barely leave her house and was using a mobile wheelchair, but when she went to a local community center and found OATS, she started using a cell phone and transitioned to using a walker, improved her health and got a job! Dolly now want to be an OATS instructor! Since the beginning, OATS has held over 43,000 class sessions. Looking toward future possibilities, DeAnne would like to address other issues for seniors — ageism (which is connected to social isolation), mobility and food access. How do people get involved with or hired by Senior Planet? They are always looking for community-focused advocates who care about civic engagement and seniors.

Listen to the full episode replay to learn more about Senior Planet and OATS.

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