Most seniors have library cards, but many do not visit the library. There are a number of reasons, but the fact is that many seniors are simply not comfortable using technology. The card catalogs of the past are gone, and they donít know how to navigate the library system anymore. Many libraries have responded to requests from young adults to increase the childrenís section of the library, so seniors donít feel that the library is very relevant to them.
Fortunately, seniors have expressed a desire to have libraries be more inclusive of their needs. As a result, libraries are taking a look at how to become friendlier for seniors. Here are some things that innovative libraries are offering to seniors:
Free classes. Libraries are offering a variety of classes such as how to navigate the technology encountered in the library. There are classes for seniors on how to quilt, crochet, and infuse vinegar with herbs. Seniors can take a class on how to find an appropriate job, update their resume, practice interviewing skills, and much more.
Support groups. Libraries are offering seniors to use for support group meetings, including book clubs. Itís a great way for seniors to enjoy social time in a learning environment. If there is no existing support group or book club that you want to join, you can always start one!
Fun activities. Some libraries are becoming very much like community centers. Libraries in Alameda County, CA offer bowling classes via the Wii for seniors. Seniors will find speakers and authors visiting libraries to speak about the topic that they specialize in such as cooking, art, writing, and exercising. The public library in Delft, Netherlands, has merged the music library, art library and public library. The public can check out art and take it home for up to six months. The public library in Rotterdam has an actual theater in it. In Amsterdam, visitors can eat at the restaurant, or play one of the pianos that are there for visitors to play.
Services for the home bound senior. Libraries are doing more outreach to seniors, and are providing services that will allow home bound seniors to experience what the library has to offer. Services include home delivery of books, mobile library trucks visiting seniors, and increased digital library services.
Senior spaces. Libraries are becoming increasingly aware that the furniture, flooring, color, lighting, etc., all impact how safely and comfortably seniors experience their visits. The Old Bridge Library in Old Bridge, NJ, has an area called ďSenior SpacesĒ. Itís a space designed for three generations of seniors. There is senior friendly furniture for each of the three generations of seniors. There are desks and monitors that can be adjusted for seniors in wheelchairs or scooters, and more. Staff is there to help seniors to learn how to use technology, including the popular video games that many younger people enjoy.
Creative accessibility. Seniors expect to see a wheelchair ramp, wide aisles and automatic doors at their library. Libraries are looking for more ways to be accessible. As a result, there are more book drops in parking lots, and drive up windows for seniors that find it difficult to come inside of the library. There are services for those that are impaired, such as Talking Books and Braille for the sight impaired, in addition to software and equipment for sight impaired visitors.
Libraries offer specialized equipment and services for those that are hearing or physically impaired as well. Some libraries require staff to wear uniforms or clothing items so that they are easily identified as staff. Other libraries have collaborated with services offered in the community for seniors, and make applying for those services possible at the library.
There are more innovations being added all the time that reflect something that is unique to the region or specific to cultural and ethnic populations as well. Check to see what your library offers. If something is missing, let them know what you would like to see. Librarians tend to be excited about great ideas, so donít hesitate to share yours.