by Noah Lenstra, courtesy of Public Libraries Online
A recently published story on NPR highlights an emerging trend in public libraries: Providing opportunities for older adults to exercise and have fun together at the library. The story “Xbox Bowling for Seniors? Visit Your Local Library” discusses the “Library Lanes Bowling League,” a program that has been offered at multiple branches of the Brooklyn Public Library for years.
Older adults, the primary audience for the program, are invited “to join a team, learn how to bowl using a Microsoft Xbox One, and compete with neighborhood libraries and senior sites in the community” Two of the participants interviewed for the segment, said they enjoy bowling at the library, rather than at a senior center because in the library all ages are present. The program continues to grow. NPR reports in 2017 there are twice as many Xbox bowling teams for seniors in the Brooklyn Public Library System as there were last year.
Other libraries across the country have also successfully developed exercise classes for older adults. In Oklahoma, many public libraries have developed Tai Chi programs in collaboration with the Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative. The Stillwater, Oklahoma, Public Library’s Tai Chi class proved to be so popular that the library decided to send several of its staff members to receive Tai Chi training through the Oklahoma State Department of Health so that the classes could become regular programs offered on an ongoing basis at the library. Other libraries have organized dance classes, walking groups, and exercise-based fall prevention programs.
In some cases, such as the Brooklyn Xbox bowling league, the programs are specifically for older adults. In other cases, older adults actively participate alongside other age groups. For instance, in Parry Sound, Ontario, a 92-year old woman joined a library yoga class in May 2016, and has since been an active participant in the weekly, all-ages gentle yoga class. In China Grove, North Carolina, an older couple in their 70s who participated in a library program focused on learning how to run were so inspired that they successfully completed their first 5K that year.
These examples show that there are many things libraries can do to have a positive impact on the lives of senior citizens through programs that feature physical activity. Nick Higgins, director of outreach at Brooklyn Public Library, told NPR:
“A good library reflects the needs of its particular community. Our older adult community … is looking for opportunities other than movie night, something active and social. And the public library is a perfect space for that to happen.”