The Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library (10 Grand Army Plaza) was transformed into a festival grounds this past Friday for the Older Americans Celebration Fair. The outdoor event welcomed seniors from throughout the borough to enjoy recreational activities and educate themselves about resources available through the library and other institutions.
The annual fair is usually held during Older Americans month in May, but was delayed this year due to the pandemic. Friday’s festivities served as a potent reminder of the past year and of how far the city, state, and nation have come in their fight against COVID-19.
“We pivoted to virtual programming on April 12, 2020, and have been doing virtual programming using zoom and other platforms,” explained Lyman Clayborn, Coordinator of Older Adult Services at Brooklyn Public Library. “We’ve had a lot of response from our older adults about how it really helped them.”
Throughout the pandemic, the Library has offered a robust slate of programming for seniors, including creative writing classes, chair yoga classes, and virtual tours of famous locations. The Library also continued its Books by Mail service, which sends books, DVDs, and other materials to the homebound.
“Brooklyn has the highest number of older adults of any county in New York State,” Clayborn explained. “So we have to keep our older adults engaged. Some seniors are more involved now because they don’t have to think about the transportation to get to their library.”
“We could reach many more people,” added Fritzi Bodenheimer, Press Officer at the Brooklyn Public Library. “You could be upstate or in Kansas and still login.”
Friday’s event was a special opportunity for the Older Adult Services staff to interact in person with the people they serve. Dozens of tables were set up in front of the Library, offering art classes, yoga classes, resources, giveaway bags, and many other special treats for the visiting seniors.
“Today was really great because we actually met some people face to face that we hadn’t seen in a year and a half except for on the screen,” Clayborn explained. “They were talking to us about how over the last year and a half, the Library’s virtual programs and phone calls have really been an outlet for them and really helped them to socialize and get to know people and not feel so lonely.”
The Library will continue to offer virtual programming for seniors going forward, including classes on technology, creative writing, art, and cooking. Clayborn is particularly excited for a special Senior Debate Program that the Library plans on offering this fall in partnership with the Association for Senior Debate.
To assist with all this programming, the Older Adult Services staff has hired a new Digital Literary Associate specifically focused on helping seniors use and understand technology.