Senior Planet—by Design

Despite the pandemic, older adults have still been able to deepen their connection to their local communities, remain socially engaged, and learn new skills to transform their way of life—all because of Senior Planet’s robust programming.

With dozens of online programs offered weekly, on topics ranging from fitness to finance to book clubs and more, at some point everyone must have asked themselves…where do all the programs come from?

If you’ve ever wondered how that class on Technology or Tai Chi shows up online each week, here are five things you don’t know about Senior Planet programming, according to Colette Buscemi, the Director of Innovation & Program Design for Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) from AARP. 

1.They are designed specifically for you.

The driving force behind Senior Planet programming,  according to Buscemi, is “Design Thinking.”  “Design Thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation,” she explains.  The process has five elements: Empathizing, Defining, Ideating, Prototyping, and Testing. “We ask who is this experience being designed for,” she explains, “and determine what they want.”

2. Our Design Thinking starts with your input. 

The Empathy step in Design Thinking reaches out to Senior Planet participants with direct interviews, focus groups, and surveys, Buscemi says.  “These insights and feedback are used to create program priorities and shape Senior Planet’s future growth.” At the end of each current program, participants are asked to complete a survey as well. 

Practicing empathy leads to the next step: Defining an understanding of any unique challenges participants may be facing, Buscemi says. 

3.  We work with experts to create quality programming that meets your defined needs. 

The research and Ideation phase includes interviews and advice from subject matter experts. “Through an outcomes-based approach to curriculum and program design, we establish objectives and desired outcomes, based on the needs of our senior participants,” Buscemi says, adding, “We outline the specific topics, themes, and digital tools necessary to achieve these outcomes.”

4. We triple test every aspect of our programs to create the best outcome for you.

Prototyping and Testing are the keys in the Design Thinking process to make sure your Senior Planet experience is the best possible. “Prototyping involves taking course curriculum and testing it on a small pool of users,” Buscemi explains. “It also could include designing hands-on activities to help people acquire the skills and confidence required to use digital tools.” 

Testing is the final step in the Design Thinking process.  “We conduct micro-testing to improve the quality of our productions,” Buscemi points out. “Are the images clear?  Is the trainer’s voice clear? How can our participants interact? We test camera angles, lighting and other details.”  OATS strives to make its programming as accessible as possible – videos with subtitles, lectures with printed handouts. “We also offer hands-on training with technology and have volunteers to assist people as needed,” Buscemi adds.  

5. You don’t have to be near a Senior Planet center to have a Senior Planet  experience. 

Besides the online offerings, Buscemi points to the Senior Planet Licensing Program, which continues its roll out this year. “We work with community-based organizations to develop local trainers to deliver Senior Planet’s proprietary curriculum and world-class programs to older adults across the country.” (Is there a library or senior center near you that might be interested in becoming a Senior Planet licensee? Share this link with them.) 

“When we say we want the seniors in our programs to have a “world-class experience,” we take that very seriously and do everything we can to make it happen. Buscemi adds. That includes marginalized groups, through the Aging Connected initiative, with phone support to help people get connected at home. 

Sharing Design Thinking 

The success of Senior Planet’s process and programs is the force behind OATS participation in the American Society on Aging’s On Aging 2022 conference, taking place from April 11-14.

Hosted by The American Society on Aging (ASA), OATS is sponsoring ASA’s Age Tech Pavilion stage. Executive Director Tom Kamber will be joined by industry thought leaders on aging, innovation, and technology – leaders like Steve Ewell, Executive Director of the Civilian Education System Foundation, and fellow ASA Innovation Committee member and Senior Partner at Lippincott, Melissa Tischler.  .

Interested in sharing an idea for programming or feedback? Email


NaBeela Washington, an emerging Black writer, holds a Master’s in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University and Bachelor’s in Visual Advertising from The University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has been published in Eater, The Cincinnati Review, and others. Learn more at