Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Exploring the Informational and Recreational Needs of the Elderly: Library Users in Temperance Town, South Africa

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Exploring the Informational and Recreational Needs of the Elderly: Library Users in Temperance Town, South Africa

Article excerpt

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. …

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