UK: Public libraries and the well-being of older people

A new report highlights the power of partnerships and describes a wide range of activities and services improving the lives of older citizens.

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A new report published by Arts Council England explores how public libraries are addressing challenges facing older people by:

  • Providing support to people to help them live in their own homes for longer (e.g. a simple ‘slipper swap’ scheme to help prevent trips and falls; schemes to improve digital independence)
  • Organising enriching and socialising activities (e.g. schemes to combat loneliness; reminiscence sessions)
  • Expanding the reach of their services for older people
  • Working with social care and other providers (e.g. providing dementia friendly services)

The report includes five in-depth case studies exploring the ways public libraries are working with and supporting older people. These include:

Supporting digital independence in Kent

Touch a new world - a service for mentally fit, physically frail citizens providing in-home training and a tablet-loan scheme supported by over 1000 volunteers.  Often house-bound service users are trained on how use Skype; shop online; send digital greeting cards; keep in touch with the news and other tasks.

A dementia friendly library in Wakefield

The Sandal library redesign used recommendations from the Alzheimer’s Society, including using symbols as well as signs; traditional chairs and other furniture; plain carpeting, flat colours and no patterns.   The library offers regular Active Minds sessions that combine physical and mental activities which have proved to be low cost and high impact.

Libraries tackle loneliness in Norfolk

In good company is a project established to combat loneliness across the county.  The libraries contribution includes providing a timetable of activities including weekly ‘Just a Cuppa’ sessions; colouring book activities and Knit and Natter groups.

Safe slippers in Hertfordshire

Regular swap sessions help services reach older users while helping reduce falls in the home.

In summary

The range of case studies included in the report challenges many assumptions about what libraries can do to help meet the needs of older people in their communities. Most importantly, the case studies show the impact of libraries working in partnership with local authority colleagues, volunteer groups, campaign groups and charities to deliver services that can positively impact on people’s lives.

The full report PDF can be found here