Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Benefits of Resistance Training for Older Adults

An article from Medical News Today described a recent study which showed that resistance training not only builds muscle strength in individuals 65 and older, but also increases the function of the mitochondria in muscle cells. Mitochondria are the cellular organelles that provide energy (ATP) to the cells. What this means is that this type of exercise seemed to reverse the signs of aging in the muscle cells.

Other studies have found that exercise by older adults improves both their physical and mental condition (from Medical News Today). For example, structured exercise may help older adults to retain their mobility.

Libraries can help older adults by offering nutrition and exercise programming. The Libraries for the Future organization has created the "Fit for Life" program. This organization administer grants to libaries that want to provide health and wellness programs. Another good example of public library older adult nutrition programs is the Alameda Public Libary System program.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

New Sony Reader for Ebooks

A post from the Handheld Librarian blog described the Sony Reader, a small ebook reader which weighs 6 oz (without the cover). This is about the size and weight of a 300 page paperback. Sony states that the reader provides great resolution even in large print. This reader can be used for RTFs, PDFs, and their proprietary book format. Sony currently sells 13,000 titles for this reader.

One of the most common complaints that I hear from older adults is that they need large print books. However, only a few of the better selling books are published in a large print edition. This severely limits the available books for the visually impaired and frustrates many people. Another problem for many older adults is that the large print editions are so large and heavy, that they can not hold them because of their arthritis. As a result, they are forced to use audiobooks instead. Hopefully, this new technology will encourage publishers to make ebook versions of all their titles. This would be a great help step forward in making books accessible. The reader is expensive, $350, but hopefully, over time it will become more affordable. Over the long term, perhaps public libraries may be able to get grants to fund buying ebook readers, and loan them out to the visually impaired (like the Talking Books program).

The Kevin Kelly Cool Tools blog provides a nice review of this reader.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Teaching Older Adults Computer Skills

One of the biggest challenges for Librarians at public libraries today is to teach older adults how to use computers and to navigate the internet. More and more government services are going online. Often it is difficult for the elderly to get through a phone maze to talk to a real human in order to fix medicare issues or social security issues. This has become even more of a problem since most of the information about Medicare part D benefits is online. Many social services and government offices are telling people to go to the library to get help in accessing the online information.

Teaching older adults to use a computer takes patience. I find that small classes work best and that it is important to encourage the seniors to practice their skills, so that they can retain the information. I enjoy tutoring older adults in computer skills and find it very rewarding.

The best resource that I have found for teaching computer skills to older adults is Carol Bean's Technology Training for the Older Population. She describes not only the physical and mental challenges faced by older adults, but also gives best practices for helping older adults to conquer these challenges. This page also has a very nice bibliography of library websites that discuss technology training for older adults. Carol Beans' blog: Beanworks also includes tips for older adult computer training (such as this excellent post).

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How Volunteering Can Benefit Older Adults

Libraries are often interested in promoting volunteerism in older adults and encouraging their participation in library programing and intergenerational programs (see the excellent list of older adult services by Allan Kleiman). These libraries may also be looking for grants to fund such programs. It could be useful in grant applications to cite the Social Science research that shows the individual benefits from volunteering. I will be discussing some of the published papers about the benefits of volunteering in this post, so that it can be a handy starting point for librarians seeking this data.

Volunteering has many significant benefits for individuals, from an increased sense of well being, to increased social bonding and ego gratification (Cutler & Hendricks, 2000, p. s99). Individuals can also gain more social support (Cutler & Hendricks, 2000).

Morrow-Howell et al. (2003) studied older adults, which they defined as people 60 years of age and older. Morrow-Howell et al. (2003) found that the reported level of well-being increased as the number of hours people volunteered increased. This result was independent of the type of volunteer organization, the number of volunteer organizations to which the individual belonged, or the race or gender of the volunteer. As a result, this benefit is universal for older adults.

Greenfield and Marks (2004)
investigated the effects of formal volunteering on older adults' psychological well being. They found that volunteering had a positive effect on psychological well being and the it helped to offset the negative effects of no longer having a spouse, no longer having a job, or not having any living children. They conclude that volunteering helps older adults to "be cheerful and happy in later adulthood" (p. S265).

Musick, Herzog, and House (1999) actually found that volunteering had a protective effect against mortality for people aged 65 and older who volunteered 40 hours or less within the past year!

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Age differences in volunteering?

It was previously thought that volunteerism gradually increased until it peaked at the age of about age 55 and then declined quickly (Cutler & Hendricks, 2000). However, previous studies did not compare different age groups while controlling for differences in sociodemographic attributes - such as the differences in mortality between men and women and the levels of education (Cutler & Hendricks, 2000). When these factors are controlled, it is evident that the older age groups are the most involved in volunteerism (Cutler & Hendricks, 2000).

Cutler and Hendrick predict that if people begin to live longer and educational levels increase, there will be even higher rates of older adult volunteering. This pool of available volunteers will also be increasing as the number of older adults in the United States increases (see a previous post). As a result, older adults are a great potential resource for libraries.

Libraries can encourage older adults to volunteer at the library and participate in intergenerational programs. In addition, libraries can act as bridges to connect older adults with local nonproft organizations and schools who are looking for volunteers. Information about local volunteer activities can be provided on signage at the library, promoted face-to-face by the staff, and included on the library website on a page set up for older adults.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Ledyard Libraries' Older Adult Services

A great source for library information in general and older adult services in particular is Webjunction. Webjunction also provides a discussion area for older adult services. This is very useful since it is a free service. It has the potential to reach many more people than the seniorserv and aging listservs provided by the American Library Association, since the ALA listservs are only available to members.

On the Connecticut WebJunction site, Vince Juliano provided an interesting article about the Ledyard Libraries' older adult programs. The Ledyard Libraries formed a partnership with Meals on Wheels, Public Health Nurses, and a local Senior Center to provide new services to older adults. The libraries updated the deposit collection for the Senior Center and added CD players and cassette players that patrons can borrow. The libraries also organized volunteers to deliver materials to people who were homebound.

I think that providing players for audiobooks is an excellent idea, because many older adults do not want to buy CD players. At my library, many older adults have been unhappy because we are moving to CDs from cassettes. There is resistance to buying DVD players also, but this seems to be decreasing over time. Some of the resistance could be due to fear of new technology (such as having to learn how to use it) or due to the cost of the players, since many older adults are on a fixed income.

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Hello everyone,

I am passionate about library services to "older adults". The purpose of this blog is to provide resources for librarians including: research on aging as it influences library services, library research on "older adults", incorporating Library 2.0 features for "older adults", and examples of successful "older adult" library services and programs. In addition, I hope to make librarians aware of the need to market services to older adults in their community. This blog is a personal blog and my views do not represent the library where I work.

According to a Census Bureau publication, the older population will double by the year 2030 and the average age of the U. S. population will increase from 35.3 to 39. As a result, the 65+ age group will make up approximately 20% of the U. S. population. Some states like Florida will probably have an even higher percentage of older adults. Libraries should be preparing for this increase and creating new services for older adults, from lifelong-learning programing to entertainment and social programing.

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