Engaging Seniors Through Programming

Providing programming for seniors has always been of special interest to me. I feel extremely fortunate that the Brookfield Public Library has a close relationship with Cantata Adult Life Services (also located in Brookfield). Brookfield Public Library was first approached by Cantata about programming in March 2002.  The Adult Services Staff at Brookfield has continually offered programming despite changes in staffing at Cantata and here at the Library. The programs we provide have evolved from once a month visits to a bi-monthly program at Woodlands, a monthly book club at Wye Valley, and book deliveries to homebound patrons.  Christy Eyre, our Partnerships and Public Relations Librarian, runs the monthly book discussion group with seniors at Cantata’s independent living campus. My responsibilities as Adult Services librarian include providing twice-monthly programming for residents of Cantata’s assisted living campus. The population are super seniors – individuals in their late 80s and 90s with limited mobility generally aided by walkers and wheel chairs.

Although much of my programming has evolved from trial and error, the super seniors have responded enthusiastically. Initially, I provided book talks and encouraged other “literary” programming. One such idea was purchasing straightforward and uncomplicated CD players to encourage listening to books on CD. I had to accept that this “technology” was intimidating to my group. I labeled the buttons on the players and gave one-on-one tutorials, but did not have much success.

I have found that the best programming for this group is a presentation with accompanying slides (laminated visuals that can be passed around) and quizzes to keep everyone on their toes. I start each session encouraging conversation on a variety of topics. One example was sharing past travel experiences to tie-in with my “arm chair travelers/wonders of the world” presentation. There were so many individuals excited to share travel memories that I had to extend this particular presentation to another session. What was especially thrilling was hearing from a patron in a wheel chair who also used an oxygen tube and said she use to ride black stallions in Greece as a young woman!

Some other successful topics have included Optical Illusions, Female Mystery Writers and Female Detective Characters, 3D Printing, and Winter Solstice.  All of my folks are quite old — some doze off, some are alert, some are losing their memories and faculties, yet many others are quite involved. What is encouraging is that each patron chooses, and makes the effort, to attend each session. I do bring books for check-out at each session, but most individuals are there for the social stimulation. As outreach librarians, bringing the library to our patrons is much more than books. In this ever-changing world of smart phones, tablets, iPads, eReaders, and 3D printers, we still have a generation for whom face-to-face interaction is of utmost importance. We need to assess our patrons’ needs and provide the stimulation that fits their needs. Brookfield Public Library is cognizant of this need, and has fully supported the development and evolution of my continually adaptive programming for this population.

Laona Fleischer is the Adult/Youth Services Librarian at the Brookfield Public Library.


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