Above: Members of the library-sponsored book club at Brookhaven’s Hearthside Brookleigh senior living community react to their discussion of the book, “Everything I Never Told You,” by Celeste Ng. Activities for seniors, such as this outreach book club, are inspired and supported by DeKalb County Public Library’s Senior Advisory Board. Photo courtesy of Myguail Chappel.

After recently retiring from a healthcare consulting career that usually kept her out of town every Monday through Friday, Cynthia Windsor was ready to reconnect with her community.

The 30-year Decatur resident ran across a flyer about the DeKalb County Public Library’s Senior Advisory Board and attended her first board meeting a year ago.

Decatur resident Cynthia Windsor, a retired healthcare consultant, joined DeKalb County Public Library’s Senior Advisory Board a year ago as one way to reconnect with her community.
Photo by Michael Craig.

She soon learned that this group, designed to help the library plan programs for seniors, does that and much more.

“First of all, I was blown away by how much sharing there was within the group,” Windsor said. “It’s such a neighborly community. People come from all different parts of the county, all different socioeconomic groups.”

Members aren’t shy about sharing their opinions, she said, and they want to make sure everyone else there is aware of services and programs for seniors, both inside and outside of the library.

“It’s for seniors, by seniors,” Windsor said. “We want to make sure people know that seniors are active, vibrant and have something to offer to the community.”

Myguail Chappel, the library system’s outreach programming coordinator and the Senior Advisory Board’s facilitator, said the board was formed about 10 years ago by Alison Weissinger, who was then director of adult programming for the library system.

Weissinger, now DeKalb County Public Library Director, felt seniors would be better served by coming up with their own programs, he said.

Open to any DeKalb resident age 55 or older, the board meets quarterly at the Decatur Library. The next meeting is April 25.

Currently there are about 15 to 18 “steady” Senior Advisory Board members, but occasional drop-ins are welcome, too, Chappel said.

“New people bring new ideas,” he said.

As those ideas become programs they can be found listed on light blue flyers with the logo, “Savvy Senior” at DeKalb libraries.

Among classes that have been offered for seniors are self-massage, aromatherapy, herbal health, CPR, dating safety and technology use.

The board is also doing outreach to seniors who can’t make it to the library, and it takes on major projects every two years, such as 2016’s senior anthology — a compilation of stories and poems from contributors around the county that was printed in a professional-grade book.

This year, the group is soliciting pictures for a story quilt that will be sewn by Michelle Griffith, the longest serving Senior Advisory Board member.

Chappel said the board has “given seniors of DeKalb County an opportunity to share their knowledge and skills to bring focus to programming around seniors to library patrons.

“They have gained knowledge and friendship, beyond planning programs for the library,” he said.

Windsor would agree.

“I think we have so many opportunities,” she said, “to transform the library into this lifelong learning and community space.”

Get involved

To join DeKalb County Public Library’s Senior Advisory Board, call 404-508-7190, ext. 2257. The group’s next meeting is Wednesday, April 25, at 1:30 p.m. at the Decatur Library, 215 Sycamore St., Decatur 30030.

Donna Williams Lewis

Donna Williams Lewis a freelance writer based in Atlanta. She previously worked as an editor and journalist for the Atlanta Journal Constitution.