Older Adults, Local Community Agencies, and the Lansing, Michigan Area

Question: Local Community Agencies: Review your local libraries’ (public and academic) websites. What classes and/or opportunities do they make available specifically for older adults? What other local agencies (i.e., senior centers, lifelong learning institutes, volunteer agencies, etc.) are available to encourage senior participation in the community? Discuss ways in which these agencies might collaborate to provide older adults with leisure-time, recreational, and/or educational opportunities? Identify several benefits of this type of collaboration.

I have to admit, my first thought in response to this question was Meals on Wheels.  Which is an admirable organization, but I was very ashamed that it was my first thought for an agency for older adults.  In addition, it does not fulfill the criteria for “leisure-time, recreational, and/or educational opportunities.”  That is, unless you volunteer for the organization.  Taking a few moments to research the topic I found a variety of agencies beyond the library:

Retired and Senior Volunteer Program: http://www.volunteerlansing.com   A place where older persons can engage in volunteering in a variety of different situations, from education and community service.

There are also several senior citizen community centers.   However, none of them have an online presence.  East Lansing, however, has a web presence for its senior programs.  This includes Prime Time Seniors’ Program.  A nationally recognized program, Prime Time states they are, “committed to providing programs which engage the physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual and vocational dimensions of wellness and encourage involvement in the greater East Lansing area community.”

This program encompasses many activities and seems to be the most comprehensive program in the Lansing area for older adults.  From the website for Prime Time they offer the following:

Health and fitness activities… Prime Time also provides seniors with Meals on Wheels, blood pressure services, chore services,    a grief and loss support group, annual flu shots and health fair and a foot care clinic. Prime Time also organizes special field trips and events for its patrons.

However, it is not free.  Membership costs $20 for residents and $30 for nonresidents.  Couples fees are $30 for residents and $45 for non-residents.  Prime Time does also offer scholarships for low income people, who meet guidelines.  Classes also cost money, but if you are a member, there is a discounted rate.

I admit I have a crush on this program.  I cannot believe how comprehensive the program is, from the services they offer, to the easy to navigate and use website.  It truly seeks to provide a Third Space for older adults.  It allows them to build a community, connect, and stay active, educated, and healthy.  The fact that they go beyond community services and offer affordable chore assistance, medical help, and even a discount on taxi services!

East Lansing also has a seniors’ Commission, which advises the city on matters that will relate to older adults, with the goal to enhance their quality of life within East Lansing.  This combined with the Prime Time Program; makes East Lansing appear to be quite dedicated to its older population.   It is a pity that the city of Lansing does not offer any kind of similar services, at least, none that are readily found.

The library does not offer classes specifically for older adults.  However, there are several activities that are open to all ages, such as craft events, where you bring your own craft and work on it independently in a group.  Several libraries within the Capital Area District Library system also offer groups such as the “Down Memory Lane Reminiscers”, which is a group that is designed to bring people together to talk about the past in their community.  According to the CADL website, reminiscer groups involve “live presentations use music, props, pictures and activities to encourage the exchange of stories and memories among seniors.”   Other libraries in the system offer card game days, movies, and other lectures that is open to all adults.
CADL also offers outreach services to homebound adults, from home delivery, a bookmobile, and small book nooks in senior citizen homes.

I feel a campaign directed toward older adults would be immensely helpful for these services.  They could reach out to a population who maybe is not using the library often.  It could serve to let Lansing’s population of older adults know that the library is a space they can come to connect and engage with their community.  As older populations are offered spaces to engage, not only do they have a sense of community, but it helps keep them mentally active.

Studies have shown that the more you stay mentally active, the better your mental faculties will be as you age.  According to the Cleveland Clinic playing board games, being active in social activities slows cognitive decline (When Memory is Normal and When it is Not-So-Normal).  Extrapolating from this would lead me to believe that knitting, crafting, and other activities fulfill these needs and help slow declines.  Which further impresses upon the importance of such groups such as Prime Time and programming offered by public libraries.

In addition, groups such as the Reminiscers could also provide valuable connections to the younger members of the community.  There could be a tremendous exchange of knowledge between the older adults and younger community members, to help keep oral histories alive.

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Baby Boomers and Television Advertising

Image of a television remote pointed at an out of focus tv set.

Image via Flash Pro

When I set out to discuss media and aging for my class on universal access, I started looking through magazines and paying close attention to the television shows I enjoy.  However, I found myself side tracked by the advertisements.  I spent an evening flipping through channels to look at advertisements.  Where were the older people?  At a population over 40 million strong in the United States, the Baby Boomer generation makes up a large market share, spending about $905 billion dollars a year (Carmichael, 2012).  Why are advertisements not catering to this demographic?

According to the majority of advertisements I viewed, the world is full of sleek people who are mostly white and between the ages of 26 and 45 (or children, who want to eat nothing but sugar).  There are rare exceptions for an occasional person of color, as well as exceptions made for an older population.  While advertisements rarely seem to cater to anyone “real”, there is a marked difference for the 65 and up population.

When you did see older people represented, it was for very specific types of products.  I saw older people represented manly anti-aging products, retirement plans and financial services, and medical related advertisements.  They also appeared in the background of other kinds of ads, but not the focus.  There were grandparents in advertisements in products that dealt with children.

Together this leads to a very stereotypical portrayal of an older population.  First, it shows older people as interested only in these kinds of products, over others.  Alternatively, they are in the background, existing in society, but not the focus.

While financial and medical securities are very important issues, especially for older populations, these depictions make it seem that they are the only people who care about such topics.  This allows for a skewed view of what older people are interested in, and what their needs are.  This representation can easily sneak into perceptions, as advertisements are an ever present and unthinking media that we are bombarded with on a daily basis.

It is not necessarily in the portrayals of older people that show bias and prejudice, but in the lack of portrayals.  It is my opinion that marketing companies are hesitant to show older populations, because it is not sexy, it is not appealing to a wider demographic.  I believe this is indicative of a wider fear of aging, which seem to share as a culture.  By now showing a wide and diverse population of people, including older people, people of color, or other people with different body diversities, an unnatural “norm” is set.  This normal is young to middle aged white people.  This unnatural normal could cause feelings of alienation for the underrepresented populations.

Source:

Carmichael, M. (2012). Welcome to the marketing wasteland: Clermont, fla. Advertising Age, 83(22), 6-n/a

LIS: 7850, Issues in Librarianship: Introduction to Universal Access

For the next semester, this blog will also contain posts for my class on Universal Access.  I will be posting on a variety of topics to do with aging and physiological disabilities.  All posts will be tagged with “lis 7850” , to make them easy to find for my fellow classmates and my instructor.  They will also be categorized under the same title.

For my classmates, as well as those new to the blog, below you will find more information on why I am taking LIS 7850, as well as my assumptions going into this class.

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