Arent Fox Helps Launch First Digital Learning Center for Older Adults in New York
Senior Planet is equipped with two dozen broadband-connected desktop and laptop computers, and a range of other digital devices including tablets, smartphones, cameras, gaming consoles, and “Skype stations”... In addition to free access to state-of-the-art technology, Senior Planet provides free training courses, a high-profile speaker series, and a range of other programming and special events, all of which stress the benefits that technology can produce in the lives of seniors. The center is the brainchild of Older Adults Technology Services (OATS), a nonprofit whose mission is help seniors harness the power of technology to create transformational change in their lives by increasing their social and civic connectedness, strengthening their finances, improving their health and wellness, and opening up new pathways for creative expression and lifelong learning. The tagline for Senior Planet is “Aging with Attitude.”
Both Arent Fox Health Care partner Jill Steinberg, who serves on the OATS board of directors, and Construction partner Andrew Ross who provided extensive pro bono advice on the center’s design and build-out, were instrumental in making Senior Planet a reality. The new 2,500 square-foot storefront facility was completed in early January, and is located at 127 West 25th Street in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Open Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 4 PM, the center offers free access to its technology and services to the 10,000 older adults that will visit this year... The physical center is complemented by an online community at www.seniorplanet.org, which provides an extensive mix of resources and content for seniors.
Ms. Steinberg, who joined the OATS board in 2010, said, “Senior Planet has become an instant hit with seniors in the short time it has been open. Its popularity illustrates the enormous need and desire among older adults to get online and master at least the basics of technology in a setting that is appropriate and supportive. Simply being able to email or chat with friends and family, access health information, and communicate with care providers gives seniors a sense of inclusion and independence that can do wonders for warding off isolation and depression and keeping them active members of society.”
Mr. Ross said, “We are honored to contribute to this innovative and much-needed project, which we believe is the first technology themed senior center of its kind in the US and sets a terrific template for facilities that may follow elsewhere in New York or around the country. Working with the talented and passionate people at OATS was fulfilling on its own, and the end-goal of enhancing the lives of our growing senior population made this effort enormously rewarding.”
OATS is a New York-based nonprofit founded in 2004 and, in addition to operating the Senior Planet Exploration Center, provides technology training courses at 23 new computer labs the organization established over the last two years at local senior centers throughout New York City. OATS also sponsors a mobile lab that delivers WiFi-enabled tablets and training to other senior centers that lack permanent labs. Over the last eight years, OATS has provided training to over 9,000 seniors and is recognized as a national leader in developing strategies to utilize technology to transform the lives of older adults.
OATS founder and executive director Thomas Kamber said, “We’re grateful for the generosity of Arent Fox and the incredible contributions of our board member Jill Steinberg and firm partner Andrew Ross in making Senior Planet a reality. The successful planning and completion of this unique community resource owe much to the Arent Fox team.”
In addition to the in-kind and financial support of Arent Fox, Senior Planet has received funding from the US Department of Commerce through a stimulus grant made to the City of New York’s Department of Technology and Telecommunications, and a range of philanthropic and corporate funders including the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Macquarie Group Foundation, the Consumer Electronics Association Foundation, Sony, AT&T and Verizon.
The launch of Senior Planet is Arent Fox’s second notable pro bono announcement of the New Year. On January 1, Health Care attorney and managing partner of the New York office Michael Blass took over as chairman of the board of the National Executive Service Corps (NESC), a New York nonprofit that partners retired business executives with area charitable organizations in need of financial, operations, and management expertise. Mr. Blass had been a member of the NESC board for seven years before his election as chair.
Ms. Steinberg focuses her practice on handling health care issues for providers, investors, and lenders. She has particular experience representing health care providers, including skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, long-term care hospitals, and home health agencies. Mr. Ross provides transactional, regulatory, and corporate services for construction industry clients. He represents construction project owners and developers, architects, engineers, project managers, construction managers, and contractors in connection with private and public construction projects.