Enrichment and Community Building

The main branch of the New Haven Free Public Library is the only one in the state to have dedicated programming, books and videos set aside for the "Third Age" of fifty year-olds and up.

Kate Cosgrove, the 50-plus Transition Center Coordinator at the New Haven Free Public Library, has found that for many older adults, age is a state of mind.

"We're reaching out to the younger older adults, 50 years old and up. It's sometimes called the Third Age," she says. "Just don't call them 'seniors.' It's people looking for other types of places to find information, and they're not terribly interested in senior centers because they think, 'That's for the elderly.'" Cosgrove notes that Westport, Connecticut doesn't have a senior center, but Renaissance Center.

The main New Haven library is the only one in the state to have dedicated programming, books and videos set aside for this demographic, Cosgrove says. Since many of its members are still working, most of the programming takes place in the evening. One successful program dealt with finances – budgeting, and stocks and bonds. "We purchased a data base so people could research companies, learn which papers to keep or dispose of; and we had people come in from the Banking Commission to talk about fraud and identity theft."

The Transition Center also runs TAG – Technology Across Generations – matching a volunteer with a mature adult, most over 65, and teaching them how to use a computer. "It's a great brain exercise," Cosgrove notes.

The center partners with AARP in a program that helps those who have lost their jobs learn how to navigate the on-line world of job applications and think about how their skills could be applied to a different position. "They can get a certificate in learning a new skill they can attach to their resume," Cosgrove says, to boost their chances of employment. The program has hosted speakers who talked about career changes, for example, from teacher to lawyer, or lawyer to librarian.

Another offering uses an AARP computer program to determine any benefits those 60 and older might be eligible for.

The center also offers seniors the chance to get their passport photos taken to facilitate travel abroad, and hosted a Road Scholars program that attracted an audience of 100. Road Scholars recently changed its name from Elderhostel to appeal to persons who don't consider themselves "elderly."

Age, Cosgrove concludes, "is not a number, it's an attitude."