How do you get email on your new smart device? Who is Vladimir Putin and how did he climb to power as the Soviet Union collapsed around him? What does a smart consumer need to know before signing up for a luxury cruise? For 10 years, Central Senior Services, a department of the Parkway Central Library, has been answering these questions and presenting compelling, free, public programs for older adults, and what better time to check in with them than on National Senior Citizens Day?
There have certainly been some surprises along the way. A thoughtful, sensitive program on sexuality for seniors, featuring an expert from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, drew a tiny audience. When we offered a subsequent program focusing on how people should care for their feet, the room was packed. Years later, a program addressing political corruption in Pennsylvania featured a very articulate and knowledgeable FBI agent. He explained how the Bureau investigates and pursues such cases based on the evidence that has been assembled. A large audience listened to this presentation politely. However, during the question period, several members of the audience voiced doubts and concerns about the way such evidence is gathered. This exchange of views was fascinating and also served as a reminder of the precious right to criticize the government that citizens of a democratic society enjoy.
Central Senior Services is deeply committed to helping older adults to build their computer skills and enjoy life on the right side of the digital divide. To this end, we have long offered free one-to-one computer tutoring three days a week by appointment. Our tutors are not staff members, but volunteers who are carefully vetted to ensure that they are patient, kind, and great teachers. We are particularly proud that the training provided by our tutors made it possible for at least two patrons to move on new jobs that were very important to them.
In recent years, the mission of and activities within the Senior Center have expanded to include serving homebound library patrons who depend on us to provide them with books, films on DVD, and sometimes a musical instrument or an opera score. This undertaking includes a partnership with the U.S. Post Office. We have also added a Military History Club, which is coordinated by staff member John Hemphill. John, who grew up exploring major European battlefields, is a font of information about the events, personalities, and geography that shaped the nature of warfare.
Central Senior Services was conceived by the President and Director of the Free Library of Philadelphia, Siobhan A. Reardon. She wanted the Parkway Central Library to include a space that was both a quiet haven for seniors and a center for intellectual enrichment. Those of us who work here will do our best to live up to this continued mission.