Isolation is a public health crisis facing older adults.1 Without anywhere to go or anything to do each day, life can get pretty boring and lonesome. Senior centers are a community solution to this growing epidemic of loneliness and lack of enrichment.
Not only do they meet a wide variety of needs in one stop, they are often the front door to many other needed supports.
In this post, we’re going to tell you all about senior centers, what they do, and where you can find them.
Who Senior Centers are For
Senior centers are obviously for seniors, but they are often a key support for adults with disabilities, providing a welcoming space with meaningful things to do during the day.
Even though they’re primarily intended for older adults, senior centers often create value for many others.
Example: Sheila takes care of her 80-something year old dad. He is able to move around and communicate in his own. Sheila finds out about a guitar jam hosted at the center right after lunch every Thursday. Sheila’s dad starts going every week (in fact, they pick him up for a small fee!), and she can run errands, take a nap, or just rest during this time.
Example: John cares for his mother as well as two younger children. It is a struggle finding activities and places that work for their needs. They all pack in the car and go to Cosmic Bingo night up at their senior center and everyone is able to enjoy an activity together in a welcoming and accessible space.
Example: the city has a community garden. The senior center buys fresh fruits and vegetables for the “congregate meals” they offer everyday. The community garden has a viable source of support, and the seniors get fresh produce.
What Senior Centers Do
Senior centers are like community centers for older folks. They provide regularly scheduled classes and programs that focus on the health and wellbeing of older adults. In addition to providing fun and enriching activities, like art and exercise classes, many of them offer health and legal services and connections to other types of assistance.
- nutrition services,
- health and wellness programs,
- employment assistance,
- intergenerational initiatives,
- community service and civic engagement opportunities,
- public benefits counseling,
- socialization and educational opportunities, transportation,
- peer counseling,
- financial and retirement counseling,
- arts programs and
- case management services
Senior centers normally offer their supports for free or at low cost to make it affordable to participate.
Disclaimer: Each community center is different and offers different programming, based on their funding and capacity.
When Senior Centers Started
Senior centers have been spreading across the country since the early 40’s in response to the need for meaningful activities and community services for the growing aging population. “The first modern senior center was developed in 1943 to provide recreational and educational opportunities for elderly persons in their communities. The senior center movement grew rapidly in the post-war years and received a major boost from the 1965 passage of the Older Americans Act. Today there are an estimated 11,000 multi-purpose senior centers throughout the nation.”2
In the Kansas City area, there are over 24 senior centers.
How Senior Centers are Funded
About half of all senior centers receive funding through the Older Americans Act.2
Many senior centers fund their services and offerings by leveraging additional dollars from taxes (city/county based centers), fundraising (nonprofit centers), or partnering with other organizations.
Has your aging loved one used a senior center? Share your experiences in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you.
- Frist, Bill and Donald Tramuto. The Hill.
https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/399123-loneliness-kills-a-new-public-health-crisis-and-what-we-can-do-about-it Accessed January 30, 2019
- National Council on Aging. Senior Centers 2011 Older Americans Act Reauthorization. https://www.ncoa.org/wp-content/uploads/NCOA-OAA-Reauthorization-Senior-Centers-Concept-Paper.pdf Accessed January 29, 2019.