May 25, 2022

How to Start Book Clubs for Seniors: Your Guide

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My recent reading of The Thursday Murder Club made me wonder what I would be doing in my 70s and 80s if I lived that long. Obviously, I’ll be in some sort of senior book club by then. I doubt this club involves anything the main characters do in the aforementioned book, so don’t worry. No spoilers here. However, other than definitely wanting to be part of a senior book club, I haven’t figured out anything else yet. So let’s focus on how to create book clubs for seniors (since everything else would take way too much time). I’m a few decades ahead, but I like the idea of ​​advanced planning. Maybe you or someone you know is looking to join or start a book club for seniors.

be persistent

Whether you’re starting one or just looking to join, my first piece of advice is to be persistent. If my previous experience is any indication, starting or joining senior book clubs can take a bit of time. I don’t want to discourage anyone, but it may not happen overnight. So it’s a good idea to be patient, reach out to the person you think might be helpful or knowledgeable, and keep going until you find the right community.

The benefits are many

The potential gains are pretty clear. In an ideal situation, reading and socializing can bring multiple benefits. Joining a senior book club opens the person to new ideas and new books. Reading helps memory and keeps the brain young. Joining a book club can help a person make new friends and feel connected to the people and ideas they care about, and can even reduce a person’s risk of death after retirement. It can also include delicious snacks, although if you’re using an online version, you may need to provide your own. However, some people prefer this anyway!

Join one or create your own

If you don’t want to make your own, there are a few places you can look online. There are great ones like Oprah’s Book Club, New York Public Library and WYNC’s Virtual Book Club, or Reese Witherspoon’s Club (for more, try Library Book Clubs Madison public in the media list). There’s also the PBS Book Club and there’s even a Silent Book Club for those who want to read with others in the room.

Of course, a local library or bookstore may have one or more, and these may be specifically geared towards older readers. For example, the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library in Oregon has a book club for seniors. Townsend Public Library has a senior center book club in Townsend, Massachusetts. Also in Massachusetts, the Belmont Public Library has a “Page Turners” book group run by the Beech Street Senior Center. The Homewood Public Library in Homewood, Alabama has a Senior Center book club.

Some groups that cater specifically to seniors like Senior Planet (a US-based AARP affiliate group) are hosting a virtual book club. The American Library Association also offers tips on interacting with older readers. And while they’re all from the United States, other countries may offer book clubs for seniors that you can find if you do some research.

Think Accessibility

If you’re launching your own, think about accessibility first. This applies to what you choose to read, how you will communicate information with everyone, and how and where you will meet. So, for example, consider these questions:

  1. Is your chosen book available in multiple formats, especially audio and online to allow readers to increase the font size? Some online reading services allow for text enlargement and font selection, allowing readers to choose the OpenDyslexic font to make reading more comfortable.
  2. Will you use means of communication accessible to anyone who is visually impaired or hard of hearing?
  3. If you are meeting in person, is the meeting space accessible to anyone with reduced mobility?

If you think about these questions as best you can, I think you’ll probably make a more inclusive and welcoming group from the start.

Finally, some book recommendations

cover of Aunty Lee's Delights by Ovidia Yu

These are some (hopefully helpful) suggestions I have for starting a book club for seniors and anyone else who is over a certain age but prefers to be called something else. If you find yourself in a group of people who are interested in topics specifically related to aging, you can start with Atul Gawande’s very thoughtful book Being Mortal. For more, you can try Seattle Public Library’s staff picks for adults 50 and older.

Of course, if you’re looking for more book recommendations, consider graphic novels about queer seniors or novels about older women. For the first, I really enjoyed reading Shadow Life by Hiromi Goto and Ann Xu. For the second, you might like The Girl with All the Gifts, like me (although it scared me quite a bit) and Aunty Lee’s Delights (which wasn’t scary at all as far as I remember ). There’s also a nice short list of titles with older main characters to peruse, and this list of other great books for older people. And if you like Laura Sackton’s article on queer seniors, you really should read her article on queer family found.