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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