« Back to Health, Wellness & Safety

Holistic Health for Seniors

Free Library of Philadelphia
Go to Website

Innovation Summary

To provide a wide variety of health related programs to the ever growing 50+ population.

Innovation Leader: Dick Levinson, Central Senior Services Librarian, levinsonr@freelibrary.org

Problem Statement

Surveys consistently show that the nation’s seniors want additional health/wellness information. This result was confirmed locally in a survey done by Central Senior Services. Unfortunately, nothing that involves the nation’s healthcare system is simple at the moment. In many practices, doctors face increasing pressure to see more patients than ever before, which means spending less time with each individual patient. The problem is compounded by the fact that doctors are trained to be diagnosticians and scientists, not health educators. The limitations of this approach are not difficult to find. In many practices, a patient with weight/diet issues is sent to see a nutritionist. While the problem of sexually transmissible diseases is typically associated with young people, research done by the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging and other entities indicate that the rate of these diseases among seniors is shockingly high. Experts believe that this is the case largely because doctors are uncomfortable raising the issue with patients in this age group. It is also important to address the risks associated with seeking health information on the Internet. This environment is best described as an intellectual Wild West, where patrons would be on their own, were it not for the nation’s librarians. Many seniors don’t realize that there is no relationship between the sophisticated appearance of a website and the validity of the health information that it provides. They are also unaware that the blue listings which appear at the top of many Google pages are actually commercial advertisements. For all the reasons cited above, the continuing commitment of Central Senior Services to providing authoritative, timely and practical health and wellness information constitutes an important public service.

Innovation

A key goal of Central Senior Services is to provide public health/wellness programs that are authoritative, timely and full of practical information that audience members can use to protect their health and promote wellness. Since it opened in 2009, CSS has provided approximately 20 hours of programming in this area. It has been possible for us to do this because we have formed a productive and mutually helpful partnership with the School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. The presenter for the great majority of these programs is Tamara Zurakowski, PhD, RN, and a Practice Associate Professor of Nursing at the School. She has more than 30 years of experience working in hospitals, training nurses and caring for patients. She is also a trained gerontologist.

While Tamara’s experience and credentials are vital to the success of these programs, her personality is also very important. She is a beloved figure among our audience because of her candor, sense of humor and obvious concern for patients and people in general. There is nothing in the realm of human sexuality or bodily functions that she is uncomfortable with or unwilling to discuss. The information that she presents is clear, straightforward and easy enough for a layperson to understand. As a practical problem solver, Tamara is uninterested in theory, but completely focused on solutions that will work in practice.

Progress

A. Health Programs Presented in 2012
1. January 26th Introduction to Alzheimer’s Memory Loss & Dementia (86 people attended)*

*This was a single stand alone program. We’ll be offering additional health programs in the fall

B. Health programs Presented in 2011
1. Sept. 21st Diabetes (43 people attended)
2. Sept. 28th Arthritis (37 people attended)
3. Oct. 19th Hypertension* (23 people attended)
4. Oct. 26th Health Websites You Can Trust (25 people attended)

*Two student nurses offered free blood pressure tests prior to this program

C. Health Programs Presented in 2010
1. Aug. 18th Brain Health (48 people attended)
2. Aug. 25th Eyes & Ears (48 people attended)
3. Sept. 15th Heart Health (35 people attended)
4. Sept. 22nd Bowel & Bladder Problems (41 people attended)

5. Oct. 20th Sexuality & Seniors (29 people attended)
6. Oct. 27th Protecting Your Feet (34 people attended)

D. Health Programs Presented in 2009
1. Oct. 9th Sexy at 60 or 70 (15 people attended)
2. Oct. 21st What Every Hospital Patient Should Know (34 people attended)*