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Senior Community Centers Offer Many Opportunities

Mary shook her head sadly. “I’m telling you, Sue, I have tried everything to get my mom out of the house. Since her friend Betty died, she just sits at home and knits. She and Betty went everywhere together. They were always on a new adventure. Betty’s death was sudden and I expected it would take my mom some time to grieve, but she has withdrawn from everyone and everything. I need to find a way to get her out among people again.”

Sue nodded. “Being among people would help. What about her church? Surely, they have social activities.”

Mary shook her head. “They have BINGO once a week, but those games are wild. Some of the younger people get kind of crude and rude, and it upsets my mom. She thinks they need to close the bar in the room where they play the games. The last time she went, two people got into a fight over who called BINGO first and the police had to be called.” Mary shuddered. “Mom doesn’t feel safe.”

“No other church social activities?”

“They have activities, but most are for kids, not for seniors.”

Sue thought for a moment. “Can your mom drive?”

Mary nodded. “She’s only 72. She still drives.”

“Well, how about finding a senior center near her house?”

Mary made a face. “A senior center? You mean like a nursing home?”

Sue laughed. “It’s not a nursing home, silly. It’s a community center for seniors. They have all sorts of activities, from arts and crafts to field trips. A lot of times, the activities are subsidized by local government and businesses, so they cost little or nothing. My Aunt Dawn loves the one near her house. She is always there, doing something.”

“Isn’t that just a lot of old people, the senior crowd? My mom is 72. She won’t be comfortable among people outside her age group.”

Sue shook her head. “My Aunt Dawn says her Salsa class has people from age 60 to 90, and she also says some of the 90-year-olds can do a mean Salsa. There’s this one guy all the ladies fight to partner with, because he has some smooth moves on the dance floor.”

Mary laughed. “That does sound like fun. Maybe if I found one in my community and took my mom over there, I could get her interested.”

“Heck, I’m only 35 and I want to join.”

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), there are more than 10,000 senior community centers in the United States and each day, they serve approximately one million adults. The NCOA says senior centers serve as a “gateway to the nation’s aging network—connecting older adults to vital community services.”

Activities may include:

  • Health, fitness, and wellness programs.
  • Educational and arts activities.
  • Civic engagement and volunteer programs.
  • Social and recreational activities.
  • Intergenerational programs.

Some centers also offer meal and nutrition programs, transportation to medical appointments, jobs assistance, and counseling on benefits, finances, and legal matters.

The NCOA claims participants in senior center programs have better health, more social interaction, and greater life satisfaction. For example, research has shown that older adults who participate in senior center programs “learn to manage and delay the onset of chronic disease and experience measurable improvements in their physical, social, spiritual, emotional, mental, and economic well-being.”

While the average age of senior participants is currently 75, the influx of baby boomers is expected to not only lower the age of the average participant but also change the focus of programming to reflect the needs and interests of that generation.

Senior centers rely on multiple sources for funding, including federal, state, and local governments as well as fundraising, public and private grants, private bequests and contributions, in-kind donations, and volunteers. The NCOA says most centers rely on three to eight different funding sources.

There are several ways to find a senior center near your community:

  • Ask other seniors.
  • Contact government agencies that serve seniors.
  • Contact local senior groups.
  • Conduct an online search.
  • Contact your local library and ask for other resources.

Senior community centers were created to address the needs of a rapidly aging population. For older Americans, they have become a vital resource for information and social interaction.

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