Serving Seniors

Beginning in 2011 the first wave of baby boomers will be retiring. Some 76 million Americans will move into retirement healthier, better educated, and more energetic than any previous generation. In a sense they will redefine what “retiring” means. Without a doubt, these individuals as a group, will change our communities and libraries.

Your library can be the “go to place” to support them with books in all formats, magazines, and research along with Internet help and access to the MARVEL! Databases.They will ask their library for more programming on topics of interest.

Hopefully, boomers will also offer their services to the library as volunteers. Their diverse work experience will be a windfall to library directors and to the community.Wise library planners and officials will soon realize the clout that boomers wield in the community and will tailor library services to this important group.

Resource Manuals

Guidelines for Library and Information Services to Older Adults
The American Library Association has updated these guidelines, first developed in the 1970s, to respond to the changing demographics of an aging U.S. population.
Keys to Engaging Older Adults @ your library
Released by ALA in Spring, 2010, this toolkit was created in response to the concerns of librarians across the country who provide services for older adults. It contains valuable advice on programming, accessibility, finding funding, engagement and implementation, model programs, and more. Download in PDF format
Older Adults & Seniors
WebJunction has a wide array of resources to assist librarians in creating programming, services, and outreach for older adults.
Transforming Life After 50: A Resource Guide
The California State Library designed this initiative to help libraries better serve and engage midlife adults by positioning libraries as catalysts, resources, meeting places, and partners in creating opportunities for mid life adults to learn, teach, lead, build skills, re-career, and become civically-engaged.
Montana State Library~Baby Boomers Programming Ideas
This site has a wealth of programming ideas all outlined for you. The site also has a programming guide to help in planning, implementing and evaluating your program. Scroll down for programming.


Designs for Change: Libraries and Productive Aging

[PDF, This file requires the free Adobe Reader]

A Report of the National Library Leaders Forum 2005, sponsored by Americans for Libraries Council and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Public libraries are uniquely positioned to help accommodate the needs of a huge influx of retired people as the Baby Boomer generation come to the end of their working lives. Research documents the wish of older Americans to remain engaged in the broader world and to continue learning. These adults are resources for our communities and our libraries if librarians can transform their practices and their institutions to provide opportunities and connections to support lifelong learning and civic participation.
Reinventing Aging: Baby Boomers and Civic Engagement (2004)
[PDF, This file requires the free Adobe Reader]
This Report is a product of the Harvard School of Public HealthMetLife Foundation Initiative on Retirement and Civic Engagement, a program of the Center for Health Communication at the Harvard School of Public Health. The Report spotlights key issues that must be addressed.

Senior Volunteers

50+Volunteering: Working for Stronger Communities
This guide from the Points of Light Foundation shows how to strengthen communities by involving baby boomers, older adults, and all others in meaningful volunteer opportunities.

Model Library Programs for Older Adults

Alameda County Library (Freemont, California - Older Adult Services)
This system-wide program provides active living programs, homebound services, computer classes, Wii bowling for seniors and inter-generational technology instruction.
Old Bridge Public Library (Old Bridge, New Jersey - Senior Spaces)
Specially designed destination areas in the library for three generations of older adults featuring programming activities focusing on technology, gaming, and lifelong learning. This model is being replicated by other libraries in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Brooklyn Public Library (Brooklyn, NY - Services to the Aging)
Brooklyn Public Librarys Service to the Aging program provides library programs and resources to older adults and the homebound throughout Brooklyn. Services to the Aging programs provide access to meaningful activities, opportunities for self-expression and vital connections with the outside world.

Web Tools

Making Your Website Senior Friendly
Tips from the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine.

Senior Reference

University of Maine Center on Aging
The Center on Aging is a university-wide, interdisciplinary center specializing in aging education, research and community service. The mission of the Center is to promote and facilitate activities on aging in the areas of education, research and evaluation, and community service to maximize the quality of life of older citizens and their families in Maine and beyond.
The Savvy Senior
A national information service devoted to older Americans and the families who support them.
Senior Citizen Resources: Maine State Government
This site provides a full range of resources for seniors.

Additional Reading:

  • Achenbaum, W. Andrew. Older Americans, Vital Communities: A Bold Vision of Societal Aging. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.
  • Ahlvers, Alicia. “Older Adults and Reader’s Advisory.” Reference & User Services Quarterly, Vol. 45, # 4 Summer, 2006. Pp. 305-312.
  • Dilger-Hill, Jeannie and Erica MacCreaigh, eds. On the Road With Outreach. Libraries Unlimited, 2009.
  • Honnold, RoseMary and Saralyn A. Mesaros. Serving Seniors: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians. Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2004.
  • Mates, Barbara T. 5-Star Programming and Services for Your 55+ Library Customers. ALA Editions, 2003.
  • Osborne, Robin, ed. From Outreach to Equity: Innovative Models of Library Policy and Practice. ALA, Office for Literacy and Outreach Services, 2004.
  • Schull, Diantha Dow and Pauline Rothstein, eds. Boomers and Beyond: Reconsidering the Role of Libraries. ALA, 2010.
  • Schull, Diantha Dow. 50+ Services: Innovations in Action. ALA, forthcoming Fall 2011.