Connecting seniors with the latest technology treasures

New York, 15 Feb 2016

Ryan Wu’s experience of volunteering with Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) has changed the way he views the technology that is always at his fingertips.

Based in Macquarie’s New York office, Wu leads a team of up to six staff to set up computer labs in seniors centres throughout the city in a pro bono capacity every few months, in partnership with OATS.

“It’s amazing what people use our recycled computers for. One person hadn’t visited his home town for 20 years so he was blown away when he saw it on Google Maps. It was exciting to see his experience and that it opened up a whole new world to him,” says Wu.

“I have realised how lucky I am to be so immersed in technology on a daily basis. The computers that we donate to OATS hold no value to our organisation and are waiting to be repurposed, but they are a treasure to the community members we support and they are so appreciative.”

In 2015, Macquarie donated unused computers, monitors, keyboards and other hardware to set up five OATS labs in disadvantaged communities, including in East Harlem and the Bronx in New York City.

Most of the labs comprise at least 12 functioning computers, each with basic software already installed. Wu’s technology team plans, designs, roll-outs and implements the set up of each of the labs.

Macquarie has supported OATS and its Senior Planet Exploration Center since 2010 through pro bono support, equipment, staff fundraising and grants.

The non-profit harnesses technology to help change the way people age by building systems which help seniors use technology. This has been shown to improve their health, finances, social engagement, learning and creative expression.

“We see technology as a means to accomplish powerful outcomes, not as an end in itself,” says OATS Founder and Executive Director, Tom Kamber. “We teach seniors to use mainstream devices and applications that are popular among all age groups in order to promote integration and relevance.”

Macquarie staff also volunteer at the Senior Planet Exploration Center to coach seniors one-on-one in using technology.

“Senior Planet members let OATS know what technology they want to learn about and we then match them up with a Macquarie staff member to run through the basics face to face. We call the program ‘Macquarie Mondays’,” explains Juan Lopez, who has coordinated the company’s involvement in the Senior Planet volunteering program since mid-2015.

“Often the members we support are intimidated by technology and want to get in with the latest – from using Google to setting themselves up on a dating site,” says Lopez.

“They are just like everybody else. They want and need to know how to use technology and they are really appreciative of their sessions with our volunteers as it reduces their isolation and gets them connected in so many ways.” 

Image caption: Macquarie staff member Eugene Semetsky coaching a Senior Planet member.