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On the 16th of February 2024, at a National Recognition Ceremony in Edgeworthstown Library, County Longford, Minister for Social Protection and Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys recognised that all public libraries in Ireland are aiming to be Age Friendly, having completed the Age Friendly Library Recognition Programme.

The Age Friendly Library Recognition Programme supports libraries to examine their facilities and services and to listen to older customers. Libraries are a core service within our neighbourhoods, providing access to information, cultural services, digital opportunities and social support to all age groups. They are particularly invaluable to older people as a source of information, community hubs, learning centres, and cultural facilities.

For libraries, this means looking at their lending collections, library programmes and events, staff training and the physical environment – to understand comprehensively what an older person’s experience of the library environment is and how it can be improved.

Library staff across the country go above and beyond to create welcoming, accessible, and relevant services for older people and people who have diverse and changing needs. Some older people may experience issues such as frailty, hearing impairment, dementia, loneliness – age friendly libraries account for this range of issues and make sure their services remain appropriate to their customer base.

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Led by Regional Age Friendly Programme Manager, Mairead Cranley, Age Friendly Ireland embarked on an ambitious journey to engage all 330+ public libraries in the Age Friendly Library Recognition Programme. Each library has now appointed a local champion who will take the lead role in the initiative. To date these champions have delivered multiple, varied actions to respond directly to their consultation with older people. These actions have included:

  • Walkability audits of the buildings– older volunteers undertake the walkability audit, to identify what changes can be made
  • Age Friendly Parking
  • Special trollies for customers to transport heavy books to the counter
  • Meeting space for older people’s groups, including Older People’s Councils
  • Accessibility improvements such as automatic doors, and seating that is suitable for older people, and accessible shelving so books are at eye levels
  • Better signage, including changing the size of the clock in one library to make it more visible
  • Provision of Digital training (for example in Leitrim, over 1000 older people were trained in digital literacy through Healthy Ireland)
  • Equipment Loans (such as Acorn and other digital tablets)
  • Information stands
  • Outreach to communities (for example Cork City brought a mobile library to nursing homes)

Libraries play an increasingly important function in our society, a bulwark against social problems such as mis-information, social isolation, lack of access to information.  Age Friendly Ireland are delighted that libraries continue to be champions for older people, and will continue to be trusted services for all the community.

Visit your local library to find out more about how they are aiming to be Age Friendly!