Transforming Life After 50: A Resource for Libraries- More Ideas from the PLA Conference
Transforming Life After 50 is a statewide public library initiative launched by the California State Library to address the changing nature of aging. It has become a national model of innovation prompting library leaders across the country to transform the relationship between libraries and midlife adults, commonly referred to as “Baby Boomers.”
1 in 3 American adults is a Baby Boomer born between the years 1946 and 1964 (2010 Census)! Despite this staggering statistic, most libraries do not offer adult programming that specifically targets their needs.
Libraries need a new model to engage and accomodate the needs of this significant portion of the population that is somewhere between “middle” and “old” age!
Know your audience- Who are the Boomers? The nature of aging is changing, and Baby Boomers are the first generation to navigate this new terrain- they will live longer, healthier lives than any previous generation. As a whole, Boomers are better educated and have developed an array of professional experience and skills over the course of their life. Many Boomers plan to work into their 60s and want to volunteer as long as they possibly can because they have a desire for meaning and purpose. They also have a preference for valuing and maintaining their physical and mental health. In essence- What was once “old” is now younger!
Libraries need to change the way they think about aging to reach Boomers:
Instead of AGE- think STAGE
Instead of ILLNESS- think WELLNESS
Instead of OLD/”SENIOR”- think ACTIVE AGING
Instead of DECLINE- think POTENTIAL
Instead of CARED FOR- think INDEPENDENT
Additional tips for transforming the relationship between your library and Boomers from Transforming Life After 50:
Avoid “one size fits all” programming- Consider the specifc needs of Boomers in your community and create programming that meets those needs. Some libraries offer job search classes specifically for Boomers interested in starting a second career after their first retirement. Libraries can even create Boomer or Mid-Life Adults Advisory Groups to generate ideas and help plan targeted programming.
Create Intergenerational programming- Create opportunities for Boomers to interact with younger generations. Libraries may consider running two book clubs concurrently, one for Boomers and one for young adults, that read the same book. They library can then host a discussion for the two groups to share their thoughts and learn from one another!
Rethink volunteer engagement strategies- Many Boomers want to volunteer but do NOT want to shelve books or accomplish similar, menial tasks. They want to put their professional experience and expertise to work! Take advantage of this by assigning Boomer volunteers specific library projects that demand their skills. Look for retired teachers or techies to teach computer classes at your library or provide one-on-one assistance! Look for retired lawyers to help present a citizenship class! Project-based volunteering can be a rewarding experience for the volunteer, staff and library as a whole!
More information on midlife trends, resources regarding this stafe of life, as well as tools and resources are available on the Transforming Life After 50 website. The associated IMLS Fellowship curriculum and archived webinars are also available if you want to study this topic in more depth.