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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