Part of a nationwide innovative project by libraries to respond to population ageing.
Watch House Cross Library in Limerick is one of a number of libraries across the country to be nominated as an Age Friendly Library.
As part of a novel project to recognise and adapt to the needs of older people, Age Friendly Ireland initiated a process with the Libraries Development Committee and the County and City Management Association to encourage libraries to develop in a more age friendly way.
Each local authority nominated one library [Watch House Cross for Limerick] to become their Age Friendly Library and Age Friendly Ireland provided training in age friendly principles to 48 libraries nationally.
Data from the Healthy and Positive Ageing Initiative (HaPAI) survey showed that many older people were not using their public libraries with many reporting finding them difficult to access.
The proportion of older people is increasing in almost every country of the world and as life expectancy increases, the need to ensure that Ireland becomes a great country in which to. grow old is increasing too.
Minister Michael Ring from the Department of Rural and Community Development officially launched the National Age Friendly Libraries Recognition Programme and presented Watch House Cross Library with an Age Friendly Charter to recognise the great strides taken to make the Library more accessible to people of all ages.
Working with the libraries to develop them in a more Age Friendly way very much ties in with the policy of the Department of Rural and Community Development. The Public Library Strategy ‘Our Public Libraries 2022’ which was published this year builds on recent technological and service developments to focus on improving access, use and the position and status of public libraries in the community. The strategy seeks to develop the libraries as the ‘go-to’ places for a range of sustainable, integrated public services.
There have been huge advances in library programming, with Healthy Ireland, digital skills training, business supports and a national public library catalogue as well as online resources and e-learning courses.
Making libraries more Age Friendly is another layer of evolution that contributes to the overall strategy for libraries and embeds them more deeply in the communities they serve.
Minister Michael Ring said: “The public library strategy focuses on removing barriers to access, improving accessibility, and providing a welcoming and inclusive space for all. Age Friendly Libraries are enhancing the services and facilities and making sure that we are meeting the needs of older people in our communities. We want to make Ireland a great place for people to live and grow old in and I’m delighted to say that our libraries are here to help this. They are providing digital skills classes, health and wellbeing classes, hosting intergenerational activities and providing supports for people with dementia. I am delighted to launch the National Age Friendly Libraries Recognition Programme.”
Mary O’Brien, one of the Age Friendly Champions in Watch House Cross Limerick said: “By becoming Age Friendly we will help build sustainability into the library service. It will increase the ease with which older people engage with our services and help us to grow our customer numbers – it is very much aligned with the ethos of the ‘Our Public Libraries’ strategy.”
The Department along with Libraries Development Committee and the County and City Management Association and Age Friendly Ireland planned to expand this initiative to other libraries across Limerick and the rest of the country.