Public Libraries Supported as Community Anchors for Positive and Creative Aging

Wyoming libraries will participate in expanding arts and education programs for older adults.

New Rochelle, NY By 2030, older adults (55+) will be the dominant demographic group in the United States and institutions are adapting to meet their needs for meaningful engagement.

A total of 132 public and county library systems in Missouri and Wyoming will develop and/or expand arts education programs that improve the lives of older adults through the Advancing Creative Aging Through State Library Leadership Initiative (2023-2025). In partnership with the participating state libraries, Lifetime Arts will train and coach up to 250 librarians and library programmers in creative aging program planning, design, marketing, implementation, and documentation. A total of 100 in-person and remote creative aging programs will serve up to 2,000 older adults in Wyoming and Missouri public libraries and build the case for long-term sustainability. Nationally, thousands more libraries and their staff will benefit through networking opportunities and the dissemination of the free and self-paced online course, Creative Aging Foundations On Demandfrom Lifetime Arts.

This three-year initiative is made possible through a partnership between Califa Group, Wyoming State Library, Missouri State Library and Lifetime Arts. The project is generously supported by a $646,000 Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and builds on IMLS’s longtime support of creative aging in libraries. 

“Through this important initiative, Lifetime Arts’ 15-year commitment to public libraries as centers for positive and creative aging will be realized at a large scale not only in Wyoming and Missouri, but across the country,” said Lifetime Arts Co-Founder/CEO Maura O’Malley. “With the support of IMLS and the commitment of our partners, this work will sustain a much needed shift to responsive programming for today’s older adults.”

Creative aging programs are a proven approach to improving older adults’ health and wellness, bringing a revived sense of self and purpose to their lives. While these instructional programs are responsive, they share key elements. Programs are:

  • Led by experienced teaching artists
  • Build artistic skills over time (across all disciplines)
  • Integrate social engagement
  • Include a culminating event to publicly celebrate older adults’ creativity

Libraries are key institutions for creative aging at their core, offering opportunities for accessible learning and community enrichment.

As Program Coordinator Krisene Watson at Wyoming’s Campbell County Public Library System noted about a recent creative aging library program: “This class showed [older adult participants] they could still do beautiful work and create items of beauty even at an advanced age. One gentleman had resigned himself to watching TV all day long. His wife noticed his declining mobility and mental acuity. She was desperate to find something that would spark joy for him that he could still do. Working with the wood — something he enjoyed doing in his youth — showed him that he could still do the thing he was good at and enjoyed.”

The Wyoming and Missouri State Libraries are driven to expand older adult services and contribute to the overall development of libraries as exemplary spaces for lifelong learning.

“Libraries have always done an excellent job of providing programs and activities for children,” said Missouri State Librarian Robin Westphal. “With the fastest growing segment of our population being older adults, it’s important that library staff are trained to offer meaningful, fulfilling opportunities for this demographic. I can’t think of a better way to do this than by providing programs that encourage learning a new visual, performing or literary art. I can’t think of a better, more accessible place to do this type of programming than your local public library.”

“Wyoming is a beautiful state full of artistic inspiration,” said Wyoming State Librarian Jamie Markus. “We’re grateful our libraries will now have even more opportunity to bring arts education and enjoyment to our communities’ older patrons.”

In collaboration with Lifetime Arts, Califa Group’s education and training branch, Infopeople, will introduce library workers to Creative Aging Foundations On Demand, a free online guide to planning and developing programs and partnerships to support this important, cross-sector work.

“The Califa Group applauds the leadership of the Wyoming and Missouri state libraries partnering to provide creative aging training to library staff,” said the Califa Group Assistant Director Veronda J. Pitchford. “We are honored to be part of this leading edge programming model for the growing demographic of older adults that showcases the public library’s commitment to serving community members throughout their lives.”

All project partners will present the impact of this initiative at regional, state and national conferences and disseminate project documentation to state library associations and state arts agencies to further advocate for expanded arts programming for older adults. 


About Califa Group
Califa Group is a nonprofit library membership consortium of more than 200 libraries and is the largest library network in California. Its mission is to provide cost effective delivery of services, programs, and products through a membership network of California libraries. Founded in 2004, Califa brokers and facilitates the procurement of library products; works closely with the California State Library in administering a number of statewide projects supported by federal Library Services and Technology Act funds, such as the enki Library ebook platform; serves as the strategic partner and fiscal agent for several national grant project and offers Continuing Education training through the Infopeople™ project, and manages master contracts and pricing agreements with publishers and vendors. With years of experience and a network of professional contacts, Califa has demonstrated capacity and experience in grant program design, delivery, and management. Califa is committed to unleashing the impact of libraries. 

About Lifetime Arts
Founded in 2008, Lifetime Arts is a national arts service organization committed to building the capacity of community-based organizations and the institutions and systems that support them to develop, deliver and sustain programming that recognizes older adults as learners and creators. The approach rejects outdated  stereotypes that define older people as needy, incapable, or frail. Lifetime Arts works to shift “senior” programming away from passive entertainment towards in-depth learning, and to recognize and combat ageism and its effect on program design and delivery. 

About the Missouri State Library 
The Missouri State Library Commission was created in 1907 through an act of the Missouri General Assembly. In 1946, the Missouri State Library was established as a division of the Missouri Department of Education. It wasn’t until 1991 that the General Assembly moved the State Library to be under the direction of the Secretary of State. Today, the Missouri State Library is the home to the Wolfner Talking Book and Braille Library, Reference Services, a special library serving state employees and serves as a repository for government documents, and Library Development, which supports libraries statewide.

About the Wyoming State Library
The Wyoming State Library was first established in 1871 as the Wyoming Territorial Library. By statute, it is the official repository of state government documents and is responsible for the extension and development of library services statewide. The WSL manages the statewide WYLDcat library catalog, the GoWYLD research databases and electronic resources, and the Digital Collection Suite of Wyoming historical resources.