Libraries Help Keep Brains Healthy

Ever think of your library as a brain health center? For the baby boomer generation, it is.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Boomer Generation Conference, hosted by the New Jersey State Library and LibraryLinkNJ to help libraries identify services and activities that are important to one of their largest audiences--boomers.

As people continue to live longer, this age group will remain an important market for libraries to consider as patrons and volunteers. According to the TLA50 Project, a resource for libraries originated by the California State Library, the number of Americans over 55 will surge from 60 million to 107 million by 2030.

Clinical Neuropsychologist Paul D. Nussbaum, Ph.D., shared at the conference some significant findings. In order to keep our aging brains exposed to enrich, complex, and novel environments (ultimately delaying the onset of dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases), we should:

  • Read on a daily basis--the more complex, the better;
  • Surf the Internet;
  • Develop hobbies; and
  • Join groups or organizations in the community.

The library provides a place for all of the above.

When shifting from the working world into retirement, people are used to using their skills, learning new things, being part of a team and having meaning and purpose. Libraries' skilled volunteering opportunities can provide a place for mental stimulation and socialization during this transitional stage.

As libraries consider how to reach out to boomers now and in the future, they must respond to the question, "What's in it for me?"

Besides the endless free content libraries provide, try some of these answers:

  • Libraries can help people maintain access to their life stories;
  • Libraries offer socialization;
  • Libraries serve as a place to work on hobbies; and
  • Ultimately, libraries can help people define their role and purpose later in life.

All of this offers food for thought as libraries develop their new strategic plans.