Older, Wiser and Still Learning

Fauquier County Public Library’s Older, Wiser Learners Program

by Lisa Pavlock, Public Information Coordinator, Fauquier County Public Library 

In the spring of 2015, Fauquier Public Library invited older patrons to share their ideas for library programs aimed at active, older adults.  “We wanted to learn what kinds of programs active older adults wanted and needed from their library,” said Natalie Wheeler, branch manager at the Bealeton library. It quickly became apparent that older Bealeton area residents were looking for opportunities to learn new things, share their experiences, have fun and connect with others. 

Hence, a new program – Older, Wiser Learners – dubbed OWLs – was born. 

A Modest Beginning 

OWLs began as a once-monthly program, often with outside speakers on topics relevant to older residents, such as “Knowing the Signs of Alzheimer’s,” “Home and Personal Safety Tips,” and “Chair Zumba.”  Other favorites included playing “Get to Know You” bingo, tailored specifically for the OWLs and “Travel Tales,” when they share their adventures at home and abroad.

Participants soon asked if a second, less structured meeting could be added to the schedule.    “In addition to the interesting topics each monthly program covered, they equally enjoyed the social aspect of meeting and mingling with others,” noted Wheeler.  “We added the Coffeehouse to foster the connections OWLs were making with one another and provide another avenue for new OWLs to learn more about the program.” 

Over 50 OWLs participate in the program throughout the year. Some come to every meeting while others drop in occasionally.  Summerduck resident Regina Elam is one of the founding members and rarely misses a meeting. “Once I retired, I didn’t know what to do with my spare time,” she recalls. “OWLs is a way to connect with others my age and see and hear about things I didn’t know before. I have nothing but good things to say about OWLs,” she concluded. 

Making Connections

OWLs is also a great way for folks new to the area to meet people and learn about the community. Both Mary Ann Browning and Nanci Fisher joined OWLs as a way to meet new people when they relocated here to be closer to family.  

When Browning moved to Bealeton three years ago, she knew the best way to get to know people was to become involved in the community.  Enter Mary Sue Marsh, a reference librarian at the Bealeton librarian, who provided Browning with information about OWLs and the Bealeton book club, both of which Marsh leads. “OWLs has helped me get to know people. We share information about things to do and places to go, plus we learn things at the programs,” Browning said. 

Fisher’s experience was similar. Although she had already explored the programs offered by the Bealeton library and was interested in going to OWLs, a chance encounter shortly after moving to the area reinforced her belief that the library offered programs for seniors like herself.  “Just days after I moved here, I met two ladies in my neighborhood. When I told them I had just moved here from Pennsylvania, they said I must join the book club and OWLs at the Bealeton library,” she recalls. 

She attended an OWLs meeting soon thereafter and has been a regular OWLs participant ever since. “I have met so many interesting people, with interesting stories to tell, if given the time,” she concluded. 

According to Marsh, there is a sense of community among the OWLs; many have become friends through the meetings and have ongoing meet-ups outside of OWLs, such as lunch and bingo, as well as coming to some of the library’s other programs.  They even check on each other when there is a medical issue. “As newcomers arrive in the area, looking for friends and activities to keep themselves busy, they come to the library and find out about the OWLs program,” Marsh said.

OWLs regular monthly meeting is held the second Thursday of the month, 2 p.m.

OWLs Coffeehouse is held the fourth Thursday of the month, 2 p.m.

Pick up a library calendar of event for meeting topics or go to https://fauquierlibrary.org/calendar/.

All OWLs programs are free and open to any active, older adult, thanks to the generous sponsorship of Friends of the Fauquier Library. “We don’t card anyone,” jokes Wheeler, “All active older adults interesting in making new friends, learning new things and sharing what they know are welcome.” 

Other Library Services for Seniors

Book Clubs: Book lovers of all ages are invited to join one of the seven book clubs offered by Fauquier Public Library.  Not surprisingly, many of the OWLs members also participate in the Bealeton Book Club. 

3rd Thursday of the month, 2:30 – 4 p.m.

Go to https://fauquierlibrary.org/for-readers/ for a complete list of book clubs, including meeting dates and reading lists.

Large Print Books: Some seniors are discouraged from reading as their eye-sight begins to wane but their love of reading has not. Large print books, in virtually every genre, are available at your local library, with over 2,100 titles available in large print.  

Lifelong Learning: Active seniors will enjoy the Great Courses’ video collection. Learn something new with How to Stay Fit as You Age or travel to the Lost Worlds of South America, Medieval Europe or the World’s Greatest Churches, without ever leaving Fauquier County.  Great Courses can be accessed free from home or at your local library.

Services: Did the grandkids give you an e-Reader this holiday season? Use it to explore over 23,000 free e-books, audiobooks and e-magazines from your local library.  Technology not your strength? Our reference librarians can help uncross your wires! 

Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit – At Any Age

In addition to programs for older residents, and the resources listed above, the library has a wide range of materials of interest to OWLs or anyone caring for an aging friend or loved one. Here are a few suggested by library staff: 


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