How To

How To Start Book Clubs for Seniors (Or Awesome Folks Over a Certain Age)

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My recent read of The Thursday Murder Club got me wondering what I will be doing in my 70s and 80s if I live that long. Obviously, I will be in some sort of senior book club by then. I doubt that club will involve anything the main characters are doing in the aforementioned book, so don’t worry. No spoilers here. However, other than definitely wanting to be in a book club for seniors, I haven’t quite figured anything else out yet. So let’s focus on how to start book clubs for seniors (since figuring out everything else would take far too long). I’m a few decades early 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 launching one or just looking to join, my first advice is to be persistent. If my previous experience is any indication, starting or joining book clubs for seniors might take a little time. I don’t mean to discourage anyone, but it might not just happen overnight. So it’s a good idea to pack some patience, reach out to whoever you think might help or be knowledgable, and keep it up until you find the right community.

The Benefits Are Numerous

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

Join One or Start Your Own

cover of The Thursday Murder Club

If you don’t want to start your own, there are a few places you can look online. There are some big ones like Oprah’s Book Club, the New York Public Library and WYNC’s Virtual Book Club, or Reese Witherspoon’s club (for more like these, try the Madison Public Library’s Book Clubs in the Media list). There is also the PBS Book Club and there is 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 geared specifically to older readers. For example, the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library in Oregon has a Senior Book Club. The 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 are specifically aimed at older people like Senior Planet (a group associated with the American-based AARP) hold a virtual book club. The American Library Association also offers tips on engaging with older readers. And while these are all from the USA, other countries may offer book clubs for seniors that you can find if you do some digging.

Think Accessibility

If you are starting your own, then consider accessibility first and foremost. 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 the book you’ve chosen available in multiple formats, particularly audio and online to allow for readers to increase the font size? Some online reading services allow for text enlargement and font choice, making it possible for readers to choose OpenDyslexic font to making reading more comfortable.
  2. Will you be using ways to communicate that are accessible to anyone with vision or hearing loss?
  3. If you meet in person, is the meeting space accessible to anyone with mobility issues?

If you think through these questions as best as possible, then I think you will be likely to make a more inclusive and welcoming group from the start.

Lastly, Some Book Recommendations

cover of Aunty Lee's Delights by Ovidia Yu

Those are some (hopefully useful) suggestions I have for starting a book club for seniors and all the other people who are above a certain age but prefer to be called something else. If you find yourself in a group of people who are interested in topics specifically related to aging, you could start with Atul Gawande’s very thoughtful book Being Mortal. For more, you can try the Seattle Public Library’s Staff Picks for Adults 50+.

Of course, if you’re looking for more book recommendations, consider graphic novels about queer elders, or novels about older women. For the first one, I really enjoyed reading Hiromi Goto and Ann Xu’s Shadow Life. For the second, you might like The Girl with All the Gifts, as I did (even though it was pretty scary to me) and Aunty Lee’s Delights (which was not scary at all as far as I remember). There is also a nice short list of titles with older main characters to peruse, and this list of more great books for seniors. And if you like Laura Sackton’s piece about queer elders, you should really read her queer found family post.

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