52 ODES TO JOY: S.U.N.S. AGE JOY LIBRARY

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(Photo from Thriftyfoods.com)

I LOVE LIBRARIES and I have a dream of a beautiful, FREE, public one with happy colors, patron-selected seating, art murals, craft/study/activity areas, cubbies, tall windows for lots of daylight, tech/STEM assistance, an array of books + lots of integrated programming.

This innovative library in my imagination is NOT FOR CHILDREN. It is specially designed for people who are aged 50+. Let’s call it– “THE S.U.N.S. JOYFUL AGING LIBRARY.”

After completing my undergraduate studies in Sociology and English, I worked for the Alabama Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. This taught me the value of creating easy access to libraries for individuals of varying abilities and interests. As I visited libraries in each of the 67 counties of the state, I saw time and again, how designing sensitive to the special needs of patrons, supports individuals and strengthens communities.

Some U.S. states, like Maine, have impressive public library services for seniors. Also, there are good, community-based initiatives in places such as Bloomfield, Connecticut, West Islap, New York, Alvarado, TX and the Camden, NJ library system. Curiosity and learning need to be supported for all Americans of all ages.

Fifty-six percent of library programs, according to the most recent research, are for children under 12 years old. The reasons parents most often give for the importance of libraries for children is to instill a love of reading early in life. But what about the importance of reading for our late years? Retirees have much more time they could be reading and continuing to exercise and engage aging brains.

“Lifelong reading, especially in older age, may be one of the secrets to preserving mental ability. Remaining a bookworm into old age reduced memory decline by more than 30%,” according to data gerontologist, Dr. Alan Castel references.

To make my doable dream a reality, I propose we gather seniors, gerontologists, architects, librarians, lifelong learning specialists, recreation directors and others to design a model public library for people who are 50+.

With THE S.U.N.S. JOYFUL AGING LIBRARY, we seniors could even have a storytelling area where we gather on the cushy carpet in a circle like kids do—just make sure there are handrails and give some of us a little more time to get up and down. We oldsters could steal ideas from the kids and have our own “dance zone,” “animal zone,” “garden zone,” “arts zone,” etc.

Books and other media could be integrated with “hands on” activities in cohesive ways that reinforce through experiential learning. For example, in THE S.U.N.S. JOYFUL AGING LIBRARY a “Read & Feed” focus could combine cookbooks for “brain foods” with cooking classes specifically designed for seniors preparing their own meals, and even more advanced learning could be done with senior programming adventure trips for “taste tests” at farm markets and eateries.

THE S.U.N.S. JOYFUL AGING LIBRARY is needed for these reasons:

  • Seniors in the U.S., according to the latest census data, are booming in numbers.
  • Seniors today are more active, enthusiastic and joy-seeking than previous generations.
  • Seniors, in recent research AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) with 3,400 members responding, ranked “Reading” as #3 among hobbies.
  • Seniors want access to books and magazines, but we also want the latest technology.
  • Senior happiness is positively impacted by UNITING with others who share similar interests. We want to connect through engaging programs.
  • Seniors who are “homebound” want to have library resources delivered to their residence, whether virtually or literally.

THE S.U.N.S JOYFUL AGING LIBRARY would have a specially trained librarian for materials acquisitions which enrich, inform and entertain mature, library cardholders. Using “The S.U.N.S. (Smile-Making, Uniting, Neighboring, Spellbinding) Joyful Aging System” basic, four elements, here are my current favorite, nonfiction books with a gerontological theme for consideration:

  1. “Better With Age: The Psychology of Successful Aging” by Dr. Alan D. Castel—

“While older adults tend to have smaller social circles than those of younger adults, this decrease in the total number of friends might result in nurturing more important friendships. As a result, studies suggest that friendships improve with age.” (UNITING)

“There is research suggesting that being an early riser is associated with greater emotional stability and levels of happiness.” (SMILE-MAKING)

  • “The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer” by Dan Buettner—

“Make your friends carefully. Be around those who will help you stay healthy in your life.” (UNITING)

“I live in an area connected to my neighbors. I socialize with them every single day, and I ride a bike to work.” (NEIGHBORING)

“The more likeness you have for something, the merrier life starts to get.” (SPELLBINDING)

“You get much more satisfied after seeing the flower you watered in your garden bloom than sitting in an easy chair and relaxing.” (SMILE-MAKING)

“Start by finding a simple, memorable answer for this sentence: What makes you get out of bed in the morning?” (SPELLBINDING)

  • “The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50” by Johnathan Rauch

“The curve seems to be imprinted on us as a way to repurpose us for a changing role in society as we age, a role that is less about ambition and competition, and more about connection and compassion.” (UNITING/NEIGHBORING)

  • “The Telomere Effect” by Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr. Elissa Epel

(Note: “Geronto telomeres” in your DNA which are longer, seem to be a good predictor of lifespan and can by one’s actions be extended or shortened.)

“One study has found that people who tend to focus their minds more on what they are currently doing have longer telomeres than people who minds tend to wander more.” (SPELLBINDING)

  • “How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations” by Marc Freedman

This lively book gives lots of examples as it explores the idea that secrets to happiness and longevity for seniors can be found through mentoring to future generations. Freedman has answers for these questions: “With so many living so much longer, what is the meaning of the increasing years beyond 50? How do we find happiness when we know life is long and time is short?” (NEIGBORING)

  • “Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over” by Nell Painter

“Making art for me is not fun in the sense of la-la-la-la, but it’s something that I find very absorbing and very satisfying.” (SPELLBINDING)

  • “The Longevity Paradox: How to Die Young at a Ripe Old Age” by Dr. Steve Gundry

“Lest I be accused of being overly dramatic, here is some evidence of the devastating effects of antibiotics: studies show that every time you take a course of antibiotics, you increase the likelihood of developing Crohn’s disease, diabetes, obesity or asthma later in life.” (SPELLBINDING)

  • “Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To” by Dr. David Sinclair

“Only 20 percent of our longevity is genetically determined. The rest is what we do, how we live our lives and increasingly the molecules we take.” (SMILE-MAKING)

  • “The End of Old Age: Living a Longer, More Purposeful Life” by Dr. Marc Agronin

“When someone has a meaningful relationship, they can cope with and transform every situation they have to deal with.” Note: This was from an interview with Dr. Agronin on The NLP View Radio Show (UNITING)

  1. “Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives” by Daniel J. Levitin

“Don’t retire. Don’t stop being engaged with meaningful work. Look forward. Don’t look back. (Reminiscing doesn’t promote good health.) Exercise. Get your heart rate going, preferably in nature. Embrace a moderated lifestyle with healthy practices. Keep your social circle exciting and new. Spend time with people younger than you. See your doctor regularly, but not obsessively. Don’t think of yourself as old (other than taking prudent precautions). Appreciate your cognitive strengths—pattern recognition, crystallized intelligence, wisdom, accumulated knowledge. Promote cognitive health through experiential learning: traveling, spending time with grandchildren and immersing yourself in new activities and situations. DO NEW THINGS.” (S.U.N.S.: SMILE-MAKING/UNITING/NEIGHBORING/SPELLBINDING)

THE S.U.N.S. JOYFUL AGING LIBRARY would have a major focus on books/media/programming which support physical health and psychological (mental/emotional) health. Since this is a public library with some government funding, it would not specifically trumpet any one religion but it could, and I think should, include explorations of aging as a “spiritual journey.” As “The Gerontologist of Joy,” a book I’ve referenced and shared is “The Five Stages of the Soul” by Dr. Harry Moody with David Carroll. Dr. Moody is the highly respected and influential co-founder of the Brookdale Center on Aging. He identifies the “five stages of the soul” as: The Call, The Search, The Struggle, The Breakthrough and The Return.

Books for and about the senior market are booming like the 50+ demographic itself. I also want to recommend: “Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age” by Sanjay Gupta, and “Aging Thoughtfully: Conversations About Retirement, Romance, Wrinkles and Regret” by Martha C. Nussbaum and Saul Levmore.

THE S.U.N.S. JOYFUL AGING LIBRARY may soon have more inspiring models. Public library visionary planners are focusing more resources on providing better patron service for the booming numbers of 50+ Americans. I look forward to supporting initiatives to create dynamic library services for seniors across the country.

LIBRARY ODES FROM OTHERS:

“A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination.”—Caitlin Moran

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”—Jorge Luis Borges

“The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man.”—T.S. Eliot

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.”—Albert Einstein

“The public library is where place and possibility meet.”—Stuart Dybek

LIBRARY LAFFS:

In breaking news, there has been a devastating fire in Russia’s presidential library. Both books were destroyed and it’s even worse because Vladdy Putin had only finished coloring one of them!

A man walks into a library and asks the librarian for books about paranoia. The librarian whispers, “They’re right behind you!”

A Mississippi man walks into a library and orders a hamburger. The librarian says, “Sir, this is a library.” The bubba apologizes and whispers, “I’d like a hamburger, please.”

A patron goes to the information desk at the public library and says, “Do you have any books on turtles?” The librarian answers, “Hardback?” The patron responds, “Yeah, and with little heads that go in and out.”

JOY-GIVERS CELEBRATING A BIRTHDAY THIS WEEK:

May 21—Fats Waller

May 22—M. Scott Peck

May 23—Ken Jennings

May 24—Bob Dylan

May 25—Octavia Spencer

May 26—John Wayne

May 27—James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

                                         SUNFLOWER SEED HUMMUS—KANSAS

Each week, JOY & GERONTOLOGY shares a recipe saluting a healthy food produced in America. The delicious and nutritious collection is called “The S.U.N.S. Longevity Cookbook” and highlights vitamin B-3 (niacin) which many gerontologists believe holds the promise for a long, healthy, joyful life.

INGREDIENTS

1 ½ cups raw sunflower seeds

1/3 cup lemon juice

¼ cup water

3 Tablespoons tamari

3 Tablespoons raw tahini

½ garlic clove

DIRECTIONS

Dump all in a food processor and blend until smooth. Serve with raw vegetables as a dip.

1,070 JOY-GIVING THINGS FROM MY FIRST 70 YEARS (continued):

453. The New York City Public Library lions, Patience and Fortitude.

454. Alan, the long-time bartender/counselor at The Tutwiler Hotel (Birmingham).

455. Listen for angels and the not-so-angelic in the lobby of The Algonquin Hotel.

456. Pouring Campari in a friend’s potted palm to get something better.

457. Wrigley Field and a Chicago White Sox game with my sports-fan son.

458. Killing a wild duck with a rented vehicle and feeling like a game hunter.

459. Picking blackberries in a tin pail.

460. Frozen berries.

461. Sugarbabies, my friends’ 50+ tap-dancing troupe.

462. John Denver “LIVE.”

463. “I need a vacation like nobody’s business.”

464. “There’s No Business Like Show Business” sung by Kristi Tingle-Higginbotham.

465. Steak au poivre.

466. My proper mother vamping “That Old Black Magic.”

467. The sherbet-colored art of Ida Kohlmeyer.

468. Fresca.

469. Tab Cola, with one, “crazy calorie.”

470. Dieting with SlimFast eggnog after the holiday feasting.

471. Watching Captain Kangaroo and no having much to do.

472. “Beanie and Cecil,” a Bob Clampett cartoooooooon.

473. Sitting up with the dying who had a good, long life.

474. The first, cool day each fall when I put on my dad’s cardigan.

475. Being a card-carrying library goer at every age.

SHHHH…HAPPY NEW WEEK OF JOY AT YOUR LIBRARY!

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Ben South