Senior Support Call Team
Dallas Public Library, Texas
The Senior Support Call Team was established when the library closed to the public due to the pandemic. The team called active library card holders 65 and older in order to combat senior isolation made worse by shelter-in-place orders. Staff and seniors discussed social experiences, books, community resources and how to use digital tools.
According to a 2020 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, nearly a quarter of adults over 65 were socially isolated prior to the health risks posed by COVID-19. Public libraries are often a lifeline for social connection for older adults. Therefore, when the global pandemic closed many public libraries to the public they serve, the challenge of helping seniors stay connected to their community grew exponentially.
In the first days of stay-at-home orders in Dallas County, library staff began reaching out to library card holders who might be experiencing isolation. A team of 12 staff shifted from in-person service to providing empathetic telephone calls to active library card holders over 65 years old. Staff offered book suggestions, community resources and friendly conversation. Most valuably, technology assistance helped seniors connect to loved ones and library resources long after the call was over.
The Senior Support Call Team reached more than 6,300 card holders. The team had 2,292 conversations, left 3,048 voicemails encouraging seniors to call back and emailed many more. The project was so successful that the Dallas Senior Affairs Commission praised it and encouraged DPL to find a way to continue the program after the pandemic. The program is now being converted to a volunteer and senior matching program providing long-term regular check-in calls to seniors feeling isolated that will launch in Fall 2020.