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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