Exploring the informational and recreational needs of the elderly: library users in Temperance Town, South Africa.

Author:Kuscus, Mae
Position:Report
 
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1 Introduction

The need to access and use information is necessary at all stages of our physical and mental development. The Library and Information Science (LIS) Transformation Charter (Nkondo et al 2015:3) notes that in the information age "access to information is decisive and a source of wealth and power". Although most elderly people continue to lead productive and active lives beyond retirement, they are often a neglected group of library users, treated with little dignity and respect. Brody (2012:2) noted that it is important for the elderly to become "digitally connected" in an effort to take ownership of their health-care needs. Better nutrition, hygiene and sanitation, medical care and accessibility, and knowledge of public health services will increase the mortality rate of the elderly (Lehohla 2011:2). According to the World Health Organisation (WHO 2012:24), the elderly are viewed negatively according to "ageist" stereotypes. In South Africa, the Constitution (RSA 1996:7) states that every South African has the right to dignity and the right to have that dignity respected and protected. To this end, the Older Persons Act (Act No. 13 of 2006) (RSA 2006) seeks to alleviate the plight of older citizens in South Africa by setting up a framework for their empowerment and protection. Under Section 4 of the Act, which covers measures to promote the rights of older persons, specific mention is made of "access to information pertaining to matters that affect older persons" (RSA 2006:23). The apartheid policies governing the previous urban-rural divide and migration policies have affected the living conditions of older people, particularity non-Whites, in South Africa. With the abolition of the Group Areas Act in 1991, it was envisaged that neighbourhoods integrate rapidly. This, however, occurred at a slower rate because a vast number of poorer people were not be able to purchase houses, either in the townships or the formerly white areas (Stilwell 1991:18). Temperance Town, Western Cape, South Africa is a "previously disadvantaged" community that was affected by the injustices and discriminatory laws propagated by the apartheid government. As a result, a majority of the elderly persons in this community had very limited opportunities to obtain skills and education during their productive years. The elderly who are retired are more available to pursue recreational activities such as reading more at this stage of their lives (Wilkinson 2015:26). Triggered by the need to overturn the challenges faced in successfully catering for their recreational and information needs, this study investigated the recreational and information needs of the elderly at Temperance Town, thus providing insight on how to improve collection development at libraries, tailoring it to the needs of the elderly.

2 Defining the elderly

The term "elderly" or "older person" varies in meaning from country to country and from author to author. In South Africa, the Older Persons Act No. 13 of 2006 defines an "older person" as any man who is 65 years of age or older, and any woman who is 60 years of age or older (RSA 2006:6. The South African Council for the Aged defines older persons as anyone 60 years of age or older (Age-in-Action 2012). The 60-plus benchmark is also echoed by the Helderberg Society for the Aged (HSFA) in Somerset West, South Africa, whose mission is to "protect and promote the interests and well-being of all elderly persons (persons sixty years and over)" (Helderberg Society for the Aged 2017).

The United States considers 65 years and above as the norm for the elderly (Moore & Young 1985:364). The Japanese believe that the elderly are persons "aged over 70 or 75 years" (Orimo et al 2006:150). In 2002, the WHO document on a proposed working definition of older persons in Africa, although recognising that most developed countries have accepted 65 years as a definition of "older person", set the bar for the elderly as those between 50 and 55 years of age. WHO (2002:1) took into consideration that calendar age did not always equate with biological age. Factors such as lower education levels and low socio-economic status were seen as contributing to people ageing much quicker than their counterparts who were better educated and came from more middle-class backgrounds.

The Canadian Guidelines on Library and Information services for older adults (or the elderly) note that this group is not a "homogeneous population" and that this umbrella term encompasses several generations with different life experiences and different sets of expectations (CLA 2002:1).

3 Community libraries in South Africa

Community libraries are internationally recognised as social institutions that can effect social and economic transformation in society (Mnkeni-Saurombe & Zimu 2012:3). The South African Community Library and Information Services Bill (RSA 2010: Section 1), defines community libraries as libraries that are established, funded or maintained by a province or municipality for the purpose of providing library and information services. Stilwell (1991:19) notes: "Community libraries differ from traditional libraries in that they are more pro-active in their sense of social purpose". Stilwell (1991:19) further posits that a community library can be part of the public library system, a separate entity, or part of a local or international network. Mostert and Vermeulen (1998:71) welcome the move from the traditional Western public library model towards active, service-oriented systems, based on the needs of the community as a whole. They note that funding for community libraries differs, in that some are wholly established at the request of the community and are maintained and funded by resources made available by the community (Mostert 1998:12). Community libraries are also referred to as public libraries in South Africa. The apartheid dispensation in South Africa excluded certain communities from the use of public libraries. In an effort to right these wrongs, some public libraries are making progress in becoming true community libraries. Mostert (1998:71) notes that certain adaptations need to be made by involving the community in running the libraries. This underlines the need for public libraries to repurpose their vision and mission statements in line with the changing needs of society.

Nkondo et al (2015) consider the South Africa public library as an essential component of a modern democracy, an enduring agency uniquely tasked with providing opportunities for education, culture, and literacy and information provision to reach all citizens free of charge. To this end the Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA 2015:27) refers to public and community library services as a provincial competency, as declared in Part A of Schedule 5 of the South African Constitution (RSA 1996). These libraries provide effective services and resources to everyone in the community regardless of nationality, age, sex, religion, language or status (South Africa. Department of Arts and Culture, 2010:6). These libraries also provide cultural space for cultural activities, leisure and social gatherings and meet the needs of all groups of people including the elderly.

4 Problem statement

Temperance Town is a small, marginalised community located in the Western Cape. The elderly in Temperance Town are the products of the previously disadvantaged groups in South Africa, who did not have access to education and training and whose informational and recreational needs have been neglected. Patrons of the Gordon's Bay Temperance Town library are further "marginalised" due to its current location, information content and format, which shows a preference for information-rich environments (Stilwell 2011:58). Therefore, the distance to the library impacts on the frequency of library visits by the elderly for leisure and for reading. There is also the challenge of maintaining a balance between the elderly's needs and available funding, given that libraries within the City of Cape Town operate according to a stipulated budget allocated by the Western Cape Provincial Library Service (WCPLS). This article explores the recreational and information needs of elderly people in Temperance Town in order to enhance the collection of library resources suitable for them

5 Aims and objectives

* Identify the recreational and information reading needs of elderly people in Temperance Town at Gordon's Bay.

* Suggest ways in which the library collection can be improved to cater for the recreational and information reading needs of this user group.

6 Collection development

Collection development is a term representing the process of systematically building and maintaining library collections to meet the study, teaching, research, recreational, and other needs of library users. The process includes selection and de-selection of current and retrospective materials, planning of coherent strategies for continuing acquisition, and evaluation of collections to ascertain how well they serve user needs (Gabriel 1995 cited by Johnson 2009:2). The process thus entails acquiring new materials, stock usage and maintenance, and the culling and disposal of stock.

The City of Cape Town has the following principles underlying its collection development: free access to information and the freedom to learn; providing materials representing different points of view; aiming to meet the majority of patrons' needs (libraries' collections are generalist in nature); and maintaining a balance between quality and demand. Librarians in the community must collaborate with the Department of Library and Information Services in developing collections for the department as a whole. The department's ultimate vision should provide collections in appropriate formats, geared to the needs of each community served. Each year each library within the City of Cape Town completes an annual Collection...

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