Did you know that May is Older Americans Month? While it might not be as heavily publicized as other heritage months, older adults—those over 65 years of age—are a key constituent for libraries; about 43 percent of baby boomers visit a public or mobile library each year.
However, many elders haven’t been able to access library services in-person in recent years, thanks to the pandemic. And though online services abound, many seniors don’t use them. Only about 11 percent of adults age 65 and up report using library websites or apps in the past 12 months, says Pew Research.
What does this mean for libraries? Fewer older adults accessing services has had a mass impact on circulation. Many libraries are seeking ways to reverse this concerning trend.
Often, this means expanding services and taking the library to seniors… when seniors can’t come to the library. Read on to explore how to better reach the elderly in your community.
The Library Programming Seniors Most Value
Which library service do seniors value? Many elderly patrons use the library to browse for and check out books and other materials; not surprisingly, large print books are a popular choice. But libraries offer seniors more than just books and DVDs.
Making Connections and Building Community
Libraries serve as an important source of community and connection. From book discussion groups to knitting circles, history lectures to chess games, seniors come to libraries to find social connections and build a sense of community.
For instance, you may consider holding movie nights (or afternoons) geared toward an older population, featuring classic films that seniors remember from their youth. Or perhaps your library can host a “memory cafe” in which participants can gather to reminisce about a specific time period, complete with appropriate music.
Engaging in Lifelong Learning
Library programming helps seniors stay active and keep learning, no matter their age. As the ALA notes, libraries serve as centers for intellectual stimulation, spaces in which to share thoughts and ideas.
Libraries can play a key role in helping seniors learn how to use computers, too. Offering classes on how to browse the internet and use email and other technology helps older adults improve digital literacy.
Providing Essential Services
Libraries are in the unique position to help provide essential services to senior populations. This can take many forms, from offering help at tax time to providing voting information or wellness services.
In 2021, the Toronto Public Library set a goal of calling all of its senior cardholders to do 10-minute wellness checks during the pandemic. Overall, library staff reached out to more than 16,000 patrons, helping them navigate digital resources and stay connected during periods of isolation.
Take the Library to Seniors with AutoLend Technology
When older adults can’t make it to the library in person, circulation is impacted. So why not take the library to them?
An AutoLend Library gets books, magazines, and other materials into more hands. These self-contained units let patrons browse, checkout, return, and place holds. They can even serve as a WiFi hot spot, so seniors can download audiobooks to their tablets.
Though they have a small footprint, these library vending machines can hold all types of materials, even large print books. The AutoLend can be configured to hold 2-inch-thick books (up to 515 pages), making it easy to check out large print items.
These lending libraries fit into the same space as a snack matching, making them the perfect choice to install in senior centers, community centers, golf resorts, or even assisted living facilities. It’s a great way to help your library better reach the elderly in your community. Click below to learn more!