27 Nov 2017
For decades, Denise Wells did not have much time. Each day she left her North Salem home at 5:00 a.m. for work in New York City and returned at 6:00 p.m.. She retired last year from her job as the Bursar for Queens College at CUNY. Soon after, she began reconnecting with her community by spending time at her local library in North Salem. She started volunteering at the Ruth Keeler Memorial Library and now attends a watercolor painting group.
Libraries across the county are ramping up their class offerings and no longer consider themselves only a place for people to come to borrow books. They provide valuable programming to all age groups and have become a social center in their communities.
The painting class at Ruth Keeler began last spring and is now facilitated by Nina Bertolino, a local artist. The group gathers weekly and, depending on the weather, paints inside the library or outdoors in its picturesque backyard. The class is not exclusively for retirees, but many older adults attend given its mid-morning time slot. Denise enjoys the group because it enables her to socialize while also dedicating time to her watercolor hobby: an avocation she developed many years ago as a way to de-stress after work.
According to Carolyn Reznick, director of the Ruth Keeler Memorial Library, “Many of the folks who come to our programs are officially seniors. But I would rather describe them as recently retired, still very active – Baby Boomers for whom the library is a place to meet people, indulge in deferred interests, and stay active and stimulated.”
Ruth Keeler has numerous options for boomers and seniors. There are history and fiction book groups, as well as a writing workshop run by Westchester writer, Ali Jackson-Jolley. Also, there is a gardening club and a Mahjong drop-in time. The library has services such as homebound book delivery and free Medicare presentations by Westchester Seniors Out Speaking.
Wendy Archer, the adult services manager of the Scarsdale Public Library, says that Scarsdale Library has become more of a gathering place over the past several years. Archer believes that the library’s space and programs are essential in supporting the Scarsdale community’s values of “lifelong learning and community involvement.”
Scarsdale Library has a variety of programs. These are sometimes coordinated with the local Scarsdale Seniors group. Some of the library’s most well-attended programs are Nancy’s Book Group (a monthly book club with over 30 members), an adult coloring program, and a film program.
The film program, The Golden Age on the Silver Screen, meets monthly and is facilitated by psychiatrist, Steven Hyler, MD. The films all relate to aging and are followed by a discussion after each showing.
In the adult coloring program, some come to make connections with people and others join for the meditative aspect of it. Says Archer, “There’s no pressure to make the connection because you also have something to do. You sit there coloring and you just happen to be speaking to somebody else, so it’s a comfortable connection.”
Similar to the programming at Ruth Keeler, the Scarsdale Library offers some senior-specific programs such as Demystifying Medicare – which is available in roughly 15 libraries throughout Westchester, estate planning, and a balance training workshop.
Melinda O’Brien, the adult program coordinator at the John C. Hart Library in Yorktown, believes that libraries are “more and more of a community center.” Similar to the other libraries, people come to socialize, use the computer, and to learn about Medicare. They might also drop in for a quilting group, an adult coloring group, or to play Mahjong.
Some of the library’s most popular programs are Why Not Write a Book?, memoir writing, a collage/paper arts group and an earring-making workshop. Programs like the earring workshop are intergenerational, but are attended predominantly by retirees. Free music concerts are held most Sundays at 2:00 p.m
O’Brien says that libraries should consider older patrons when creating programs because, “They are going to come [to library programs]. They’re an active group and they’re interested in continually learning and having new experiences.”
Check your local library for classes and programming in your community. For a list of Westchester libraries, go to www.westchesterlibraries.org/about-wls/member-libraries/