Programming for Seniors

Senior programming is a hugely important and hugely under valued part of modern library work. We have had children’s librarians for forever and over the last decade or so YA librarianship has taken a huge leap forward. We have adult librarians sure, but librarians who specialize in service to our elders are few and far between and tend to be system level specialists (overseeing services for multi-branch systems or library consortiums. There are not that many local libraries with frontline staff who specialize in programming for seniors and this is something that needs to change in the profession. I think that every library should have an elder library services specialist.

When this finally comes to pass here are a few of my suggestions of programming.

Physically active programming – this is hugely important and can be done well with the support of local services and trained outside programmers.

  • Tai Chi
  • Chair Yoga
  • Gentle steps (low stress flexibility & strength calisthenics)

Senior games days

  • Standard board games are good here. I would stay away from bookshelf games until you have a group of dedicated gamers who might be interested in new adventures. Stick to the “family game night” standards to start
  • There are a LOT of games that could have their own dedicated clubs
    • Checkers
    • Chess
    • Dominoes
    • Bridge
    • Mah Jong
    • Scrabble
  • Seniors/Juniors meet ups – this is an ideal setting to do cross generational programming. Pair up some motivated young folks with seniors then sit back and watch the magic happen

Health & Wellbeing – it’s critical to get public health agencies to help out with this.

  • Health checks including screenings for diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Health seminars – including nutrition, mobility, drug conflicts, and how to find health advocates in your family and how they can help you at the doctor’s office
  • Health discussion groups – information and resource sharing for common health issues
  • Grief support – counsellors and discussion groups

Crafting Circles – these should be largely self-sufficient with more experienced/skilled crafters teaching and guiding others

  • Knitting
  • Quilting
  • Crocheting
  • Painting
  • Scrapbooking

Senior Cultural Activities

  • Bookclubs for Seniors – let them pick the titles
  • Movie Day – classic films
  • Music – get local musicians and high school bands to perform classics of yesteryear

Pet Therapy

  • Get some service animals in there for Reading with Animals programs
  • Set up senior pet adoption days with local shelters
  • Having an animal companion can significantly improve quality of life for seniors, you can be the vector for that happening.

Technology Training for Seniors – My friend and Colleague Lauren Comito is the one who got me thinking about this stuff a lot with her focus on applicable technology training that is tasks and results oriented. Anything clever or interesting in this section should probably be attributed to her putting it in my head over beers.

  • Tablet Based – the act of mousing is a learned skill and acts as a barrier to accessibility for people who are not comfortable doing it. If you have vision issues, limited manual dexterity, arthritis, or shaking in your hands then mousing can be very difficult indeed. Tablets avoid this by using  a direct touch and go interface which is actually much easier for first time computer users to adapt to.
  • Results Oriented – most seniors are not looking to learn Word for a job application or Excel to start their small business. They want to be able to use the computer to watch movies, read the news, play games, and be in better touch with their families. Don’t do programs like “Introduction to Facebook” instead do programs like “How to be in touch with your grandchildren” and make them very practical – this is how you set up an email, this is how you make a FB account, this is how you get your grandkids to friend you on FB and how you can save a photo from their page and put it on your computer desktop.
  • LOTS of consumer education – seniors want to be up to date with the times but often have very limited experience with computers. Purchasing a computer can be a very stressful experience and one where it is easy for them to be taken advantage of. Teaching a class which explains just what they need in a computer (and possibly even more importantly what they DON’T need) is invaluable in itself even if they never touch a keyboard or a tablet.
  • Directly address technophobia – we have all helped that person who tells you “I don’t know anything about computers” before they have even sat down. This can be a self fulfilling prophecy and often is as we serve that same patron with the same question repeatedly because they are simply afraid to mess around and learn how to use this strange foreign thing that they feel like an interloper at to begin with. Address this directly and use play and low pressure exercises to free them up from this.
  • Senior only intro classes – let them have a class with their peers and let them drive the pace. It might be slow or repetitive to you but they will have an easier time not feeling like they are behind and don’t know all of these very skills and abilities which we take for granted.
  • Peer instruction – if you have a senior who is really computer savvy and comfortable with new media see if they can be an instruction aide in your classes and provide peer instruction and support.
  • AWAY FROM – Word, Excel, Intro Coding
  • TOWARDS – Social Media, Entertainment, Ebooks, Youtube
    • How to connect with your grandkids
    • Genealogy answers
    • Finding movies online
    • Encouraging your friends to use the computer as a means to set up social networks even when you are not able to get out of the house

These are all part of the The One That Got Away

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