What do you think of when someone says the words “senior center”? Do you picture older people sitting around playing bingo and shuffleboard? Eating bland meals while a television is blaring?
It is time to update your vision! Senior Centers are not what they used to be. Today’s Senior Center is a vibrant, action-packed combination of fitness center, information and resources, volunteering headquarters, a transportation hub and tasty lunch dining.
For older persons at risk of losing their self-sufficiency, Senior Centers are an entry point to an array of services that will assist them as they “age in place.”
Across the country, more and more people are beginning to recognize that their local senior center has changed as a gateway for older adults to connect with others in their communities. Senior Centers offer older adults vital community services that can help them stay healthy and independent.
Senior Centers offer a wide range of health, education, recreation, volunteer and other social interaction opportunities for their participants that enhance dignity, support independence, and encourage community involvement. Centers are also a resource for the entire community, providing services and information on aging, and assisting family and friends who care for older persons.
Senior Centers aren’t just for card games! Sure, cards are available (and fun and challenging), but most Senior Centers offer far more than that! Everything from trips and special events to fine arts and crafts, music and dance, lifelong learning, and fitness and health programs can be found at the centers.
Angel Dandrea, Volunteer Program Supervisor for Blair Senior Services, Inc., states “Some of our most popular things to do at the Senior Centers are the exercise classes, paint parties and our evening dinner dances. The men really enjoy playing pool in our pool room at the Central Blair Senior Center.”
Senior Centers are a great place to find volunteering opportunities. Older adults who are looking for volunteer opportunities or paid volunteer opportunities to supplement their retirement income, should stop by their local senior center to learn about what is available. Blair Senior Services, Inc. offers stipend volunteer positions with plenty of training, such as the Foster Grandparent Program where older adults are making a difference in young lives by volunteering, or the Senior Companion Program where volunteers spend time enriching the lives of another older adult through companionship. The Senior Center staff are always looking for seniors who want to share their talents and knowledge with others in the form of no cost workshops or leading clubs at the Senior Centers. Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community.
Senior Centers are also a great place to get healthy. Health and fitness are areas that Blair Senior Services, Inc. has really expanded in recent years. Blair Senior Services’ Senior Centers offer programs such as light aerobics, Zumba, Yoga, and Tai Chi. According to Aubrey Lidwell, Community Services Program Coordinator at Blair Senior Services, Inc., “Our Centers have an overwhelming response to the exercise and Tai Chi classes with our four centers holding approximately 65 classes combined per week. Our instructors do a great job of incorporating all levels of fitness into the programs. The best part is that it is free to the seniors!”
Angel Dandrea states, “Senior Centers play a very important role in the lives of older adults today by encouraging them to become, and remain, social. Socializing can help older adults improve their physical health, reduce risks of depression, increase their cognitive functioning and create a sense of belonging. We have so many different things to offer and it varies at each center, which really helps the consumers with a variety of things to choose from. Participants can attend any of the activities at any center, not just the ones they may live closest to. Our vans are available for transportation by appointment during daytime activities.”
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.
The following list of activities and services are typical of programs offered by the Blair Senior Services, Inc. Senior Centers:
Daily meals served at the Centers; Nutrition Education; Farmers Market Vouchers; Commodity Box Program
Light Aerobics; Yoga; Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention; Healthy Steps in Motion; Zumba; Cardio Circuit; Line Dancing
Blood pressure checks; flu shots; hearing assessments; health presentations; chronic disease and diabetes self-management workshops, etc.
Information and Assistance
Medicare counseling; referral and connection to appropriate community support services; Protective Services; caregiver information, etc.
Computer, Pinterest, Facebook Classes; Gardening Classes; Cooking Classes; Essential Oils Workshops
Tax preparation; rent rebate form assistance, etc.
Social Events and Programs
Musical entertainment, evening dinner/dances and paint parties; birthday parties; cards; pool table; paint and craft classes; etc.
These are just a few of the activities and services provided by Blair Senior Services’ Senior Centers. For more information or a complete list, visit their website at www.blairsenior.org.
Despite their variations, Senior Centers fill certain common purposes. “Whether it’s as a learning center or a place where people can come to find new ideas, to share their own ideas, be able to be creative, in a paint class or an exercise class, people want a common, safe, fun, helpful place to do that,” says Aubrey Lidwell.
“A personal touch is what sets our Senior Centers apart from other aging-related services,” Dandrea says. “If you talk to the people who come here, they would say it’s a warm and welcoming place. A place where they’re treated as individuals and responded to and respected. Where they’re known and can make it their place to socialize and meet friends.”
“One challenge is the term ‘Senior Center’, which can be off-putting in a culture in which people don’t want to think of themselves as aging or see themselves as older adults,” Lidwell states. “This is why we try to reinvent or add programs that are changing with the needs and requests of the consumers.”
There are many benefits to older adults who visit the Senior Centers. Some of which include:
Seniors who attend Senior Center activities on a regular basis are shown to have better emotional health. A Senior Center offers an escape from lonely homes, lonely lives and isolation.
Socialization is extremely important to happy senior living. Seniors who participate in center activities enjoy being around others their age, sharing stories and participating in community activities. Older individuals who would normally be isolated are offered the chance to maintain friendships and create new ones.
This is probably the most important of the unspoken Senior Center benefits. Senior Centers generally offer services from 8:00 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon. This means that if a senior wants to spend their day at the center, they could have lunch, beverages, participate in free health evaluations and other benefits that would normally be far outside of their monthly budget. Just one balanced meal per day and the chance to socialize with friends offers many aging adults benefits beyond measure.
Blair Senior Services’ Senior Centers are a treasure chest of not only a substantial daily meal, but a safe haven for companionship, health and wellness, plus numerous activities for the body and mind.
September is National Senior Center Month. Make a plan to visit your local senior center this month and see all the benefits you can discover.
For a list of monthly activities by individual centers, lunch menus and more information on all the services offered by Blair Senior Services, Inc., please visit their website at www.blairsenior.org or call 814-946-1235.