|Libraries & Seniors|
Libraries & Seniors
Strengthening Services for Older Missourians
The Report and Recommendations of the Task Force on Library Services for Older Adults
Defining the Needs of Seniors
The aging population, while changing rapidly, is very similar to the adult population in Missouri and nationwide. The Task Force recognizes that:
- The needs of older adults, like all segments of the population, are diverse.
- The demographic factors of the aging population in communities have an impact on seniors' needs.
|As mentioned previously, diversity characterizes the changing aging society in Missouri and the nation. Their needs are likewise diverse and changing, and it behooves local libraries to recognize and examine this fact. Like most library users, seniors have recreational reading needs, which libraries can meet with their print and non-print resources. A 1994 Needs Assessment survey prepared by the Department of Social Services, the Division of Aging, Area Agencies on Aging, and the University of Missouri-Columbia named information as the number one need identified by Missouri seniors aged 60 and over. Library collections can fulfill many informational and educational needs, as can programs featuring expert speakers on topics for which senior adults want information. Educational and cultural programs and services offered by libraries contribute to lifelong learning needs of seniors. By providing space for groups to meet and pursue personal interests, libraries help fulfill social and personal interest needs. The experience and history that seniors can share through library volunteer opportunities with others provide valuable resources to libraries and communities. Finally, reading itself fulfills more than just a personal or leisure experience. Book discussion programs and the like carry the activity one step further to become an educational and social experience. Recreational reading, information, education, socialization, and sharing time and experience are needs that exist in the senior community that deserve close assessment by the library community.|
| Library communities, in examining the needs of seniors, must take into consideration the same demographic issues they consider for other population groups: age, literacy, population density, socio-economic status, educational attainment and parenting. Age itself is a demographic factor that cannot be omitted from this process, since the needs of a 60 year old library user will differ from those of a 90 year old.
While it is important for library staff to move away from the illness model of aging, libraries must recognize the special needs of older adults, and especially those of the oldest old. The informational, educational and leisure needs of rural seniors will differ from those of urban seniors. Literacy is an issue that must be examined. Currently, almost 50 percent of Missourians over 60 have no high school diploma. While nationwide the aging population will be better educated in the next 20 years, each community must look closely at the 60 and over population it serves. At issue also is parenting. The census bureau reports that nationwide 4 million grandchildren live with their grandparents. The largest population of these grandparents is under 60, but the number over 60 is still substantial. Missouri grandparents raising children "the second time around" have specific informational and educational needs that the library community can meet.