Helping Older Adults Thrive in Todays Digital Age

with Alex Glazebrook of Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) from AARP

Older adults are increasingly embracing digital technology — but how will this population fare as today’s tools continue to rapidly evolve?

Alex Glazebrook of Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) from AARP joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss efforts to help seniors learn, work, and thrive in today’s digital age, including a program designed to help older adults live more independently and connect to family and friends.

Posted on:

November 30, 2023

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: Older Americans are often late adopters of new digital technology, but this population is increasingly embracing the digital age. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 75% of Americans ages 65 and older are online, and that number is growing each year. Hello and welcome to Comcast Newsmakers. I'm Tetiana Anderson. While seniors are adopting technology more than ever, how will this population fare as new tech innovations continue to advance? Joining us to discuss strategies to ensure seniors don't get left behind is Dr. Alexander Glazebrook. He is Vice President of Operations at OATS -- Older Adults Technology Services -- from AARP. And Alex, thank you for being here.

Glazebrook: Thanks for having me.

Anderson: So not everyone chooses to be up on technology, right? I mean, what are some of the reasons that some of the people in the population that you serve are just choosing to opt out of what many of us call the comforts of the tech world?

Glazebrook: I think a lot of people ultimately think they don't need it. They don't understand what technology can do in their lives, especially as they age. And what OATS is all about is trying to understand how technology can be applied to change your life as you age. But most people don't see that. And as you continue to age, I think the sort of disconnection from technology only increases. So we're really trying to bring people into the mainstream and keep them included.

Anderson: So what kind of training are you conducting and what are you hearing from the participants that have come through the OATS program about what they've walked away with?

Glazebrook: We do it all, everything from the very basics to "I need to get an e-mail account" all the way up to "I need to learn advanced Excel," or "I need to learn how to apply for a job online." Our curriculum spans thousands of topics and pages and multiple languages. It's really inclusive. And we're not really concerned so much with technology itself. We're concerned with how people then apply what they learn to their lives. So what we hear from people -- there's a lot of questions about safety, but there's a lot of questions about how can I use technology to stay connected with my friends and family? How can I use it maybe to make some extra money on the side? How can I use it to find a new job? So it's pretty diverse, and I think people believe that, as we age, that technology is not something that people want to use for growth. But that's really what people are doing as they age. So we're trying to battle that misconception a little bit.

Anderson: Is there a particular success story that stands out in your mind where someone really changed around technology because of the OATS program?

Glazebrook: Yeah. A particular example of one of our participants in Texas, she was a long-time factory employee. She had a really terrible accident and lost her job, and with that, lost her Internet subscription, which was kind of her lifeline to the world. And through our programs and through us connecting her with something called the Affordable Connectivity Program, which is a free benefit that people can use to get subsidized or completely free Internet in their home, she was able to get reconnect and reconnect with all her family and friends and actually find a new job. And she has that Internet subscription now for free through our training and programs.

Anderson: So it's obviously going well, and it's going so well that you actually licensed this training platform so you can have an even bigger impact. I mean, it's called the Senior Planet Licensing Program. Can you tell us just a little bit about how it works?

Glazebrook: Sure. So a long time ago when the organization first started, we did all the training ourselves with our employees, and we realized, hard to scale that way, so we started licensing. It's almost like a franchise model. And through that model, we train institutions and we train their employees to deliver our work on the ground. So they get access to our curriculum, capacity building, and other resources. So OATS and our Senior Planet programs can be out in communities where we aren't. The programs have been around for about three years, and we're in 28 states and over 350 locations, and it's growing rapidly.

Anderson: So the latest numbers from the census show that by 2040, a quarter of the population will be 65 and older. So there's going to be a proliferation of technology as this time goes on. What does that tell you about the need for what you're doing and how you're going to need to sort of scale things for the future?

Glazebrook: Yeah, it's an interesting question. When we started in 2004, that was one of the original questions, is what's going to happen to OATS in ten years when it's 2014? What will people need then? And what we've found is technology is changing so quickly. The pace of innovation is faster now than it's ever been. So we kind of have to iterate with the times and create offerings for people that are new and that will keep them in the mainstream. So in ten years from now, it could be a lot of AI and, you know, autonomous vehicles, and that's what we'll be training people on instead of more of -- We're still doing a lot of the fundamental things that people need, but it'll just keep changing.

Anderson: So people are going to want to know more about this. What's your website? Where can they look?

Glazebrook:, and there, you can find information about our programs, a lot of information about the research we've done, other companies that we're partnering with, and you can also find out where we're located, maybe in a community near you.

Anderson: Dr. Alexander Glazebrook of the OATS program at AARP, thank you for being here.

Glazebrook: Thanks for having me.

Anderson: And thanks to you as well for watching. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, visit I'm Tetiana Anderson. ♪♪ ♪♪

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