Before starting my internship in senior center, I had zero information about senior citizens. While I was working with seniors and preparing for my museum facilitation program, I found out that there are not many researches or programs in museum focusing on senior citizens. Since life expectancy is increasing globally, understanding seniors and their characteristics would prepare working with seniors as future museum practitioners.
Who Are Senior Citizens?
There is no single definition to define senior citizens and their ages. According to the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) defines “older adults” to be those over 50 years old. If he or she joins their mailing list, they send all senior discount information once he or she passes their 50 years old birthday. While the United States Census Bureau classifies Americans age 65 and over into “older population” category. Many studies accounts for a wide variety of definitions, but generally individual between 55 and 75 years old considers as a senior.
According to the U.S Census Bureau’s Current Population Reports, “65+ in the United States: 2010,”
- The number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected more than double from 46 million over 98 million by 2060.
- By 2056, their population will be larger than the number of those age 18 and younger.
- The older population has become more racially and ethnically diverse.
- Older adults are working longer.
- Internet usage among the older population was up 31 percent points from a decade prior.
More information with graphs can be found in this link: https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2014/demo/p23-212.pdf
The aging process involves changes in behavior, physical, emotional and cognitive condition of a person.
Why Seniors In Museums?
The population aged 65 and over continues to grow more rapidly than population under 65. Senior citizens are interested in leisure-time activities and can afford both time and money. They may have limited understanding of art, but want to be educated about art and have the time to enjoy viewing art. Currently, museums are not well designed for senior citizens because they require too much walking and have very few amenities (such as bathrooms, benches, food and beverage shops).
Examples of Senior Programs in Museums
- MoMA (Museum of Modern Art, New York)- Prime Time
- Design for adults age 65 and over
- Free to New York City residents
- Each month has multiple programs (including museum tour and hands-on activity)
- Older adults can be creative, learn about modern and contemporary art, and connect with others
More information can be found in this link:
2. Whitney Museum of American Art- Senior Program
The Whitney Museum of American Art collaborates with local senior centers to provide various programs. When the Whitney’s Open Access Days, the museum is closed to the public and provides programs for participating senior centers. On that day, the museum offers Assisted Listening Devices, seating in the galleries, and complimentary refreshments. Additionally, the Whiney offers an accessible hands-on art making activity to seniors, and Slide Talks program that museum educators visit the senior center and homes to talk about Whitney-related topics.
More information can be found in this link:
Seniors and Digital Technology
According to the Paw Research Center Report, seniors are moving towards more digitally connected lives. Almost 67% of seniors are connected to online today. Although, they are not confident using electronic devices (Look chart below). Seniors prefer to learn about digital technology one-on-one education, but there are not many programs available for seniors to learn about electronic devices.
Example of Digital Interactive in Museums
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Cooper Hewitt Museum is very digital interactive museum. Once visitors pay the admission, they will get the digital pen. The digital pen is used for drawing tool on interactive tables as well for saving artworks you are interested in. Here is the video how the digital pen works: youtu.be/ejIvvwmtX8M
Cooper Hewitt Museum’s digital pen and interactive tables are not specifically designed for seniors, but I think this would be a great example to introduce museums’ digital interactive to seniors because the table itself is huge with large text and fun program, which seniors can read the text information and find interesting while they draw their own design. Additionally, the digital pen is simple, easy, and light – seniors can easily carry around the museum and use it easily.
While I was researching digital interactive and museum programs for seniors, I found out interesting information of creating senior-friendly website. The guidelines for senior friendly website are suggested by the National Institute of Aging. If any of you need to create a website or digital information for seniors in the future, hope this information may help you. Here is the link: nlm.nih.gov/…s/od/ocpl/agingchecklist.htm
- Myers, David G. “Chapter 5: Developing Through the Life Span.” In Psychology: tenth edition in modules, 202-14. New York, NY: Worth Pub., 2014.