Saturday, December 29, 2007

Arts and Aging Programs for Older Adults

In a previous post, I wrote about a library program that focused on older women artists and how art enriched their lives. If you are interested in having art programs for older adults at your library, the National Center for Creative Aging website is a good place to find information. This organization provides training for art programs, promotes arts and aging programs, and supports research concerning aging and the arts.

The National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA) is “dedicated to fostering an understanding of the vital relationship between creative expression and healthy aging and to developing programs that build on this understanding." Older adults can locate local art programs by using the Arts and Aging National Directory. This search can be used to find literary, media, performing, or visual arts programs. The NCAA website has more creative aging resources here.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Season's Greetings

I hope this holiday season finds you and your family healthy and happy!

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

"Ageing Artfully" Program

I recently attended an older adult program at my public library, which was led by Amy Gorman. She is the author of an excellent book called “Aging Artfully: 12 Profiles of Visual and Performing Women Artists 85-105”. The older women described in the book enjoy life and are passionate about their art. I believe that older adults will find this book inspirational and empowering. "Aging Artfully" recently won a Bronze Medal from the prestigious 2007 Independent Publishing Book Awards (IPPYS), in the category of Women's Issues.

During the presentation, Amy Gorman talked about how she decided to write this book after seeking out older adult women artists to be her role models. She showed a film called “Still Kicking: Six high spirited women reveal that growing old is not a curse-it’s an opportunity” which included interviews with six women from her book. The film was very moving and well done. I would recommend Amy Gorman's book and this film for any public library collection.

This presentation was well attended and the audience not only enjoyed the program, but also participated in a spirited question and answer session with the author. The presentation was a great example of a positive portrayal of aging – one in which old age is viewed as a time for creativity and sharing one’s art and experiences.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Amazing Library Webpage for Older Adults

The Cuyahoga County Public Library has an excellent set of web pages and features for older adults. I found out about this library website through "Keys to Engaging Older Adults at Your Library: a Toolkit", written by Fatima Perkins (this toolkit was recently sent out to the Aging Services listserv of the American Library Association). This Ohio public library has outdone itself with information, resources, and features for older adults on its website.

Here are some of the features that I really liked about their website:

On the home page:

  • There is a link to "Senior Space" their main page for senior information.
  • There is a link to their catalog's list of new large print titles.
On the main Senior Space webpage:
  • a newsfeed for articles of interest for older adults.
  • Consumer information links
  • Recommended books for older adults with a direct link for each title to its catalog page.
  • A link for seniors to email questions to a librarian
  • Email signup link - allows seniors to get updates on senior information and they can also choose over 20 additional subjects sent to their email - plus updates about specific library branch news.
  • Information Gateway link goes to a page with agencies, organizations, and web gateways for older adults.
  • Health Concerns link - health page has not only the usual health links, but also grief resources and an extensive list of sources about long term care.
  • Money Matters - financial links
  • Business of Living links - jobs, housing, education, and law sites for older adults.
  • Leisure - social network for older adults, grandparenting, sports and exercise, travel, and volunteering information.
I am sorry that this post is so long, but I really wanted to share all these features with you. The extensive list of resources in each category are great. But where this website really shines is the fact that it is not static information- the news articles for older adults are updated, as are the "recommended books" for older adults. There are library 2.0 features, such as the ability to have personalized email updates sent to the patrons. I hope that in the future they add an RSS capability to the "Senior Space" page, when more older adults begin to use news readers. I recommend that you consider adding some of these features to your own library website.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Benefits of E-books for Older Adults

As people age, their vision is not as good as it was. Many people start to struggle to read regular print books, magazines, and newspapers. Ironically, just when they gain the time to read, they find out that there are very few books available to them and some find that their arthritis prevents them from using large print editions.

E-books that can be read on a small e-book reader could be the solution to these problems. I have written an article about this topic over on the Teleread blog. To read my article, please click this link.

Note: Teleread is a "nonpartisan plan to get electronic books and other educational resources into American homes--through a well-stocked national digital library system and small, sharp-screened computers that eventually could sell for under $100 or even $50." The Teleread blog has news & views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

New Research on Baby Boomer Volunteers

The Corporation for National and Community Service is a government agency that supports volunteer organizations, conducts research about volunteerism, and promotes volunteering in the United States. They have recently published an issue brief called "Baby Boomers and Volunteering: Findings from Corporation Research" and a research report called "Keeping Baby Boomers Volunteering: a Research Brief on Retention and Turnover" (found via

Key Findings of These Reports:

  • Baby Boomers from 46-57 have higher volunteer rates than older generations.
  • How Baby Boomers become volunteers is important - people asked to help by the volunteer organization have a much higher retention rate than those asked by their employer to volunteer.
  • Baby Boomers favorite type of volunteering is with religious organizations.
  • Baby Boomers' second favorite type of volunteer activity is educational and youth services - whereas previous generations chose civic, political, business and international volunteer work as their second most popular volunteer category.
  • Remaining in the workforce increases the likelihood that a Baby Boomer will stay in their volunteer position.
  • A higher educational level and a tendency to have children later in life seem to be factors in the high volunteer rate of Baby Boomers.
  • Baby Boomers volunteers who do management or professional tasks, rather than general labor, are more likely to continue to volunteer.
The Corporation for National and Community Service has projected the number of volunteers from 2007 to 2050. They created this projection by multiplying the estimated probability of volunteering by the number of people age 65 and older for each year. There are a little under 9 million senior volunteers at present. They predict that there will be 9 and a half million senior volunteers by 2010 and over 13 million in 2020. That is approximately a 44% increase in the next 13 years!

These statistics have great implications for public libraries. First, here is a great opportunity for libraries to gain more older adult volunteers in the future. Currently, many older adult volunteers help libraries by doing tasks such as pulling hold requests and shelving books. This research shows that many Boomers will want to be challenged and use their life skills in their volunteer work. Therefore, we should consider how to recruit older adults to give programs, to lead workshops at the library, or to become mentors at our libraries.

Related research report from Dec 2006:
Volunteer Growth in America: A Review of Trends since 1974

See also these previous posts:
How Volunteering Can Benefit Older Adults
Age Differences in Volunteering

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

NIH Toolkit for Teaching Older Adults How to Search for Health Information

Carol Bean recently wrote a post about the new National Institute of Health (NIH) toolkit for people who want to teach older adults how to search for health information online. This toolkit is located on this page of the NIHSeniorHealth website.

This toolkit has several different levels of lesson plans:

  • For beginning students with little computer experience: internet basics
  • For beginning students with some Internet experience: 3 modules about NIHSeniorHealth
  • For beginning and intermediate students:a module about NIHSeniorHealth and Exercise for Older Adults
  • For intermediate students - three modules about MedlinePlus
  • For all students: Evaluating Health Websites and a glossary of computer terms
There is also a pdf with their recommended quick tips for teaching computers to older adults.

Carol Bean evaluated the "Quick tips" pdf in her blog post and recommended it as useful for technology trainers. However, she did mention that she disagrees with a few of the suggestions in this pdf. For example, she wrote that "The first is the suggestion to keep class length to around 90 minutes or less. My rule of thumb, from experience, is 60 minutes or less. to keep class length to around 90 minutes or less."

I completely agree with Carol on this point. If you try to go on too long during a class, it will be a draining experience for people, rather than a pleasant learning experience. Another potential problem is trying to pack too much information into one class period.

I looked at the module for the beginning students with little computer experience. I am afraid that they packed way too much information into one class - everything from computer terms, to how to use a mouse, how to open a browser, to how to navigate through webpages. I think that this would definitely frighten people away from taking any more computer classes. It would be too intimidating. There is no time for a student to practice using a mouse or time to comprehend the new terminology.

My suggestion would be to separate this information into several classes to allow older adults to become comfortable with computers, to use a mouse, and to work with browser software. After people have mastered these skills, then introduce them to the specific modules about NIHSeniorHealth, MedlinePlus, and the excellent module on evaluating health websites. These modules are very useful for introducing older adults to searching for health information online. I think that this would be the best way to introduce "health information search" classes to older adults in a public library.

Overall, I think that we need to avoid the trap of trying to teach too much in one sitting. Since we as librarians have been using computers and the internet for many years, we tend to forget that it takes time for new computer users to internalize this knowledge and to practice computer skills.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Successful Wii Gaming Program at Old Bridge Public Library

The Old Bridge Public Library has started a program in which teens teach older adults games such as Wii Bowling , Brain Age Academy, and Guitar Hero. The Wii games will also be available so that seniors can practice several times a week. The library is planning to have a gaming competition event in December.

This is the next phase of the “Senior Spaces” project, which began with the renovation of part of the Old Bridge Public Library to appeal to older adults. “Senior Spaces” project manager, Allan Kleiman, reported that "The reaction from the seniors was fantastic," and "One of the seniors was almost in tears. She hasn't been able to bowl in years due to a visual impairment and every time she bowled a strike you could hear her yell throughout the room."

For more information about the “Senior Spaces” project, please check out their website. The photo above is courtesy of Allan Kleiman of the Old Bridge Public Library.

Note: Allan Kleiman just sent out a message to the Senior Services ALA listserv with a link to a recent newspaper article about this program.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Aging in Place

Partners for Livable Communities has partnered with many organizations including the National Association for Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) and AARP to “develop a "Blueprint for Change" that will imagine what an elder-friendly community might be: what it would look like, what services it needs, how older persons can be involved in the planning, what special educational, recreational and cultural opportunities are needed, how cross-generational contacts can be made, and what programs are helping older persons feel safe and secure.” This partnership has created many resources for communities and older adults concerning “aging in place”.

NeighborWorks America is hosting these resources. The web pages about “aging in place” include: articles, links to organizations, and reports and studies.

I found one of the studies particularly interesting - “Livable Communities & Aging in Place” by Elli Dalrymple. This report states that “Aging in place is more than the ability to remain in one’s home; it is also the ability to continue to function and thrive in one’s community.” There are many issues related to “aging in place”. Besides affordable housing and transportation, there is also a need for older adult recreational, educational, social, and cultural opportunities.

Libraries can play a key part in responding to these older adult needs. There are several ways that libraries can contribute to the quality of life of older adults in our communities. Libraries can provide educational opportunities through our computer classes, genealogy classes, gardening classes, etc. Libraries can be very helpful in increasing social opportunities through our programming and through providing meeting space for clubs. Also, libraries can be a place for older adults to volunteer in their community and to find information about other local volunteer opportunities.

Finally, libraries can provide cultural programming. As Mr. Dalrymple stated,
“… there will be a great need to highlight the uniqueness of culture within each community.” (p.10). Programming should reflect the demographics of one’s library. For example, if there are many Spanish-speaking patrons, libraries may want to include Hispanic cultural events or bilingual events.

In the Aging in Place Initiative’s “Ten Most Frequently Asked Questions” pdf, the last sentence is:

Highlighting these issues on your local website is important but also be creative—grocery stores, neighborhood coffee houses, libraries, faith-based facilities, public transportation and health facilities are great places to spread the word.” [emphasis added by me].

I think that it is wonderful that community building and planning initiatives are starting to recognize that libraries can help them to communicate with the community. In addition to publicizing local initiatives, the library can participate in community building by having representatives from the library attend local meetings. These staff members can provide information and also act as a bridge between local organizations - promoting communication and cooperation between local non-profit and government agencies. By helping these organizations, the library may also increase its bonds to the leaders within the community. This is a way for libraries to be even more relevant and indispensable to their communities.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Reinvesting in the Third Age: the First Report

In an earlier post, I mentioned a study called “Reinvesting in the Third Age” conducted by the American Council on Education (ACE) and funded through a new Metlife Foundation grant. The first report from this study has now been published. It is called “Framing New Terrain: Older Adults & Higher Education”. This report is a literature review of what we know about older adults aged 55- 79. The researchers had problems finding published data on this age group, since colleges and universities report student enrollments in academic credit programs to the US Department of Education for age 40 and above, with no specific data on those 55 and older. In addition, there were even less data available on older adult students who have taken lifelong learning (noncredit) classes.

Some highlights of this study were:

  • Many older adults want to take classes to prepare for a career change.
  • Forty nine percent of adults aged 55-59 returned to school to prepare for careers that would contribute to their community.
  • Other reasons for going back to school included intellectual stimulation, the "joy of learning", and sociability.
  • Barriers to older adults wishing to take courses included: lack of funding, no transportation, difficulty with scheduling, ageism, and a lack of support services.
  • Challenges to colleges and universities include developing appropriate programs for older adults and finding ways to fund these programs.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

My New Link Blog and How to Set Up Your Own Link Blog

Hi Everyone! I have recently created a link blog. I will be using it to highlight research, news articles, and blog posts about older adults. These are articles which are interesting, but not directly related to library services. I have links to the most recent 5 articles on the right side of this page under the heading "Recent Interesting Articles for Older Adults". Next, under these articles is a link you can use to subscribe to the link blog. If you want to see all the articles, you can go directly to my Shared Item's Page here.

If you are reading "Senior Friendly Libraries" as a feed (RSS subscription), you do not have to go to my blog home page to view this new link blog, you can click here. If you would like to subscribe to the link blog, this is the feed.

Please let me know if you like these articles - you can add a comment to this post or email me (parttimelibrarian [at]

How to set up a simple link blog:

If you are interested in creating your own quick and simple link blog, you may want to try this out. I used the Google Reader "Shared Items" feature. First you need to have a Google Reader account. This is my favorite feed aggregator for reading RSS feeds. As you are reading your subscriptions and come upon a post that you want to share with people, all you have to do is click on the word "Share" under that post:

It automatically sends the article to your own Google Shared Item Page.
To view this page, you click on the "Shared Items link" in the top left part of the Google Reader Page:

Your shared items are publicly accessible and the address is visible when you click on "shared items":

You can email the link to your friends.You can also publish this link on your blog or use the feed URL that Google provides to add a subscription (RSS) link for your blog. If you use Feedburner to measure your blog's readership statistics, you can use the Google Shared Item's URL to burn a feed in Feedburner. Then you can use that feedburner URL on your blog's homepage to link to your shared items. That way you can also measure the number of subscribers to your link blog. This works with Blogger, but I do not know if it works with other blogging software like Wordpress.

There are many other ways to set up a link blog, such as by setting up a feed from a account. However, I found the Google Shared Items method to be both easy to set up and very convenient for adding links.

Note: The screen shots above show a post from Beanworks, a blog from Carol Bean. She is a librarian who has written many articles about teaching computers to older adults. She also wrote a very useful article that taught me how to screencast and one about creating handouts with visual cues.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

New Older Adult Data from OCLC!

In my previous post, I wrote a quick summary of the recent Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) report called "Sharing, Privacy and Trust in our Networked World". The OCLC added a page called "What do you think?" to enable people to comment about this study. I commented on the study and asked if they could provide more information concerning older adult online activities. Well, I am very excited that they have answered my request! Joanne Cantrell, from the Market Research Department of OCLC, stated that:

"More than half of the respondents 50+ have used a search engine, browsed/purchased items and books online, used an online banking site, and have sent or received an e-mail during the last 12 months. Except for the usage of online dating sites and business-related social sites, the 50+ age group was less likely than respondents ages 14/15 - 21 and 22 - 49 to have participated in interacting activities (e.g., social networking, instant messaging, etc.) and creating activities (e.g., usage of social media sites, creating a Web page, etc.) during the last 12 months."

Joanne Cantrell then posted a link to additional data about older adults - a new graph of Online Activities by Age in pdf format. The most popular online activity of older adults is using email, followed by using search engines, purchasing items online, and online banking. Over 50% of internet users 50+ have bought a book online, although about only 10% had read an e-book. Only about 5% of these older adults blog.

I think that this data shows that older adults are comfortable buying books online, but they are not using our online library catalogs for books or articles. I think that this indicates that libraries need to market these resources to older adults. Also, at this time there are not many older adults using social networking sites. It may be some time before social networks become popular for this age group. Until that time, it may be hard to interest older adults in social networking or social bookmarking activities provided through their library website and online catalog.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Statistics on Older Adults from the Recent OCLC Report

The Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) is a nonprofit library service and research organization which creates cataloging records and hosts the WorldCat union catalog. This catalog has records from 9,031 different libraries. The OCLC has just published a report called "Sharing, Privacy and Trust in our Networked World", based on a study of over 6,000 respondents from Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States (found via the Tame the Web blog). Twenty-seven percent of these respondents were age 50+. The study found that "The clear majority of adults over the age of 50 have experience using the internet." (p. 1-2). This is an excellent report about how people are using the internet, how they view privacy issues online, and it also includes statistics about library web site use.

Here are some of the age 50+ group statistics from the study:

  • a majority of 50+ respondents have used the internet
  • 30% have been online for more than a decade
  • 40% have used instant messaging
  • 31% have read blogs
  • Those who used a commercial site chose Amazon, Ebay, and Walmart as their favorite commercial sites.
  • 22% used their library website
  • Those who have used a social networking site chose as their favorite site with Myspace as their second choice.
  • Those who have used a social media site picked YouTube, Snapfish, and Yahoo!Photos as their favorite sites. (Note: Yahoo!Photos is now closed).
  • The most common reasons for joining a social networking site was to be part of a group or community, because their friends use that site, or because the website is useful.
  • Older adults had more privacy concerns about the internet than younger people.
What does this report mean for older adult library services? If libraries are going to engage older adults with their library website and perhaps offer online social networking of some sort through the library website, this is data we need to consider. Older adults like to be "part of a community" and libraries can create online communities for different hobbies and clubs that are located within our physical community. However, I think that the greatest opportunity for libraries is to have a website that "is useful". We can be a portal to local information, especially local history, and also provide ways for people to record their own historical information. In addition, we can provide authoritative links to useful internet sites for older adults.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

cRANKy: the New Social Search Engine for people 50+: How useful is it?

Over at the Infodoodads blog, Laurie blogged about a new search engine for older adults called cRANKy. The cRANKy search engine was created by the Eons Company, which has a 50+ social networking site called “Eons”. Rob, a member of Eons technical staff, wrote that “Eons editors review thousands of sites, and our members push those rankings up or down as they use the sites and rate them. You get to the most helpful sites faster, because the search results that cRANKy presents first are the ones our community has ranked the highest.”

This is a quick review of the cRANKy search engine. First of all, you do not have to be a member of the social network to use the search engine. However, you do need to be a member of the Eons social network if you want to rate or review websites. I tried a sample search using “caregiving” as the search word. At the top of the search results are suggested terms or phrases to narrow or expand the focus of the search. Some of the suggestions were helpful, such as “caregiver stress”, while some weren’t relevant at all, such as “Where Can I Find an Example Paper on APA Style”. Next on the page is a colored box with 2 sponsored links. Then there is a link to an article about caregiving, written by a Eons staff member. Next, the page gives four results from,,, and The MedlinePlus webpage about caregiving was not listed until the second page of results. At the bottom of each page of results, there was a second batch of four sponsored links.

Overall, I think that the search results were ok. I would have been happier if the MedlinePlus page was ranked a little higher, but it was much higher in the search results than the Google search results for the same search, so the site was easier to find. However, I do not think that having two “sponsored links” boxes on each page is a good idea. Having so many ads makes it harder for people to find the unbiased websites. On the other hand, I do like the idea of people being able to rate and review web pages. It will be interesting to see how popular this search engine becomes. As with all social review and ranking websites, cRANKy’s value will grow in proportion to the number of people who contribute reviews.

Have any of you used cRANKy? What do you think about it?

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Recent Older Adult Education Initiatives

In an earlier post, I mentioned that the Center for Lifelong Learning is conducting a study called “Reinvesting in the Third Age”, which will investigate how to promote lifelong education for older adults and to determine the best practices for colleges attempting to meet the needs of older adults. There are now two new initiatives and a new study that could impact older adult learning in colleges.

The first initiative is the result of a collaboration between the MetLife Foundation and CivicVentures. The MetLife Foundation will be providing $25,000 to a total of 10 community colleges to “develop a wide range of innovative initiatives designed to match boomers' experience, skills and interests to "encore careers" in critical service fields.” Their press release states that many older adults want to get a job that will benefit their community and that community colleges are not currently providing programs that will train older adults for these jobs. These service related jobs include: teaching jobs, gerontology jobs, and jobs in nonprofits.

The new study is a 2007 AARP study, “The Role of Community Colleges in an Aging Society”, by Linda Wiener. This study found that “Older adult education has been somewhat neglected in academia. Despite the existence of nearly 1,200 community colleges in the U.S. today, few formally promote or support senior focused programs.” (p. 3). The study found that few community colleges have targeted older adults for leisure programs or job retraining programs. This represents a critical gap in community college course offerings for people 50+ , since “the majority of Baby Boomers report they intend to delay retirement, opting instead to stay in the work force in their current positions, re-skill for current or future jobs, or pursue new employment opportunities” (p. 4). The author considers that this gap represents a great opportunity for community colleges in the future.

The second initiative (found via the Kept-Up Academic Librarian blog), is a $3.2 million dollar grant program funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies and administered by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). The AACC will choose 15 colleges to participate in this project. The goals of this initiative include "... expanded enrollment among Americans ages 50 and older, and the creation of programs to boost access and success for these students".

It will be interesting to see what successful educational programs and marketing strategies are created as a result of these grants. Libraries could use this information to increase their own outreach to older adults. Librarians will also need to help older adult students to find the information that they need for career courses or lifelong learning courses. In addition, it may be possible for public libraries to form partnerships with local community colleges to provide programs or services for older adults.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

More Wii Gaming for Older Adults

Jenny Levine over at “the Shifted Librarian” blog wrote about the social nature of gaming and provided a video from the Erickson Retirement Communities Wii bowling competition as an example of this idea. The Nintendo Wii is a console gaming system that has games that allow players to simulate golfing, bowling, and baseball, by swinging a hand held remote (see previous post). Players from Erickson Retirement Communities throughout the nation participated in a bowling championship. The players were interviewed and filmed as they competed for the event.

The idea of using the Wii games to reach out to the elderly is catching on throughout the country. A non-profit organization has been started to introduce the Wii to nursing homes (found via post from the Helpdesk4seniors blog). The mission of WBM organization’s “Wii Seniors” program is “to provide the elderly and the youths of today the ability to connect through technology, fitness and fun.” High school volunteers “interact with the elderly and teach them the necessary skills to enjoy the video game systems.”

Libraries could sponsor such events. It could be done by arranging for local nursing home and assisted living facilities to transport their residents to a library by bus for an event. It would probably be best to hold it in the late morning or early afternoon, since many older adults do not like to attend evening events. Alternatively, Librarians could visit each of the retirement homes and videotape the competition. The videos could be uploaded to Youtube - with a link from the library’s homepage, Senior’s page, or library blog. Participants and people who viewed the videos could then comment on the competition, either on the YouTube site or on the library blog. It seems to be a fun idea to “build community”, both in person and online. This is such a fun way to engage older adults, encourage exercise, and promote social interaction. There could even be an open competition for all ages at the library. Such a program would give a positive portrayal of older adults and could increase intergenerational communication.

Here is the Erickson bowling championship Youtube video:

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

MedlinePlus launches local health search

MedlinePlus is the online health information website provided by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. It has a health topic search, information about prescription drugs and supplements, a medical encyclopedia, and directories for finding hospitals and doctors. MedlinePlus also has a website for Spanish speakers.

The newest addition to the MedlinePlus health website is the "Go Local" search (link via ResourceShelf blog). This search allows people to find local health resources. The basic search is available for all fifty states and just covers hospital locations.

However, the complete search has three different ways to find information. One can search by county for all types of services, search for specific type of health care provider (such as nursing homes, physicians, and pharmacies), and search for local services by topic (i.e. particular diseases or health issues). The complete search capabilities are currently available for Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, parts of Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming. More states will be added over time. This could be very helpful for older adults who are looking for caregivers in their area. The search includes local counselors/therapists, home health care services, hospice care services, adult day care services, crisis services, senior centers, and support groups. This website would be a good addition to any library’s “older adult” link list.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Empowerment, Self-confidence, and Decreased Loneliness - Additional Benefits of Technology Training for Older Adults

Many public libraries offer introductory computer classes to help “bridge the digital divide” – to train people to use computers and to give them access to the internet. This is important because many health resources, government resources and applications, and job applications are now only available online. This technology training and access to the internet enables people to get the information that they need. However, two recent articles in the Journal of Aging and Mental Health pointed out additional benefits of technology training for older adults:

Shapira, Barak, & Gal (2007) described a study in which a group of older adults from elderly day care centers and from nursing homes were taught to use computers and the internet. These older adults scored significantly higher than control groups in life satisfaction, depression, loneliness and self-control. Shapira et al. (2007) reported that “Computer and Internet use seems to contribute to older adults' well-being and sense of empowerment by affecting their interpersonal interactions, promoting their cognitive functioning and contributing to their experience of control and independence.”(p. 1360).

Fokkema and Knipscheer (2007) set up an in home intervention program where handicapped and chronically ill older adults were taught to use computers and the internet in their homes. Then, the participants were tested for loneliness. They showed a significant decrease in loneliness compared to the control group. These older adults used the internet to communicate with others via email and this increased their social contact. Fokkema and Knipscheer (2007) found that using the internet gave people something to think about other than their loneliness and it also increased their self confidence.

These studies show the impact that technology training can have for older adults. It would be great for libraries to partner with adult day care facilities and nursing homes to bring technology training to older adults who can not come to a library for computer classes.

Fokkema, T. & Knipscheer, K. (2007). Escape loneliness by going digital: A quantitative and qualitative evaluation of a Dutch experiment in using ECT to overcome loneliness among older adults. Aging & Mental Health, 11 (5), 1360-7863. Retrieved September 20, 2007, from

Shapira, N., Barak, A. & Gal, I. (2007). Promoting older adults’ well-being through Internet training and use. Aging & Mental Health, 11 (5), 1360-7863. Retrieved September 20, 2007, from

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Personal news and information searches delivered to you!

When I was a kid, I looked forward to the future, hoping that it would be like it was portrayed on the Jetson’s TV show. Well, we don’t have much robotic help, but we do have Roombas! One of the futuristic ideas that intrigued me was having software that brought personalized news to you every day. That sounded like a wonderful idea to an information addict like me. We are finally starting to see this kind of thing provided through RSS (Really Simple Syndication).

One can easily set up a free online reader, such as Bloglines or Google Reader and subscribe to receive blog posts or free information from websites. One of the benefits of these readers is that you don’t clog up your email with news articles. In addition, these online readers organize the posts so that one can read information from many different sites, allowing you to keep posts from the same blog together and easily save items of interest. Instead of clicking on each website every day to check for new items, these items are directly sent to your reader – you just open your reader and see any new items.

This is great for people who like free online information. However, much of what most non-techie people like to read is not free online – like newspapers, magazines, and academic journals. It can be very costly to pay for these subscriptions. Many people can access these magazines, newspapers, and journals through their library website, because their library pays for the online subscriptions (via databases, such as Gale). Usually people just have to sign in with their library card number through a link on their library’s website. Unfortunately though, many people are unaware that their library provides access to these subscription databases.

Now there is an even greater reason to introduce patrons to these library databases. RSS4Lib had a recent article highlighting the new RSS feature from Gale. This is a wonderful feature for libraries to provide. It is very simple to set up a keyword search or advanced search in the Gale database. For example, a patron could be interested in any new magazine articles about Alzheimer’s, in order to find out about new information or research about the disease. It is very easy to do this search on Gale. Then, the next step is to click on the RSS icon. This will give you a web address (URL) to copy and paste into your RSS reader. Then, as soon as articles on this topic are added to the Gale database, they are sent to the patron’s reader. So the patron does not have to search through thousands of magazines or newspapers each week to find news about their chosen topic – it is automatically sent to them every day. It is not a perfect system – the full text of some articles is not provided because of publishing agreements that delay online access to an article until the print version has been out for a period of time. But at least, even for these articles, you can see the title, magazine name, and date of issue for later use.

I think that library patrons will love being able to create RSS feeds of searches from the Gale database. It is easy, saves time, and is very convenient for patrons. I would like to design a class to teach older adults how to set up an RSS reader, how to add feeds, and how to use the Gale database. It would be a nice addition to other “how-to” computer classes, such as how to set up an email account. I encourage other librarians to investigate the RSS feature in the Gale database and to consider adding a computer class for patrons about this feature.

For an introduction to RSS, here is a video from the Common Craft Show (via Librarian in Black post):

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Grandparent's Day Statistics

Here are some interesting statistics about grandparents from the U.S. Census Bureau Facts for Features (link via this ResourceShelf post):

  • 5.7 million children live in a home with a grandparent - which is 8 % of all children in the U.S.
  • 43% of all grandparents whose grandchildren live with them are responsible for most of the basic needs (i.e., food, shelter, clothing) of one or more of the grandchildren who live with them.

  • 545,000 grandparents speak a language other than English and are responsible for caring for their grandchildren. Of this number, 217,000 speak English very well.

  • 496,000 grandparents are caring for their grandchildren and have an income that is below the poverty level .

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

National Grandparents Day

National Grandparents Day is the first Sunday after Labor Day, which is September 9th this year. President Jimmy Carter added this celebration in 1978. Marion H. McQuade first championed the idea for this celebration and her descendents created a nonprofit organization, the National Grandparents Day Council. The organization website states:

"Our goals are to honor grandparents and to strengthen
the bond between grandparents and grandchildren.
Additionally, we strive to draw compassionate attention
to the eldest of society's elderly--those in nursing homes."
Their website lists many intergenerational activities. It is a good source for ideas for library programs celebrating Grandparents Day. The Legacy Project provides an even more extensive list of activities and planning resources in their Grandparents Day Activity Kit. This kit includes scrapbook ideas, communication and storytelling ideas, keepsake crafts, and family history activities.

The National Grandparents Day Council sponsored a YouTube contest this summer for videos honoring grandparents. All the contest videos can be viewed here.

Here is the winning video:

I think that libraries should consider hosting a YouTube competition for children and teens with the theme of honoring their grandparents. This could supplement an essay or drawing contest held by libraries. The winners could be announced on Grandparent's Day, with prizes provided to the winners.

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Friday, August 31, 2007

Recommended Alzheimer's Caregiving Blogs

The GenBetween blog mentioned the top Alzheimer's site awards given by stated that these websites are

"the best of the Internet's sites dedicated to Alzheimer's and dementia as determined by our expert team. These sites include small Web sites and individual blogs and were chosen based on their candid and informative content."

The award winners were:
This site is aimed at caregivers and the sandwich generation. In addition to the blog posts,there is an extensive resource list for caregivers in the sidebar. The author, Carol Bradley Bursack, also wrote abook called Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.

The purpose of this blog is to provide "tips, newsbites, product reviews, and people in the news for professional and family caregivers who want to keep up with the world of dementia care". It is written by a nursing home administrator, who is the author of two books: "Nurturing Nuggets For Dementia Caregivers: 25 Supportive Strategies In Caring For Persons With Dementia" and "Nurturing Nuggets For Nurses".

This blog is written by Jack Halpern, a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator, who is an advocate for the elderly who live in nursing homes.
This blog, by CK Wilde, is about the challenge of trying to provide long distance caregiving to her dad, who is in a retirement community. She writes about what she has learned and often provides useful resources for her readers.

This is a blog written by a woman who takes care of her father who has Alzheimers Disease.

Librarians can recommend these blogs to patrons who are looking for more personal information about caring for family members with Alzheimer's disease. Many of these blogs allow comments and thus give readers a chance to ask questions of the writer, to commiserate, and to share stories and tips. These blogs make a nice addition to more formal Alzheimer's information from the Alzheimer's Association and the MedlinePlus page on Alzheimer's. I also recommend the Medical News Today Alzheimer's/Dementia News, which has a link on this page to add their news articles as a feed to your newsreader (two popular newsreaders are Bloglines and Google reader).

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Monday, August 27, 2007

"Lifelong Partners in Reading" Program

Palm Harbor Library in Florida has started a new outreach program for local residents in assisted living facilities. The program is called "Lifelong Partners in Reading". The library is recruiting high school students and adults who will read magazines, newspapers, etc. for older adults who can no longer read. Many high school students are looking for ways to volunteer to complete requirements for National Honor Society or for scholarships. The are many potential benefits to this program: it is a great way to increase teen participation in library activities, it could lead to partnerships with local assisted living residences, and it could improve intergenerational communication and understanding. Having someone read to a resident does more than just allow that resident to enjoy the newspaper, it also gives the resident someone to talk to. I think that the social aspect of this program could mean a lot to the participants.

The August 2007 Florida Library Association News Digest described this program (this digest is subscription only). Also, there was a recent Clearwater Gazette article about this program.

Note to Readers:
I am always looking for information about successful library programs for older adults - to describe and discuss on this blog. If you would like to share a story about such a program, or point me to an interesting resource for older adults, please leave a comment or email me (the link is on the profile page of this blog).

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Senior Expos

Jill Webster, from the Nova Scotia Provincial Library, told me about a great way to market your library services to older adults. This group mans a booth promoting library services at local senior expos or 50+ expos. Libraries can showcase their older adult programing, including book discussions, computer classes, art classes, genealogy classes, gardening classes, etc.

Some of the companies providing expos to seniors in Florida include Florida Senior Expo, run by Expo Marketing Inc. and the Senior Fun Fests run by Senior Connection & Mature Lifestyles magazines. One drawback is that the booths are expensive at these events. For example, a booth at a local senior expo in the Tampa bay area costs from $745. to $850. On the bright side, this is for a booth at a large two day expo, which draws approximately 20,000 older adults. Perhaps your local "Friends of the Library" group could provide funds for a booth.

Of course, outreach to older adults can be included in general outreach activities, such as when libraries participate in local festivals and local social service neighborhood events. For example in my area, our library has had a booth at the Apollo Beach Manatee Arts festival and at the Ruskin Tomato festival. This is a much lower cost alternative, since the library may not have to pay for a booth. Costs will include staff time, promotional flyers, and booth decorations. In addition, the library may have to provide a tent and/or a table and chairs for local festivals.

Jill Webster is also a member of the Nova Scotia Working Group on Services to Older Adults, which has a very nice blog called Services for Older Adults in NS Libraries, which is listed on my blogroll.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Netguides Program

Andrea Mercado introduced me to a great new service for older adults provided by the Reading Public Library of Reading, Massachusetts. Netguides matches students who have been trained by the library with patrons who want one-on-one computer tutorials. Topics include basic computing, introduction to the internet, email, online databases, and Microsoft office applications. Sessions are one hour, by appointment. This program is in addition to their regular computer classes.

This is wonderful for people who may lack confidence in learning how to use a computer. Participants can get their questions answered and get special attention, which they would not be able to get in a large computer class. The program uses student volunteers. This gives an intergenerational aspect to the program.

By organizing volunteers this way, one can provide this one-on-one help for patrons, even if you don't have a lot of staff time. For more specific information on how to implement this program, please see "Netguides lessons learned and class changes" by Andrea Mercado from her Library Techtonics blog.

If your library is planning to start such a program, I suggest that one consider recruiting technology savvy older adults to volunteer for such a program, in addition to the student volunteers. Some older adults may feel more comfortable with tutors who are in their own age group.

Note: Photo of Reading Public Library and Librarians via Myspace photos.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

How accessible is your library?

How accessible is your library for older adults and the disabled? One way to test the accessibility is to borrow a wheelchair and try to navigate through the stacks and around the entire building. While in the chair, you can notice anything that may be a problem.

For example, if your circulation desk is very high, it is hard for a person in a wheelchair to hand books to the checkout person. If that is the case, it helps to add a lower counter which is equipped with a checkout computer and scanner. If it is not possible to add another desk, another idea is to add a scanner to the reference desk, so that the reference librarian can checkout books for people in wheelchairs. I have worked in a library that used this idea and it worked very well.

One thing that we can learn from grocery stores is to help people by providing wheelchairs or Amigo shopping cart/scooters for their use. If the library is small, or does not have the funds to buy these items, there are still ways to make it easier for older adults with limited mobility.

First, the large print section can be located close to the entrance. I also believe that separating paperback books into genre sections - westerns, romances, mysteries, and science fiction/fantasy is a good idea. This can significantly decrease the time that is needed by the patron to find the kind of books that he wants. If this grouping of paperbacks is not possible, I recommend using genre stickers on the spines of paperbacks, so that people can spot the books that they are looking for in less time. For many older adults, this is not just a convenience, it is a necessity, because they can not spend a long time standing.

I have heard from many people, who use a cane or walker, that they can't take the time to browse for books like they used to when they had better mobility. I encourage reference librarians to "rove" the library and offer reader's advisory to people who have limited mobility. You can also offer to place books on hold for them. Many older adults do not know that we can do this for them - or they do not approach the librarian because they don't want to impose on them.

A Medical News Today article highlighted a European firm which is designing furniture for the elderly. At my library, I have talked to people who have a lot of trouble getting into and out of chairs, due to arthritis and other conditions that decrease their mobility. I think that libraries should consider adding at least a few chairs that are designed to be easier for older people to use.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

"Growing Older in America" Study

ResourceShelf reported the release of an excellent new study by the National Institute on Aging, called Growing Older in America: the Health and Retirement Study. The preface to this study states:

“There is no question that the aging of America will have a profound impact on individuals, families, and U.S. society. At no time has the need to examine and understand the antecedents and course of retirement been greater than now, as the baby boom begins to turn age 65 in 2011.”
This study shows trends in the health, economic status, retirement, income, and family characteristics of older adults. Here are a few of the interesting findings:
  • "Health varies by socioeconomic status. One study found that the pattern of disease at age 50 for people with less than a high school education is similar to that at age 60 for people with college degrees."
  • "White Americans ages 55 to 64 are less healthy than their British counterparts, despite higher overall incomes and higher levels of health care spending."

  • "Although retirement rates rise steeply at the social security eligibility ages of 62 - 65, many older people do remain in the workforce, either full-time or part-time."
  • "There are enormous economic costs of providing informal caregiving to people with chronic health conditions. Analyses suggest that devoting time to informal care of older parents may be incompatible with having a full-time job in middle age."
  • "There is an association between family status and well-being. Marriage, in particular, is associated with better economic status, fewer self-reported symptoms of depression, and health advantages across a broad spectrum of chronic disease conditions, functional problems, and disabilities."

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Library Journal series on Older Adults

In the July issue of Library Journal, Beth Dempsey wrote about the Boomer generation, their attitudes and their needs. She highlighted the importance of marketing to this age group. Boomers will need information about retirement planning and health information. Also, since the Baby Boomers have such a high divorce rate, Ms. Dempsey noted that this means that there will be a higher number of older single women. This is significant because this demographic has the greatest risk for poverty. Libraries can help women at risk for poverty by providing internet access, computer training, help with finding job training, and information about local social service agencies and programs.
Ms. Dempsey also pointed out how Boomers can be an asset to their library through their volunteer work, their connections to other community organizations, their voting power, and their potential fundraising ability. I think that it is great that Library Journal is starting to provide articles about older adults and marketing to older adults. I hope that they will also look into the specific needs of the Greatest Generation (1911-1924) and the Silent Generation (1925 -1942).

See also the post about this article in the Active, Engaged, Valued: Older People and Public Libraries blog.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Senior Spaces Project

The Old Bridge Public Library in New Jersey recently created a special Senior Spaces section of the library by renovating one section of the library. This renovation was funded by a grant from the NJ INFOLINK Regional Library Cooperative. Allan Kleiman, the project manager, has posted a flyer describing specific features of the space which are targeted to older adults. I will be commenting on the features of the project in an upcoming post.

___________________Photo of Allan Keiman during construction of Senior Spaces

Mr. Kleiman has been active in the Aging Population Committee of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) section of the American Library Association for over 30 years. He authors two blogs - one about the Senior Spaces project and a personal blog - Library Services to Boomers & Older Adults. He is also looking for speakers for a program at next year's International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) conference in Canada. The program title is "Serving Older Adults: 6 Countries - 6 Perspectives". He currently has found speakers representing Canada and the United States, but he is looking for speakers from other countries. Mr. Kleiman's contact information can be found on his Senior Spaces Blog. This program sounds very interesting. Some countries are anticipating an even higher rate of population aging than we will see in the United States. We could learn how librarians across the world are planning to meet the needs of their older adult population.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Recent ALA Conference programs about older adults

Frederick J. Augustyn Jr. summarized some of the annual conference presentations concerning older adult services in the highlights issue of the American Library Association ALACognotes newspaper (p. 4) . He wrote about two programs. First, the ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services sponsored "Senior Sizzle: Library links with Seniors". This presentation discussed how the Plano Public Library System created the Library Links with Seniors program. This program organizes volunteers to present programs to seniors at nursing homes and assisted living residences. This is a great example of how libraries can make a difference, even if they do not have a lot of money or enough staff to provide outreach programs to local senior care residences.
Next, the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) sponsored a program on recent aging research. This program highlighted the positive aspects of aging. For example, "pragmatic creativity" increases in older adults.

I found that the speaker, Gene D. Cohen, has written a book about this topic called the Mature Mind. In addition, Gene Cohen has started the Sea Change Program to educate young people about the positive aspects of aging and the potential of older adults. The importance of this potential is described as follows:

"Accessing one’s potential in later life has broad ramifications, not only for quality of life, but for health and longevity, as demonstrated in the growing number of studies demonstrating positive health outcomes in those who was socially active and productive as older adults. Early awareness and planning for one’s social portfolio in later life is just as important as staying physically fit and planning when young for a financial portfolio."

We can contribute as librarians by learning about the positive aspects of aging and by perpetuating positive attitudes toward the aging process and toward older adults. We can encourage older adults to volunteer in our community and respect them for their contributions.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Online Memory Game Links

Mount Prospect Public Library in Illinois provides a great list of links to online memory games. They also include links to articles about memory enhancement techniques and the benefits of exercising your brain. This kind of list would be a great addition to any library web page that provides resources for older adults.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Oral History and Reminiscing

The Cool Librarian blogged about a new web 2.0 service called Voice Thread. This new free service allows people to upload pictures and audio about the picture. You can invite other people to view the voice thread and they can leave a text or audio comment.The Voice Thread website has a tutorial and the process seems to be fairly easy and straight forward.

Many libraries have hosted oral history projects on their websites (for example the New York Public Library video oral histories and the Hillsborough County Library System audio oral histories). I like the idea of bringing together historical photographs with an audio comment by the person who donated the photograph. If one hosted the photos on Voice Thread, one has the additional benefit of allowing comments from other patrons - either written or audio. It provides an increased level of social interaction and dialogue about the past. Such a project may interest local history enthusiasts and genealogists. It also could be used to encourage intergenerational oral history projects and promote discussion between older adults and teens. I am really excited about libraries creating content for patrons - especially local content.

Another idea for library use of a Voice Thread is to post a picture of a popular book and allow patrons to give an audio or text review of the book. This could be an addition to a traditional face-to-face book discussion. In this way, libraries could start to build a virtual community of patrons (a cornerstone of the Library 2.0 philosophy).

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Video of "Connecting the Disconnected"

Carol Bean recently posted links to her presentation at the American Library Association pre-conference workshop on Libraries, Older Adults and Technology. These video clips show the challenges which older adults face when learning new technology terms and how to use new technology. Her points include:

    • Old word associations make it harder for older adults to learn technology terms, such as icon, button, and menu.
    • Older adults may have more difficulty in maintaining concentration.
    • Visual problems and hearing difficulties are additional challenges.
We are so used to the technical terms and the user interface for computers, that it is often hard to remember what it was like to be a novice user. This presentation is especially helpful because it simulates the experiences of older adults, so that one can empathize with the challenges that they face. Then, we can take this information into account when teaching older adults.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tips for Older Adult Computer Classes

Jessamyn West, a rural librarian, recently posted a video showing her teaching a computer class to older adults at the Tunbridge Public Library.

Here is a picture of her class that she posted on Flickr

She also posted suggestions for librarians who are trying to decrease the digital divide in older adults. Here are some of her suggestions and my comments:

1) "Encourage people to get laptops." and
2) "Invest in wifi."
Jessamyn pointed out that people can then use the library's wi-fi to connect with the internet if they can not afford Broadband service at home. She mentioned that learning and practicing on the same computer is very helpful for people. I agree that wifi is definitely a selling point for libraries. In addition, since people can bring their computer to the library, it is easier for staff to answer any questions that the patron has about their computer. Librarians do not have the time or resources to go to patrons homes and fix their computer problems, but we can do simple troubleshooting for patrons, if they bring in their laptop.

3) "Solve Problems"
I wholeheartedly agree with Jessamyn that having an informal, open class for general tutoring and answering problems is very important. Formal classes are great for people who want to learn a particular skill, such as word processing. However, if a patron just wants the answer to one question, it is not convenient for them to wait through an entire computer class. This class also provides an avenue for patrons to ask questions not generally covered in the courses provided by the library.

4) "Larger groups"
Jessamyn recommends teaching classes with multiple students (2 or 3). Her reasoning is that older adult patrons will be less stressed if the teacher is not focussed solely on them and that having a more social atmosphere is more conducive to learning. I agree that many, though not all, older adults will feel more comfortable in small groups. However, if the group gets too large, then I feel that some patrons will not be able to get the personalized help that they need - which can also lead to stress.

I would like to add another suggestion about teaching computer skills to older adults. If my students seem to be following along and understanding everything well, I have a tendency to add too much information - which can lead to information overload. It is important to fight this tendency! Instead, it is much better to reinforce a few steps during the class and have people practice those steps many times, rather than to try to cover a lot of content.

Also, several of my students have told me that they feel much more comfortable and confident if they have a printed list of straightforward steps for a particular task, which they can keep and continue to refer to as needed. It can be overwhelming to new computer users to try to memorize all the steps to a task. If the teacher has been using a computer for many years, it is easy to forget how much there is to memorize and how foreign the computer terms and menus can be for a new user.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Console gaming for Older Adults - not just for teens

The GenBetween blog mentioned a Boston Globe article by Robbie Brown about Nintendo marketing their Wii gaming console to older adults. Nintendo donated their Wii system to over a dozen retirement communities throughout the country to stimulate interest in the gaming console. According to the article, "For seniors who can't play sports any more, the Wii approximates the motion of the games they once enjoyed. It requires players to swing a motion-detecting controller like a golf club, bowling ball, tennis racquet, or other piece of athletic equipment." In addition, Digital Trends blog announced that Nintendo has recently introduced a brain game for the Wii, called "Big Brain Academy: Wii degree", which is being marketed to all age groups. The New York Times reported that Nintendo has started to showcase its Wii games at AARP events such as Life@50+.

Recently, I have been seeing a lot of articles about older adult gaming. For example, a recent post from the Last100 blog quotes Nintendo as stating that in households which own a Wii, "... 3/4 of men 25-to-49 have tried the Wii and 1/3 play it regularly. Of men more than 50 years old, half have tried it and 1 in 8 play games daily. Ten percent of women over 50 report playing the Wii regularly."

Many libraries are adding video games and gaming tournaments to attract teenagers to the library (see the Game on: Games in Libraries blog). However, games can also be used for older adult programing in libraries and in outreach. A PLABlog post lists Wii gaming as one of the examples of creative programming for older adults discussed at the "Programming Not Just for Boomers" presentation at the ALA 2007 conference. Leslie Farrell, from the Library2.0 social network, also pointed out Jenny Levine's presentation on Gaming in the Library which mentions older adult gaming along with teen gaming.

If a library is going to invest in a gaming console, it makes sense to encourage participation by patrons of all ages. Gaming programming can be for the whole family. Have any of your libraries hosted gaming tournaments? If so, were any of the programs targeted to families or older adults? Have any of your libraries used gaming consoles, such as the Wii system, for outreach to senior centers or assisted living facilities?

Note: I posted a followup to this post "More Wii gaming for older adults".

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

CDC Website for Older Adults' Health Statistics

The ResourceShelf blog recently mentioned a great new resource for older adult health statistics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has started an information page for older adult health called Data and Statistics on Older Americans. This page includes links to the National Home and Hospice Care Survey, the National Nursing Home Survey, the State of Aging and Health in America, 2007 Report, and the Older Americans Update 2006: Key Indicators of Well Being. Another useful CDC page is the Health Information for Older Adults page, which gives recommendations for how to stay healthy, information about infectious diseases, immunizations, common older adult injuries, mental health, and links to Medicare information.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Web 2.0 for Older Adults - Online support groups

A recent TechCrunch post described the new online social network called "Our Health Circle". This social network allows people to start public or private discussion and support groups for all types of health problems. It is also useful as a site for support for caregivers. For example there are discussion groups for people who care for their elderly parents. Online support groups may be especially helpful for older adults who have mobility issues and can not attend face to face support group meetings and discussions about their health problems. Learning about how others cope with a medical condition and being able to discuss their condition can give people hope and decrease their stress.

As librarians we can gather resources for older adults and their caregivers and inform our patrons about them. Linda Lucas Walling's "Library Services to the Sandwich Generation and Serial Caregivers" is a useful library publication for caregivers, but since this was published in 2001, there are many additional online resources and blogs for caregivers that are now available.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Book Discussions 2.0

One of my favorite jobs as a Librarian is to lead a book discussion group at my branch. The books are usually fiction or autobiography. The Public Library Association (PLA) blog recently announced that The Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) is launching "National Reading Group Month" (NRGM) in October 2007. The PLA post quoted Laurie Beckelman, the president of the Women’s National Book Association as stating that "Reading groups inspire, transform and educate. They foster community and instill an appreciation for the written word.” The Women's National Book Association encourages people to start book discussion groups or to join them.

Our branch orders books for five different book discussion groups. These are very popular groups. However, I wonder about how many people are unable to participate in these groups because they have physical mobility problems, or because they do not have transportation to attend meetings. Perhaps this is an area where library 2.0 and web 2.0 could help. Having an online discussion area for book discussion or a book discussion blog with commenting enabled is a start in that direction. People could participate from home, even though they cannot come to the library. This could provide them with an opportunity for social interaction.

However, perhaps in the future we can go one step further. On the Bigwig Social Software Showcase, Tom Peters provides an audio presentation about his upcoming ALA presentation about web conferencing software. In this audio, he mentions that web conferencing software could be used in libraries to allow people to participate in book discussions from home. This sounds like a great new way to provide outreach to the homebound.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Benefits of Socialization for Adult Day Care Participants

Cohen-Mansfield and Wirtz (2007) looked at factors which may contribute to adult day care participants entering a nursing home. In the abstract of this paper, Cohen-Mansfield and Wirtz reported that a low frequency of socializing with relatives and friends was a significant predictor of future institutionalization. They concluded that “The findings highlight the importance of socialization and suggest that a focus on successful and reinforcing socialization should be an important component of adult day care programming. The results also suggest that addressing patient mental health variables may be important in delaying institutionalization in this population.”

What does this mean for libraries? I think that librarians should create outreach programs to adult day cares, senior centers, and assisted living facilities. Book discussions at these locations can promote social interaction and lead to friendships. In addition, programs that encourage memory and social interaction should be especially useful. Rosemary Honnold and Saralyn Mesaros (2004) book, Serving Seniors, has an entire chapter about remembering programs - from do-it-yourself programs to program kits that one can buy from BiFolkal Productions or Eldersong Publications (p. 155). The BiFolkal remembering kits are very popular in my area.

Another way for librarians to promote socializing among older adults is to organize local volunteers to deliver books to the homebound. By having volunteers deliver books to homebound older adults, these volunteers can provide cheerful conversation and interaction for very isolated individuals. I believe that this could make a big difference in the quality of life of homebound individuals.

Cohen-Mansfield, Jiska; Wirtz, Philip W. (2007, June). Characteristics of adult day care participants who enter a nursing home. Psychology and Aging, 22(2), 354-360.

Honnold, R & Mesaros, S. (2004). Serving Seniors: A how-to-do-it manual for librarians. NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Digital Book 2007 Conference

Library Journal reported that The International Digital Publishing forum held the Digital Book 2007 conference in May (Rogers & Datema, 2007). Problems discussed at the conference included the lack of standards for ebook format and the different ebook readers. So far ebooks and ebook readers have not become popular. The Library Journal article discussed how digital textbooks would be a great improvement for students since they are searchable and cheaper than print books. However, I was surprised that the article did not mention how useful these devices could be for older adults and for people who have vision problems. Since ebook readers could display text in large print sizes, this could greatly increase the number of books available in large print. Older adults, who need large print, would not be limited to only print books that have a large print edition. I think that this technology could catch on with older adults, especially when the prices for ebook readers come down.

For older adults that have a computer, there may be a new way to get digital books - through a plan by Google to allow a weekly rental for digital books or by buying the digital book through Google. The article did not give any proposed prices for book rental. The reading experience may not be very attractive to older adults though - due to the glare of the computer screen and the fact that this method of reading is not very mobile or convenient. The article also mentioned that the quality of scanning by Google was not consistently good.

Peter Brantley of the Digital Library Federation is quoted as proposing that libraries provide poor people with free or low cost access to nonfiction books - but not fiction books (p. 30). I disagree with this stance entirely. I believe that providing fiction is an important part of a public library's mission. Early in the 1900's, Librarians debated about whether or not to provide fiction books to patrons. I think that this debate should be over. We are not in the business of telling our patrons what they should read. Instead, we should be providing them with the books that they request.

Rogers, M. & Datema, J. (2007, June) IDPF hosts digital book 2007. Library Journal, 132(10), p.27-30.

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