Denver Public Library (DPL) is listening and holding community conversations to better understand Denver residents’ values and aspirations. As part of the Connected & Creative Aging Series at the Sam Gary Branch Library this fall, we hosted a community conversation focused on the topic of aging. The event was advertised widely in collaboration with AARP, and was free and open to the public. We had 20 attendees take part in the conversation, which was led by DPL staff. The participants came from a wide variety of backgrounds, and we were joined by several experts in the field of aging.
Here, we are sharing what we learned during this conversation. The information we received will help guide our work, especially with older adults and caregivers. We are also including links to resources and programs that pertain to the themes that came up in this conversation.
The Kind of Community People Want Around Aging
People told us that they want a safe community, where they can be free of worry about break-ins, and where they can feel comfortable any time of day.
People want to be around others from diverse backgrounds such as a mixture of ages, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. They want to live in diverse neighborhoods and communities, and not age where there are only older people. Some people love being around children, and love to experience and learn from them.
The majority wants to see improvements in transportation and mobility options for older adults. They have struggled with bus routes that don’t run frequently. Those that live relatively close to train and bus stations have difficulties making it from home to a transportation hub.
Our group wants to be treated with dignity and respect as they age. They would like others to recognize their individuality, and to understand that older adulthood encompasses a very large range of ages and experiences.
Issues Affecting the Older Adult Community
Participants in this conversation placed several key themes into 2 larger categories: logistics and connectedness. Some themes focus on large-issue topics, and others address underlying issues.
Within the category of logistics, our group discussed safety, transportation and mobility, housing, downsizing, and larger cultural assumptions and stereotypes about aging.
Transportation issues that came up focused on accessibility of transportation to stations and hubs, as well as ease of access in riding public transportation. One participant noted that even though he lives only one mile away from a light rail station, he has trouble figuring out how to get to public transit. Participants are frustrated with transit times when riding buses, and instead opt to drive their cars.
A discussion around housing focused on topics of accessible and safe housing to age in place, which included talk of Denver’s changing landscape and zoning issues. Lack of affordable housing was part of the discussion, as well as single-floor living options. Others were concerned about the challenges of downsizing - both for themselves and for their aging parents. The subject of stuff, as in what to do with it, was a big concern for many.
We discussed at length cultural challenges that older adults and their families face. Since many families do not live in a multi-generational setting, older adults can feel isolated and under valued. Older adults who still work may find cultural norms surrounding their workplaces difficult, such as long working hours and lack of flexible schedules.
We had a consensus that community and feeling connected is an integral part of healthy and fulfilling part of life. Some participants live far away from family and feel like they don’t have the support system they need. We discussed different ways older adults cultivate relationships. One participant spoke about how she tries very hard to accommodate schedules and needs of her younger friends, because connection to friends of different ages is very important to her. She goes to her friends’ family soccer games, and offers to meet people where they are rather than asking friends to come to her. Another participant told us she had found a support system through programs at her local recreation center. One person shared a positive experience they had with an exchange program that allowed her to host new people in her home.
What Can Be Done
Several people felt at a loss of where to begin to affect policy change that would positively address many of their logistical challenges. Some felt that having their voice heard was difficult. The value of open conversations between diverse groups of people was suggested as part of a larger solution.
Participants said they trusted some local organizations that are addressing these issues, such as AARP, Colorado Gerontological Society and Boomers Leading Change.
At DPL we will take the things we learned from this conversations and share them out with our programming staff, as well as with our community partners that work with older adults and caregivers. We will also share these findings with our colleagues in other City of Denver agencies. You can read more about previous community conversations with DPL at https://www.denverlibrary.org/community-engagement
We also wanted to share several resources and ideas that pertain to some of the topics in this discussion.
Transportation & Mobility
Career Resources for Older Adults (and all ages)
Community & Connectedness
Do you have a grandchild or friends with children? Why not take them to a DPL storytime or program? You can find them at denverlibrary.org/events
DPL hosts many intergenerational programs. Try a music program to meet new people and see local talent. Check out all our programs at denverlibrary.org/events
Downsizing & Decluttering
You can donate rare and used books to the DPL Friends Foundation. Your books will help fund library programs and resources in the future! Please note that they do not accept magazines, cassette tapes, time life books, incomplete encyclopedia sets, or damaged items.
Feel guilty no more about your stashes of fabrics and papers. ReCreative Denver accepts arts and crafts supplies that are then sold or used with other community programming
DPL sometimes offers programs on downsizing, organizing and decluttering. Check out the program Change Your Life by Tidying Your Home on January 13, 2019.
Two very popular, current books on the subject: the life-changing magic of tidying up : the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing by Marie Kondo, and The gentle art of Swedish death cleaning : how to free yourself and your family from a lifetime of clutter by Margareta Magnusson.
Read more about other DPL Community Conversations and engagement.
We want to keep the conversations going! Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in joining a community conversation in 2019.
I feel the library is getting away from purchasing new books (I love fiction), which older people are more used to. Is this because more money is going toward on-line resources? I also use on-line resources at the library, but I feel the library does not have as good a selection of books to take home as in previous years. What is happening to physical books?
We have been increasing our collection of eBooks, but not at the expense of new titles in print. We may purchase fewer copies (but not fewer titles) in print because we also buy the eBook version. Customer demand is split fairly evenly between the two, but eBooks are gaining in popularity. If you are looking for a particular title that is not on the shelf we are happy to place a hold for you and transfer one from another location.
Another factor that may influence what you are seeing on the shelves is the time of year. Summer is a slow time in the publishing cycle, and late fall and spring are the busiest times for new releases. This year, many titles are coming out in late November and December. Soon you'll begin to see an abundance of fiction and nonfiction in all of our locations.
Does DPL really accept vehicle donations?? BTW, great summary!
Hi Cori, thanks for reading! DPL doesn't actually do the accepting, but you can choose DPL as your charity of choice when you donate. Call 1-800-216-8929 or visit https://www.carsforcharity.net/ for information on donating a vehicle.