Age Friendly Communities

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Age-Friendly Communities

OPL’s Homebound Services

Photo of woman browsing books

Homebound Services sets up pop-up libraries in 14 retirement residences in Ottawa. They visit each residence once a month, bringing approximately 200 books and DVDs for customers to browse and checkout.

The Homebound Services department of the Ottawa Public Library has been bringing the library to the community since 1971. With approximately 500 customers served every month, the department is always busy selecting books and other library materials to brighten people’s days. This service brings the library to customers who aren’t able to come in on a regular basis due to mobility issues related to age, illness or disability. They deliver books and other library materials to customers in their own homes as well as retirement homes and long-term care facilities all around Ottawa.

Homebound Services offers two main types of service; a “mini library” or pop-up library service which is offered in 14 retirement residences in Ottawa, as well as a selection and delivery service. For the mini library service, staff members visit each retirement residence once every month. They bring a laptop and bins of approximately 200 books and DVDs for customers to browse and check out. Customers can also place holds and ask for recommendations or get help with eBooks or audiobooks. Other customers outside of the 14 mini library locations receive personalized selection of their materials each month by dedicated staff, and delivery right to their door. Selections are made after a discussion with the customer about what their interests are and what format of materials they would like (i.e large print, DVDs, audiobooks).

Material is hand selected by library staff according to interests for customers who receive home delivery.

For many customers, the service is about much more than simply delivery of library materials. It’s the friendly face at the door bringing them their monthly supply of interesting materials to read, listen to or watch. It’s the friendly voice on the other end of the phone chatting about book recommendations and that last book they loved. One long-time Homebound Services customer recently expressed her gratitude that the materials she receives every month “…lightens the dull days and shortens the long hours…”. Many Homebound Services customers have print disabilities and also benefit from the library’s partnership with the Center for Equitable Library Access, which provides library materials in accessible formats such as audiobooks and braille.

Staff who work in many of the retirement homes that the library visits also really appreciate the services that the library offers, including assistance with book clubs, as well as providing programs such as magic shows and author visits. Brittani Fawcett, Activity Manager at Oakpark Retirement Community, feels that the Homebound Services program has greatly benefitted her residents. She uses the library’s memory kits, and other materials to provide programming for residents. Memory kits contain materials and activities meant to bring back memories of a certain time or topic and are based on themes.

“It’s helped all of our residents: not only our independent residents but our residents on memory care have also benefitted. For our independent ones, they’re happy to come down once a month and borrow new material. They’re always excited about coming and to see what there’s going to be. And our memory care residents also benefit because we get program material from the library given to us every month to enhance the programming and it’s been well received and very much appreciated. Thank you so much again to OPL for all the wonderful work you are doing with Oakpark and in the Ottawa community.” Brittani Fawcett, Activity Manager, Oakpark Retirement Community

For Homebound Services staff, the service they provide is about the people and the connections they make, and the ability to provide an inclusive service to residents who otherwise may not be able to make use of all the wonderful materials available at the Ottawa Public Library. Staff member Sarah Lawrance values the reciprocal relationship between Homebound customers and library staff. “Homebound customers have much to teach us. Whether someone is giving me a great movie recommendation, telling me about Ottawa’s history, or sharing life advice, there’s always a great conversation to be had with our customers.”

“One of the things I love about this service,” Lawrance says, “is that we’re building a world that is increasingly friendlier to older adults and people with disabilities, and in that way we’re building a better future for everyone. Whether we may all need to use Homebound Services someday is yet to be determined, but I want to always live in a world where services like this exist.”

For more information including how to register, visit Homebound Services.

Aging Well Together: Age-friendly Communities / Bien vieillir ensemble: Les collectivités-amies des aînés by hbsr

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