Partnering with Public Libraries to Offer Physical Activity Programs for Older Adults
Date: 6/9/2020 Time: 4:00 PM Eastern Time Format: Online Webinar
Public libraries are increasingly becoming hosting sites for physical activity programs for older adults. According to public health scholars at the University of Pennsylvania, 66% of Pennsylvania libraries support patrons’ interest in exercise (Whiteman et al. 2018). Research shows that “peer-based strategies to support physical activity for older adults can be implemented in a variety of different settings … [including] community location[s] like a Council on Aging or public library” (Matz-Costa 2018, p. 5). Nonetheless, despite increasing scholarly recognition of this role, this trend has received limited scholarly attention. This study begins to rectify this situation by reporting on a 12-week exercise program for older adults that was offered from January to April 2019 (24 classes total) in 49 small and rural public libraries throughout the U.S. in which 535 older adults (completers) used a video-based version of the evidence-based physical activity program called “Geri-Fit®”. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of using a video-led exercise intervention in public libraries and to extend access to opportunities for active living among older adults and disabled older adults living in small and rural communities. In Fall 2018, public librarians were invited to participate in this study through the networks of the Association for Rural & Small Libraries and Let’s Move in Libraries. After completing an online training program, public librarians administered the 12-week, video-based Geri-Fit program either in the library’s meeting room or other open space. At the conclusion of the program, older adults filled out a three-page survey that asked about health and wellness outcomes. Overall, older adult participants indicated that the program had the greatest impact on their strength and on their general wellbeing. 94% said the program raised their spirits and put them in a better mood and 78% said their overall strength had increased. Public libraries from 17 states participated in this study: 92% serve communities with populations under 13,000, including 65% that serve populations under 5,000. This study found that increasing opportunities for strength training programs in small and rural public libraries impacts both physical and mental health, by increasing opportunities for socialization and bonding in a trusted community space. Public librarians also reported strong support: 97% intend to continue offering exercise programs at their libraries, and 97% of the older adults who participated said they would recommend it to a friend.
The preliminary results of this study demonstrate that public libraries have great potential as partners in efforts to increase healthy, active aging. Additional research on active living interventions and partnerships involving public libraries is needed. America has over 16,000 public libraries, representing a vast infrastructure that needs to be better included in active living policy and practice.
Matz-Costa C, Howard EP, Castaneda-Sceppa C, Diaz-Valdes Iriarte A, Lachman ME. Peer-based strategies to support physical activity interventions for older adults. The Gerontologist. 2018; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gny092. Whiteman ED, Dupuis R, Morgan AU, D’Alonzo B, Epstein C, Klusaritz H, et al. Public Libraries As Partners for Health. Prev Chronic Dis 2018;15:170392. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5888/pcd15.170392.
Presenters: Noah Lenstra, UNC at Greensboro Department of Library and Information Science, and director of Let’s Move in Libraries
Francesca Fisher, owner of the Geri-Fit Company and the program developer of the Geri-Fit®
Sponsor: U.S. National Council on Aging