Community Service

Empowering Older Adults Project

Empowering older adults through web information and access and promoting social awareness of their needs and gifts.


Governments, businesses, organizations, and libraries are increasingly providing services on the web. However, older adults - the fastest growing segment of the population - face physical, cognitive, social, and technological barriers that often impede them from accessing information online. Two core values of the library and information science (LIS) professions are free, open access to information and service to diverse populations. Although services to older populations are increasing, the information needs and behaviors of the oldest old (80 years old or greater) have been particularly neglected in the LIS field. This failure is a social justice issue that requires not only better services but also research, technological innovation, social awareness, and advocacy for the oldest adults.

With mandates from state, federal, and international organizations to provide accessibility to persons with disabilities while at the same time facing decreasing budgets, how can libraries and information services meet the needs of their older users? The Empowering Older Adults Project aims to build collaborations for research and action to: (1) empower older adults to overcome barriers to online information seeking, (2) make online information and services more accessible through older adult participation in their design, and (3) advocate for accessibility services and resources for older adults.

Project Goals

Professional/Community Service

  • Support internships and service learning for MLIS students providing computer and internet training to older adults (see Capstone Course).
  • Collaborate with community partners such as public libraries, older adult residential centers, literacy initiatives, and other organizations to develop computer and internet training opportunities for older adults.
  • Strengthen the MLIS curriculum to prepare students for working with older adults.

Web Accessibility and Information Access for Older Adults

  • Collaborate with community partners and older adult users to adapt and/or develop low-cost ways of making online information and services web accessible.
  • Develop opportunities and resources to provide information about:
  • Usability/accessibility issues and assistive technologies for older adults.
  • Laws and standards regarding web accessibility for people with disabilities.
  • Accessibility services and resources for older adults provided by local, state, and national agencies and non-profit organizations.

Learning in Community: A Holistic Approach

  • Community model
  • Collaborative program development and assessment
  • Collaborative teaching/learning by older adults on how to use the web to search for information

Research and Development

  • Investigate the needs and behaviors of the oldest adults (80+ years of age) related to computer and internet use.
  • Identify optimal learning conditions for empowering the oldest adults to use computers and the internet.
  • Apply findings to developing:
  • Education and training programs for older adults.
  • Library and information services for older adults.
  • Use methods of participatory action research and evidence-based practice.

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