Monday, January 28, 2008

The Maturing of America Survey

The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) partnered with the MetLife Foundation and four other national organizations to survey 10,000 local governments to "determine their “aging readiness” to provide programs, policies and services that address the needs of older adults and their caregivers; to ensure that their communities are “livable” for persons of all ages; and to harness the talent, wisdom, and experience of older adults to contribute to the community at large." (p.1 print, p. 3 pdf). The resulting report is called "The Maturing of America- Getting Communities on Track for an Aging Population" and the pdf file can be downloaded here. (I found this report via the Docuticker Blog).

This report found that only 46% of American communities have begun to prepare for the rapidly increasing numbers of older adults. In fact, most local governments "do not have the policies, programs, or services in place to promote the quality of life and the ability of older adults to live independently and contribute to their communities for as long as possible" (p.1 print, p. 3 pdf). The report listed many areas of concern for "aging readiness", including:

  • Health
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Transportation
  • Public Safety
  • Housing
  • Taxation
  • Workforce development/ Lifelong Learning
  • Civic engagement/ Volunteer activities
  • Aging/Human Services
  • Policies/guidelines
The report made recommendations for each category and pointed out that all these issues must be looked at holistically. For example, it does no good to plan senior housing in a particular area, if there is no transportation available for seniors at that area to get to the food store or to the doctor's office.

What does this have to do with libraries?
First of all, this report only mentioned libraries once - as a place where older adults volunteer. It does not mention that libraries are an ideal place for lifelong learning and that many libraries provide free computer training. It does not mention libraries as a source of information about health, successful aging, or e-government resources. There is no mention at all in the article about the overall information needs of older adults, except a call for "... the development of a single point of entry for information and access to all aging services" (p. 4 of print and p. 6 of pdf). Perhaps libraries can offer help in setting up a portal for all the local aging services? Alternatively, libraries can introduce our patrons to this portal and link to it from our website.

In the section on transportation, the study mentions that "Reduced mobility can put an older person at risk of poor health, isolation, and loneliness." (p. 9 in print and p. 11 of pdf). The survey question about public transportation lists the following places: senior centers, adult day care services, grocery stores, faith communities, and cultural events. There is no mention of public transit availability to libraries. We may need to lobby for public transportation to our libraries.

It seems clear that many of the aging services stakeholders are not thinking about libraries - either as a resource for older adults or as a community social destination for older adults. As local government agencies begin to plan for the future, librarians will need to remind them that we are here for older adults - to provide information, technology training, lifelong learning programing, and as a community center for social interaction and volunteering. In addition, we should find ways to partner with local aging services, so that we can create services that neither agency alone could provide.

Certainly we can take an idea from UPS and ask these agencies "What can libraries do for you?" We certainly should show other government agencies what we have to offer - our meeting rooms, programming, staff expertise, ability to outreach to older adults, etc. We need to be a part of the planning process and to increase our visibility.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

How to Find Caregiver Support Programs by State

The Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) has recently created a database for publicly-funded caregiver support programs. This database is called "Caregiving across the States" and it can be accessed by clicking one's state on a map or by choosing the state from a drop down menu. The information includes details about specific caregiving programs, including eligibility requirements, the geographic regions served by the programs, and the services provided by each program. For example, program services may include assistive technology, caregiver training, supplies, counseling, homemaker assistance, and respite care. In addition, there is a wealth of statistical information about caregivers and the cost of caregiving in each state. The Florida information is here.

The Family Caregiver Alliance is a community-based nonprofit organization. The FCA website is a great resource for older adults and for caregivers. There are useful fact sheets in English, Spanish, and Chinese; research reports; caregiving advice; and links to online support groups.

(Found via a post from the excellent Minding Our Elders blog, written by Carol Bradley Bursack)

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Recent Pew Study of Information Behavior

A new study has recently been released called Information Searches That Solve Problems: How people use the internet, libraries, and government agencies when they need help”. It was created through a partnership between the University Of Illinois Graduate School Of Library and Information Science and the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The full report in pdf form is here. I have listed below some of the results of the study which relate to older adults and libraries:

Library Use by Age Group

Gen Y (18-30) 62%
Gen X (31-42) 59%
Trailing Boomers (43 – 52) 57%
Leading Boomers (53-61) 46%
Matures (62-71) 42%
After Work (72+) 32%
(p. 10 of report; p. 20 of pdf)

Sarah Houghton-Jan, the LibarianInBlack, commented in a recent blog post that these statistics “… show that library use steadily declines as people age--what can we do about that? Are we neglecting our senior populations once more? Is there an opportunity for added outreach here?”

This data challenges the common view that we are already reaching the older adult demographic and do not need to market library services to this group. I agree with Sarah that we should not neglect our senior population. However, to successfully market library services to this demographic, we need a lot more data. I am very interested in finding out about older adults who do not use the library and finding out why they do not use the library. Also, what services or materials would encourage them to use the library? I hope someone does this type of research. For the 72+ age group, some of the decline in library use may be due to mobility, general health, or transportation issues. That is one reason that I hope that we can use online library services to reach out to homebound seniors in the future. Another possibility is for libraries to partner with local organizations which visit the homebound.

% of adults in each group with internet access
Gen Y (18-30) 91%
Gen X (31-42) 90%
Boomers (43 – 61) 79%
Matures (62-71) 56%
After Work (72+) 29%
(p. 3 of report; p. 13 of pdf)

This report clearly shows the digital divide in internet access between young people and older adults. Older adults do not have internet access through school and since many older adults are retired, they lack access to the internet through their place of work. Another factor is that many older adults have not been trained to use computers or search the internet. Libraries are thus a critical asset for older adults, since libraries not only provide internet access, they many also provide computer training.

Furthermore, even people with internet access often need help in finding information. The report stated that “... Americans on both sides of the digital divide – those with both low-access and high-access to computing -- are equally likely to use the public library for information that helps them address matters and solve problems in their lives – especially those matters that lie in some way within the government domain.” (p. 30 of report; p. 40 of pdf). I would add that finding government information (such as Medicare information and Social Security benefits) is of great concern to many older adults.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

"Creating Aging-Friendly Communities" Conference

The University of California at Berkeley, Center for the Advanced Study of Aging Services and Community Strengths will be hosting a free online conference. The American Library Association is one of the co-sponsors. The "Creating Aging-Friendly Communities" conference website is here.
The conference description states:

"Join participants from state and local government, community-based organizations, policy makers, business leaders, funders, recognized experts, and concerned citizens, as they capture emerging knowledge regarding ways to make their communities more aging-friendly."
I think that this is a wonderful opportunity for librarians to "have a seat at the table". In other words, we can participate in discussions about community building and community planning. I think that creating dialogs with community based organizations and government agencies (such as Aging Services) can lead to new ideas and successful partnerships.

The conference will take place over three weeks. It will have previously recorded presentations, which can be viewed at any time during the conference or up to 60 days after the conference. There will also be live presentations and live panel discussions on Wednesday, February 20th, Wednesday, February 27th, and Wednesday, March 5th.. One can also participate in scheduled online discussions and informal networking. This is great because it can potentially include anyone interested in aging services and lifelong learning throughout the country - with no need for travel or related expenses!

Conference topics will include the characteristics of aging-friendly communities, lifelong learning, developing community partnerships, building local capacity, mobility and transportation issues, intergenerational perspectives, health and wellness, "aging in place", and creating communities of practice for aging-friendly communities.

I would like to thank Satia Orange for posting about this conference on the ALA Senior Services listserv.

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