Serving Seniors in the Public Library


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  • Library planners must address many issues. What makes planning for older adults different from planning for other adults, or teens, or children? How will library collections address the needs of older adults? How can technology be used to expand services and resources? How do we market library services to the 60+ audience? Can we turn a 70-year-old non-library user into a library user and advocate? How can the library contribute to successful aging?
  • Reality is that a significant portion of the population is older and has a continued need and desire for library services. But the old stereotypes on aging no longer apply.
  • PEW Research Note the perception changes as a person approaches that age. Are You Old? Certainly not! Public opinion in the aggregate may decree that the average person becomes old at age 68, but you won't get too far trying to convince people that age that the threshold applies to them. Among respondents ages 65-74, just 21% say they feel old. Even among those who are 75 and older, just 35% say they feel old. What Age Would You Like to Live To? The average response from our survey respondents is 89. One-in-five would like to live into their 90s, and 8% say they'd like to surpass the century mark. The public's verdict on the most desirable life span appears to have ratcheted down a bit in recent years. A 2002 AARP survey found that the average desired life span was 92.
  • “ Seniors” is a broad term that spans three diverse populations with different goals, ideas, and needs from the library. The most successful promotions market to the people being targeted and are age neutral. Many older adults dislike the terms “elderly,” “senior citizen,” and “retired.” Keep in mind that a study conducted by the Marriott Corporation showed that most older people feel younger than their actual age by an average of 12 years. Boomers typically do not consider themselves “seniors”, may not retire, or may consider second or third careers, or part-time work All groups are more active than in previous decades,
  • PEW 2005: Boomers by the Numbers The bulge in birth rates between 1946 and 1964 that defines the Baby Boom generation is estimated to represent an increase of 7 to 15 million over the expected population growth during that period. • 76 million babies born 1946 to 1964 • 75 million adults, ages 41-59, today • 26% of all U.S. residents today Median household income for boomers is higher than that for all adults according to the U.S. Census Bureau estimates. • Boomers: $60,000 median household income in 2004 • All adults: $44,500 median household income in 2004
  • Older Adults grew up as the suffocated children of war and depression. They came of age just too late to be war heroes and just too early to be youthful free spirits. Instead, this early-marrying Lonely Crowd became the risk-averse technicians and professionals—as well as the sensitive rock ‘n rollers and civil-rights advocates—of a post-crisis era in which conformity seemed to be a sure ticket to success. Midlife was an anxious “passage” for a generation torn between stolid elders and passionate juniors. Their surge to power coincided with fragmenting families, cultural diversity, institutional complexity, and prolific litigation. They are entering elderhood with unprecedented affluence, a “hip” style, and a reputation for indecision.
  • Elderly developed a special and “good kid” reputation as the beneficiaries of new playgrounds, scouting clubs, vitamins, and child-labor restrictions. They came of age with the sharpest rise in schooling ever recorded. As young adults, their uniformed corps patiently endured depression and heroically conquered foreign enemies. In a midlife subsidized by the G.I. Bill, they built gleaming suburbs, invented miracle vaccines, plugged “missile gaps,” and launched moon rockets. Their unprecedented grip on the Presidency began with a New Frontier, a Great Society, and Model Cities, but wore down through Vietnam, Watergate, deficits, and problems with “the vision thing.” As “senior citizens,” they safeguarded their own “entitlements” but had little influence over culture and values.
  • In every instance, older adults report experiencing them at lower levels (often far lower) than younger adults report expecting to encounter them when they grow old. At the same time, however, older adults report experiencing fewer of the benefits of aging that younger adults expect to enjoy when they grow old, such as spending more time with their family, traveling more for pleasure, having more time for hobbies, doing volunteer work or starting a second career. Pew Research
  • Aging is a highly individualized experience These are generalization, at best. Use obvious color contrasts when preparing print documents. Avoid using violet hues in print publications, as this is one of the first colors seniors amy lose from field of vision Provide library card applications and other print materials in large print. Be sure that the paper has a matte finish rather than a glossy finish. Allow the person extra time to complete reading and writing tasks. Those with low incomes are more likely than those with high incomes to face these challenges.
  • PEW Research asked ages 18-24 a perception, and ages 65+ the reality. Those represent the actual reporting of seniors for what they actually see as a benefit of growing older, versus what youngsters anticipate as a benefit Enthusiasm Expertise Skilled and Educated Volunteers Retirement no longer signals the downward slide to end-of-life Many seniors are choosing semi-retirement, part-time work, or second careers.
  • On December 16, 1991, the United Nations General Assembly adopted eighteen Principles for Older Persons (Resolution 46/91), divided into five broad categories. Listed below are the summarized principles that apply to library services. Adhering to these principles will create an environment in which seniors and the entire library community will benefit. 1. Independence • Older persons should have the opportunity to work or have access to other income-generating opportunities. • Older persons should have access to appropriate educational and training programs. 2. Participation • Older persons should remain integrated in society, participate actively in the formulation and implementation of policies that directly affect their wellbeing, and share their knowledge and skills with younger generations. • Older persons should be able to seek and develop opportunities for service to the community and to serve as volunteers in positions appropriate to their interests and capabilities. 3. Care • Older persons should have access to social and legal services to enhance their autonomy, protection, and care. • Older persons should be able to utilize appropriate levels of institutional care providing protection, rehabilitation, and social and mental stimulation in a humane and secure environment. • Older persons should be able to enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms when residing in any shelter, care, or treatment facility, including full respect for their dignity, beliefs, needs, and privacy and for the right to make decisions about their care and the quality of their lives. 4. Self-fulfillment • Older persons should be able to pursue opportunities for the full development of their potential. • Older persons should have access to the educational, cultural, spiritual, and recreational resources of society. 5. Dignity • Older persons should be treated fairly, regardless of age, gender, racial or ethnic background, disability, or other status, and be valued independently of their economic contribution.
  • No ageism! Lois Lamden, the author of Elderlearning , states that ageism is the most ironic of all prejudices, since we are all headed toward old age. Partnering: The task of planning for this diverse, burgeoning population is great, and the benefits to the community, the library and, most importantly, older adults and their families are greater. Working as partners with community agencies and businesses that serve citizens over 60, libraries can build connections with seniors, enhance the quality of life, and strengthen the community.
  • Check with your local agency on aging.
  • Want to know what seniors want from the library? Ask them. We have Teen advisory boards, why not senior advisory boards. Just as we need teens involved in planning their spaces, collections, and areas, we need seniors actively involved in their library experience, too. Involve your local community in the process – create active participants in creating the library they want and need.
  • Are we too youth-oriented? Is the library unwelcoming to older adults? If we are going to dedicate special areas to welcoming and serving specific populations, that shouldn’t end when our patrons turn 18. Children and teen areas focus on services, so should dedicated senior areas.
  • Everyone wants their own place in the library! Focus on Service Accessible – nothing too high or too low. Lots of seating. Well lit, but cozy. Wide spaces between tables and shelves. Game area, whether traditional board games, or modern gaming software. Computers set to large print. Comfortable seating. Control glare in the library. If there are areas within the library in which glare cannot be eliminated completely, be sure that the large print material is not housed there. Note: Mounting posters on transparent glass will alert patrons to the presence of glass doors or windows. Add task lighting units in reading areas.
  • Old Bridge Public Library, NJ - CCTV (Closed Circuit TV for Enlarging Print) - Audiovision (Radio Reading Service from NJ State Library for the Blind & Handicapped) - Service Center for NJ State Library for the Blind & Handicapped 
  • In addition to having a dedicated area for seniors to relax and enjoy the library. Consider having a dedicated collection in that senior space. You may have duplicates of items in other parts of your main collection, but this will greatly enhance the usability of your senior space.
  • More than large print! iPods are not just for twenty-somethings!
  • Not all-inclusive
  • Researchers point to a number of factors that will enable adults to experience successful aging. Among these are proper diet, good humor, and exercising one’s body and mind. In fact, there are scientists who believe that human beings have a built-in “biological clock,” which would run for 130 years if no diseases or illnesses affected the body. The library is the perfect community agency to help patrons exercise their minds and bodies, and keep their sense of humor. If we keep our own.
  • Remember, this population can be diverse, educated, lively, energetic, etc. Don’t box yourself in by thinking about stereotypes. Different times for programming will appeal to different facets of your senior population. Again, asking your seniors is key! Ninety percent of older adults state that they learn best by putting their hands on something and manipulating it.
  • Senior Travel: A senior who went on a trip would lecture and show slides (pre-powerpoint) of pictures from the trip.  This was great because seniors got to share things they did, and seniors who couldn't travel because of health or cost could share in the trip. Some libraries offer Free Blood Pressure Screening after senior programs
  • Safe forums for open debate/ discussion are rare in modern society, but can be very popular. Modern seniors are well-education, well-spoken, and not looking to quietly disappear.
  • Studies are showing that brain health can be maintained and improved by gaming in older adults Gaming can bring communities and diverse groups together better than One Book programs
  • In 1998, over 25% of computers were purchased by older adults. In fact, seniors spend more time on the Internet than 12-17 year olds. This figure has certainly grown in the last decade.
  • Generation Y, or young adults generally 18-32 years old who grew up in the Information Age, have been dubbed the ‘Net Generation.’ But, while these “digital natives” may be savvier with their gadgets and more keen on new uses of technology, their elders in Generation X, the Baby Boomers and older generations tend to dominate internet use in other areas. Pew Research “ The Twitter revolution hasn’t landed here yet” from PEW 2009 research findings. If there's one realm of modern life where old and young behave very differently, it's in the adoption of newfangled information technologies. Just four-in-ten adults ages 65-74 use the internet on a daily basis, and that share drops to just one-in-six among adults 75 and above. By contrast, three-quarters of adults ages 18-30 go online daily. The generation gap is even wider when it comes to cell phones and text messages. Among adults 65 and older, just 5% get most or all of their calls on a cell phone, and just 11% sometimes use their cell phone to send or receive a text message. For adults under age 30, the comparable figures are 72% and 87%, respectively.
  • Do not assume that seniors hate modern technology! Eager to learn
  • is “the world’s first age-relevant search engine” Eons is a senior-oriented social networking tool.
  • Age neutral marketing has been shown to be the most effective.
  • Much like a job fair, have a senior community fair at the library. Invite local agencies and clubs to staff tables. Chance to find members for your new advisory board.
  • Contact churches, senior centers, clubs. Offer space in your newsletter if they do the same for you.
  • By no means an all-inclusive list
  • Serving Seniors in the Public Library

    1. 1. Surfing the SeniorTsunamiServing Seniors in the Public Library
    2. 2. The Hype  “Senior Tsunami”  “Age Wave”  “Graying of the Population”  “Baby Boomers Come of Age”
    3. 3. When Does One Become Old?
    4. 4. The Reality  Three Senior Generations  Baby Boomers: 65 and younger  Older Adults: Ages 65-85  Elderly: Ages 85-105  Ethnically Diverse  By 2030, 25% of the older population will be minorities.
    5. 5. Baby Boomers  Baby Boomer Cohort #1  Born between 1946 and 1955  Epitomized the cultural change of the sixties  Key characteristics: experimental, individualism, free spirited, social cause oriented  Beginning to age into “Senior” Category  Baby Boomer Cohort #2  “Generation Jones”  Born between 1956 and 1964  Key characteristics: less optimistic, distrust of government, general cynicism
    6. 6. Silent Generation  Born between 1923 to 1943  Between the wars  Came of age just too late to be war heroes and just too early to be youthful free spirits.
    7. 7. GI Generation  Born between 1901– 1924  Influenced by Great Depression  Fought in both World Wars  Built foundation for modern, suburban America.
    8. 8. Facets of Aging“Age is an issue of mind over matter.If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Mark Twain
    9. 9. Perceptions of Old Age
    10. 10. Potential Challenges  Decreased Mobility  Decreased Hearing and/or Eyesight  Health issues  Adults ages 65 and older:  1 in 4 report experiencing memory loss  1 in 5 report they have a serious illness, are not sexually active, or often feel sad or depressed  1 in 6 report they are lonely or have trouble paying bills.  1 in 7 report they cannot drive  1 in 10 report they feel they arent needed or are a burden to others.
    11. 11. Potential Benefits
    12. 12. Principles for Older Persons  Independence  Participation  Care  Self-Fulfillment  Dignity
    13. 13. Stellar Library Service  Attitude  Understanding  Patience  Respect  Partnering
    14. 14. Know Your CommunityThe aging process has you firmly in itsgrasp if you never get the urge to throw asnowball Doug Larson
    15. 15. Ask Yourself…  What are the projections for the aging of your community in 5, 10, or 15 years?  Do you know how many seniors use your library?  How many seniors in your community have library cards?  How many attend programs?
    16. 16. Planning  Senior Advisory Boards  Create ownership  Build Support  User-centered change  Survey your community  Opportunities for partnering
    17. 17. Develop a Plan  Inventory current services  Assign dedicated staff (if feasible)  Include in your budgeting process  Library services are not the same from ages 18-108!
    18. 18. Senior SpacesEveryone is the age of their heart. Guatemalan Proverb
    19. 19. Dedicated Space  Children’s Area √  Teen Area √  Senior Area?
    20. 20. Senior Spaces  Quiet & Comfortable  Accessible  Destination  Brain Fitness
    21. 21. Senior Spaces
    22. 22. Senior CollectionsYouth is a disease from which we allrecover. Dorothy Fulheim
    23. 23. Dedicated Collection  Three generations  Different interests & needs  Modified Dewey  Easy, browsing format  Focus on patrons  Large Print  AV, E-Books, Downloadable Audiobooks
    24. 24. Areas of Emphasis  Consumer Health  Genealogy  Employment  Retirement  Finances  Issues of Caregiving  Computers  Hobbies
    25. 25. Senior ProgrammingThe key to successful aging is to payas little attention to it as possible. Judith Regan
    26. 26. Programming  Day, Afternoon, Evening, & Weekends  Ask your advisory board!  Variety  Intergenerational  Engaging  Creative  Timely  Nostalgic  Hands-On / Participatory
    27. 27. Sample Programs  Movies  Book Clubs  Senior Travel Series  BiFOLKal kits  Senior-led presentations  Expertise  Hobbies  Art classes, crafting  Gardening, cooking, sewing, etc.  Storytelling  Nostalgia
    28. 28. Discussions  “Socrates Café”  Open discussion on pre-determined topics  Goal is discussion, not agreement  Attendees can agree or disagree  Intergenerational discussions  Give seniors a voice!
    29. 29. Gaming  Technology confidence  Hand/eye coordination  Brain health  Social interaction  Intergenerational bonding  Easy outreach programs
    30. 30. Senior TechnologyWeve put more effort into helping folksreach old age than into helping them enjoyit. Frank A. Clark
    31. 31. Seniors Online
    32. 32. Technology Classes  Basics of Computing  E-Bay  Consumer Health  Photography
    33. 33. 2.0 Technology  Web Searching   Blogging  Social Networking  Eons  Downloading E-Books and MP3s  Twitter, FB, Texting  Could be taught by teens
    34. 34. Senior MarketingIts sad to grow old, but nice to ripen. Brigitte Bardot
    35. 35. Traditional  Newsletters  Newspapers  Church / Synagogue Bulletins  Radio  Appeals to Older Adults and Elderly
    36. 36. Modern  Websites  Email Newsletters  Social Networking  Text / Mobile Marketing  Appeals to Boomers
    37. 37. Phrasing  Don’t have to say “senior” in marketing  Age Neutral  Graphics to show desired audience
    38. 38. Local ConnectionsGrandchildren dont make a man feel old;its the knowledge that hes married to agrandmother. G. Norman Collie
    39. 39. Collaboration  Senior Community Fair  Opportunity to spotlight services and organizations  Great beginning for Advisory Board
    40. 40. Cross Marketing  Trade newsletter space with other organizations  Senior Centers  Clubs  Don’t forget Outreach!  Leave the library and go talk to people
    41. 41. Agencies ProvidingServices on AgingNone are so old as those who haveoutlived enthusiasm. Henry David Thoreau
    42. 42. Indiana Agencies  Family and Social Services, Division on Aging   Includes listing of regional agencies  Indiana Association of Homes and Services for the Aging   Indiana Association of Area Agencies on Aging 
    43. 43. National Organizations  American Association of Retired Persons   Federal Administration on Aging   EPA Age Initiative 
    44. 44. ResourcesThe years between fifty and seventy are thehardest. You are always being asked to do more,and you are not yet decrepit enough to turn themdown. T.S. Eliot, quoted in Time, 23 October 1950
    45. 45. Senior Spaces  Old Bridge Public Library, NJ   Tempe Public Library, AZ   Peabody Public Library, MA   Mary L Cook Public Library, OH  option=com_content&view=article&id=64&Itemid=8 2
    46. 46. Sources  Kleiman, Allan. Serving Seniors With Panache, Lyrasis Workshop, October 26, 2009.   Kleiman, Allan. Senior Spaces: The Library Place for Baby Boomers, Older Adults & Their Families. World Library And Information Congress: 74th IFLA General Conference And Council, 10-14 August 2008. Québec, Canada  Growing Old in America: Expectations vs. Reality. June 29, 2009.  LifeCourse Associates, overview.html  Serving Seniors: A Resource Manual for Missouri Libraries. 11/1/2009  Wikipedia, Baby Boomers,  Librarian Live Podcast, (July 2009) 
    47. 47. Websites  Transforming Life After 50 Project through California State Library  Intergenerational Center at Temple University
    48. 48. Thank You!Shauna BorgerIndiana State LibraryProfessional Development