Dr. Tom Kamber and a group of volunteers started with a simple mission – helping older adults thrive in the digital age. They began teaching free, 10 week courses in Brooklyn, NYC all the way back in 2004. As a group, they formed OATS – Older Adults Technology Services – that spread throughout NYC, setting up partnerships with other non-profits and building new computer labs, and more.
In 2013, Dr. Kamber and OATS opened the first Senior Planet Center in Manhattan. It was the first technology-themed community center for older adults in America. Their motto? “Aging with Attitude.”
Over the last 8 years, the OATS organization has exploded to serve six different regions and expand globally through online, virtual instruction. They even recently joined AARP as a charitable affiliate in 2021 so they can help more third agers harness the power of technology.
Getting to Know Thomas Kamber
In his almost 20 years of experience with OATS, Dr. Kamber has become a leading expert on aging and technology. As well as being executive director of OATS and Senior Planet, he has taught courses on technology, urban studies, and philanthropy at Columbia University.
Originally earning his Ph.D. in Political Science/Public Policy at the City University of New York, Kamber started his career in urban housing and homesteading roles in New York City.
His attention turned to advertising and marketing, where he worked with D’Arcy Advertising as a senior strategist for global, corporate brands.
It was his role leading a local office of a national nonprofit – One Economy Corporation – where he started to focus on the use of technology and how it can connect us to information on everything from health, finances, jobs, and education.
While his experience has been varied throughout the years, it’s easy to see how that experience bloomed into the understanding that technology has the power to connect us with the world.
It’s that power technology has to connect us that has driven movements in OATS and Senior Planet over the past year.
In a recent interview with Today, Dr. Kamber talked about how we all need that connection as humans, but the technology to stay connected can feel a bit overwhelming for some.
He talks about the idea of the “frustration threshold” – that moment of when you’re working with technology and something goes wrong and you just can’t stand it anymore. It’s why Senior Planet started to offer virtual classes throughout the pandemic, helping families stay connected even when travel restrictions and the miles kept them apart.
In fact, one participant said recently that Senior Planet and their free instruction has helped them feel connected again – “I felt the world was passing me by, but now I feel I’m part of it again.”
It’s great to see someone dedicate their lives to helping others, helping them stay connected to the world and their communities at large.