A group of book worms at a single Mercy Health aged care home in Victoria have borrowed around 500 books from their local library to keep them occupied and stimulated during COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the book borrowing program at Mercy Place Bethlehem about eight residents receive up to five books from their local library every three weeks based on their interests or author preferences.

The program, which has run for eight years, involves a partnership with Bendigo Library where books are picked based on preference forms and delivered to residents by a volunteer.

Mercy Health Bethlehem lifestyle coordinator Kylie Paxton said the residents have borrowed 500 books since March 2020.

“It’s helped to keep the sanity of a lot of residents especially during lockdown,” Ms Paxton told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“Reading has been a real lifesaver for a lot of them because just being able to access those books and being able to maintain their interests that they’ve had long-term during their lives [has taken] their minds off the doom and gloom that’s been happening out in the community and in the world,” Ms Paxton said.

Residents’ top picks include crime stories, biographies and romance novels. Authors such as Danielle Steel and Stephen King are also popular, Ms Paxton said.

Mercy Health Bethlehem has also partnered with a local primary school in Specimen Hill to hold a Book Week parade that involves children dressing up and walking around the facility’s driveway for the residents to watch from the windows.

However, this has been postponed twice due to the restrictions and will take place after restrictions lift, Ms Paxton said.

“Our residents and staff cannot wait to see the parade once restrictions [lift]. The Book Week parade will be a colourful, wonderful and memorable sight for our residents to enjoy,” Ms Paxton said.

A similar book borrowing program in partnership with Geelong Library was launched in August to celebrate Book Week at Mercy Place Rice Village.

The program involves a volunteer visiting the home once a month to ask residents what types of books they like to read. The library then delivers relevant books to these residents each month.

However, the program is currently on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Mercy Place Rice Village lifestyle coordinator Sharon Carrato said the initiative was a great way to celebrate Book Week. 

“We are thrilled to have partnered with the Geelong Library who are going to keep new releases flowing through the home every month. It’s a great way to keep our residents up to date with the latest novels, or even to let them fall back in love with the greatest classics,” Ms Carrato said.

Mercy Place Warrnambool in Victoria’s South celebrated Book Week with the help of resident and writer Stacy Hardy.

Ms Hardy, who took up writing when she moved into Mercy Place, goes around the home with a notepad and pen to capture residents’ stories.

 “There is just so much to see and write about. Once I started, I couldn’t stop,” said Ms Hardy, an avid reader who frequents the home’s library.

“Before I took up writing, I loved to paint. Now, I find you can paint an even better picture just by using words,” she said.

Book Week took place on 21 – 27 August.

Main image: Mercy Place Warrnambool resident Stacy Hardy

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