The Important Role of Senior Centers to the Local Community
How important are senior centers to older adults?
Recently the California Commission on Aging conducted a research project to examine the existing understanding about senior centers.
They found that senior centers are designated as community focal points that not only provide helpful resources to older adults, but serve the entire community with information on aging; support for family caregivers, training professionals and students; and developments of innovative approaches to aging issues. ¹
In 2008, the Commonwealth of PA funded a study of older adults in the state titled: “Understanding the Impact of Senior Community Center Participation on Elders’ Health and Wellbeing.” ²
Study findings suggest:
- Activity participation is essential to quality of life.
- Activity has important life benefits:
o Reduces risk of depression
o Reduces global cognitive decline
o Enhances social connectedness
- The role of senior centers will continue to expand and have an increasing impact on structuring the quality of life of older adults.
- We need more systematic evaluation of programs, members and partnering with researchers to evaluate program effectiveness
Both the California and Pennsylvania studies conclude that successful aging is more likely when individuals are actively engaged in life. Senior centers are one of the most accessible, friendly and inexpensive places that offer programs and services that promote active engagement and enjoyment of life by older adults.
Senior Centers around Pennsylvania recognize the increasing and changing needs of older adults in the community.
The following list of activities and services are typical of programs offered by many senior centers.
- Nutrition Programs
o Daily meals served at the centers
o Other wellness programs
- Exercise classes including Aerobics, Tai Chi, Yoga, Arthritis Foundation
- Health Services
o Blood pressure checks, flu shots, hearing assessments and diabetes management
o Functional Fitness Assessment
o Support groups (Alzheimers and Parkinsons)
- Information and Assistance
o Education and guidance in understanding medicare and insurance
o Referral and connection to appropriate community support services
- Education Classes
o Computer Classes
- Effective Word Processing
- Effective Internet usage and Skype Program
- Microsoft Suite of products education
o Foreign language classes
o Discussion groups
- Financial Literacy
o AARP tax preparation
o Avoiding identity theft
o Tax topics for the elderly
o Basic financial planning
- Social Events and Programs
o Senior Chorale, Orchestra and Band
o Monthly entertainment, birth- day parties
o Chess club, bridge
The PA and CA research found that senior centers need to continue to adapt, drawing on their strengths and relationships with community partners and organizations to become more of a hub, linking individuals to a wider range of activities and services in the community.
Kathy Sullivan, Executive Director of the West Chester Area Senior Center in West Chester, PA describes the role of senior centers as “a place for older adults to meet for services and activities that reflect their experience and skills, respond to their diverse needs and interests, enhance their dignity, support their independence and encourage their involvement in the center and community.”