If you love both books and old folks, there's an easy solution: volunteering to be a mobile librarian at a nearby long-term-care and rehab facility.
All you need is the blessing of the facility’s Activities Director, a spare utility cart, a collection of good books and magazines, and a little free time every week or two. You can then make the rounds, inviting each resident you meet to take advantage of your offerings.
If I were doing this (and I would dearly love to, if I only had a little more spare time), I’d keep records of who took what. I’d then update those records between residents, noting for future reference the kinds of reading material each one prefers. I think it would really please a "customer" to find, on my next visit, selections chosen especially for him or her.
“I know you’re interested in World War II, Mr. Bender,” I might say to the veteran in 247, “so I picked out a few titles that I thought you’d enjoy especially. Let’s take a look.”
And to the charming woman in the next room: “You said you like everything about Danielle Steel but the explicit parts. Would you like to give this Kathleen Thompson Norris novel a try? It was written 90 years ago, so you won’t find any offensive parts to skip over, and I think you’ll love the story.”
Where to find the reading material?
Your facility may already have a library to tap. The nursing home where I hang out has one that’s nicely stocked with everything from classics to current best-sellers, some in the large print editions that old eyes covet. But even if yours does not, how about raiding your own bookshelves, and those of your friends and family? Checking out the selection available at thrift stores such as Good Will, Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul? And asking used bookstores to give you a crack at material they’re about to toss out?
You can also ask your local library for suggestions. Many library systems hold periodic sales to make room for new reading material, for instance – a great way to build a personal library on the cheap. You might even consider taking special orders from some residents, using your own library card (or theirs, if possible) to pick up just the books they’re looking for.
What a great way to be a blessing to people who may have a little bit too much time on their hands – and in the process, to make some wonderful new friends who share your taste in books or magazines, and who might open up new vistas for your own literary adventures.
If the idea intrigues you, get in touch with an Activities Director soon. Once you’re rolling, I think it’s safe to say that a good time will be had by all!