North America's older population is rapidly expanding as the significant demographic group of "baby boomers" -- the population's largest single group of individuals born between 1945 and 1965 -- begin to turn 50 in greater and greater number. This group will have a great collective effect on society, including its attitudes towards and services for an aging population.
Historically, seniors have been identified with retirement, physical limitations and a reduced involvement with society. However, the emerging trend with the age wave is one of increased wealth, higher levels of education, independence, an urban base (as opposed to the rural base of the previous seniors) and social involvement. The activity level of seniors is reflected in their own interest in gerontology and their commitment to a high level of physical activity and wellness. Libraries will have to manage their collections to accommodate interests in voluntarism, financial management, hobbies, health issues, etc.
Inevitably, accessibility will continue to be an issue for seniors. Diminished vision and hearing loss will continue to be considerations in the provision of services. While increased leisure time is a key part of the older population's lifestyle, an increasing trend towards part-time employment and ongoing involvement in the labour force will require appropriate information services and material.
Some library best practices include:
- Providing qualified library staff with expertise in services for seniors.
- Integrating sensitivity training sessions on aging and the environmental needs of older adults into staff development programs.
- Developing and publishing guides, brochures, catalogs of large print books and directories to assist seniors in using the library and its materials.
- Developing programming for seniors, including outreach programs.
- Utilizing the expertise of seniors when designing programs and services.
- Partnering with community groups that serve seniors.
- Ensuring that library entrances and walkways are safe and secure, promoting easy access to library buildings and providing short-term parking close to library entrances.
- Providing equipment system-wide for public use by seniors with hearing or visual impairments.
- Creating comfortable, sound-absorptive, well-lit reading areas in each library.
- Providing easy-opening outside doors for all library buildings.
- Providing thorough, even, diffuse (non-glare) lighting throughout libraries.
- Creating a good hearing environment through proper staff communication habits, control of background noise and avoidance of sound-reflective surfaces.
- Utilizing current information from architectural studies related to aging, building construction and interior design in planning for future library building.
- Shelving large print books and other materials heavily used by seniors in ranges at middle heights from the floor.
- Increasing publicity for programs, collections and services of interest to seniors via publicity sources most popular with seniors.
Foot, David K. Boom, Bust & Echo: how to profit from the coming demographic shift. Toronto: MacFarlane, Walter and Ross, 1996.
Foot, David K. Boom, Bust & Echo 2000: profiting from the demographic shift in the new millennium. Toronto: MacFarlane, Walter and Ross, 1998.
Sherman, Richard. Mr. Modem's Internet Guide for Senior. New York: Sybex, 1999.
Stone, Leroy. The Seniors Boom: dramatic increases in longevity and prospects for better health. Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 1986.
McPherson, Barry D. Aging as a Social Process. Toronto: Buttersworth, 1983.
Hayflick, Leonard. How and Why We Age. New York: Ballantine Books, 1994.
Rowe, John W. Successful Aging. New York: Dell Publishing, 1998.
Teague, Michael. Aging and Leisure. Dubuque, IA: Brown and Benchmark, 1992.
American Library Association. Library Services to Older Adults Guidelines http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/rusa/resources/guidelines/libraryservices.cfm
Canadian Association of Retired Persons http://www.fifty-plus.net/
Canadian Library Association. Canadian Guidelines on Library and Information Services for Older Adults http://www.cla.ca/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Position_Statements&Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=3029
Division of Aging and Seniors, Public Health Agency of Canada
Seniors Canada On-line
Canada's Trusted Source of Seniors Related Information on the Internet