For many seniors, staying busy is one of the most important things. Having a good time, staying engaged and being social are all things that matter to all of us. For seniors, those needs can be fulfilled by making use of America’s senior centers. They’re fantastic places with a lot to offer seniors, so keep reading our senior citizen centers guide.
When you are looking for services to help you as you get older, one of the types of services that you might consider is a senior citizen center. There are somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 senior centers in the US, offering local services to senior citizens nearby. Understanding the purpose of a senior center can show you whether using one could be right for you. Senior centers can be excellent community resources, benefitting you if you are looking for support or just things to do.
If you don’t know much about them or simply want to learn more, you’ve come to the right place. This comprehensive guide will give you a complete understanding of what senior centers are all about.
Use this guide to senior citizen centers to learn more about how they can help you. Learn how to discover the best senior centers in America.
What Are Senior Citizen Centers?
There’s nothing particularly complicated about senior centers and that’s why they’re effective. Senior centers are places where seniors come together, offering facilities, activities, and programs that seniors can take part in collectively. Those programs are designed to meet the needs of the people in the area who attend the center.
Senior centers are ideal for people who are looking to stay active and get out of the house more often. They can also help to bring communities together in ways that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Seniors can grow friendships that can be maintained via the senior centers and out in the community as well. They make a big difference in the lives of many people.
Which Services and Programs Are Often Provided at Senior Centers?
There’s a wide range of programs and services that are provided at senior centers. We’re going to discuss them here so you can get a better understanding of what to expect from yours.
Meal and Nutrition Programs
In our senior years, it becomes more important than ever to eat the right foods and to achieve a balanced diet. That’s why it’s so great that many senior centers offer meal and nutrition programs for seniors. They can help with improving your diet, learning how to cook food at home or helping to manage your weight going forward. Some places even provide meals for the community too. It’s a great chance to learn more about food and nutrition.
Fitness and Wellness Activities
For many seniors, staying active and fit can be one of the biggest challenges of all. It’s so important to stay active and fit for seniors so that problems can be kept at bay. There are all kinds of fitness classes, exercise activities to consider. Aerobics and yoga are two very popular examples of fitness and wellness activities provided by many senior centers around the country. There’s something for every fitness and mobility level.
Some centers also offer health screenings, which could include hearing tests, blood pressure checks, blood sugar tests and more. Wellness seminars are also a possibility, helping you to learn more about taking care of yourself and living a healthier and happier lifestyle.
Swimming and Pool Activities
Seniors often find that the best form of activity for them is swimming and other pool activities. Well, some senior centers do have these facilities and they make the most of them. It’s great to make swimming the focus of your exercise routine if you have problems with joints or your bones. That’s because swimming doesn’t put pressure on the joints anywhere near as much as most regular fitness activities do. It makes a real difference for many.
There’s never any reason to stop learning, no matter what your age is. There are classes that can teach you about just about everything at senior centers. Some people want to learn about geography while others want to pick up some gardening tips. Others might even want to learn a language. All of these educational programs and many more are offered at lots of the senior centers around the country. They could help you develop a whole new hobby.
Expressing yourself is important whatever stage of life you’re at, and the best way of expressing yourself is through art. Of course, art is a very broad spectrum and it can include lots of different things. Some people can learn how to play a musical instrument at the local senior center; while others can learn about fine arts and painting. There are even theater groups that operate in senior centers. You might also get the chance to see some performances at the center by people who visit and put on a show. So, why not get involved and enjoy everything the arts have to offer?
Social and Recreational Activities
Meeting with other people their age and engaging with them directly can be a big part of what makes the senior center experience so special and so important. There are dances and other events that help to bring people together in a social setting for some recreational fun. But any of the activities mentioned above or below also afford the opportunity for socializing with other people in the senior center as well. There are usually plenty of games to play at senior centers, from cards games to board games. It’s vital for people who would otherwise be isolated at home.
Clubs Relating to Special Interests
There are lots of special interest clubs and groups that get together to meet and discuss their interests or complete activities as part of a group in senior centers. As well as clubs for getting active, senior centers often offer clubs and groups for other activities. There are things like book clubs, trips to the theater or other performances, movie clubs, special interest groups and even travel opportunities.
Of course, there are too many to list here because there are so many hobbies and special interests that people have. You should see which clubs gather at your senior center and go along to any that sound appealing to you for whatever reason.
Help with Personal Finances
Some people can really struggle with their money and their personal finances when they get a little older. This is obviously something that needs to be dealt with and that often happens at the senior center. There are often classes and seminars that focus on budgeting and other general issues that relate to personal finances. You should make the most of them if you think you’d benefit. A little financial knowledge can go a really long way.
Many senior citizens still want to find work and that’s something that you can get help with at the local senior center. There are all kinds of resources and guidance provided inside these places. You might even be able to find work there in some instances. But there will usually be some sort of advice available. It can be tough finding work as a senior but many people still crave that routine and structure, which is definitely understandable.
Without the right guidance and teaching, lots of seniors would simply never learn how to use a computer properly. That’s a real issue. Computer classes, therefore, can be so useful and really helpful to seniors. They allow them to do more online and generally cope with the demands of modern life a little better. It can also make them much more independent. They won’t have to rely on other people whenever they need to use a computer.
In some cases, seniors will be able to volunteer to help out at their senior center or find out about other volunteer opportunities that are available in the area. This provides more responsibilities and makes it possible for seniors to get some structure without necessarily having to take on a full-time or part-time job, which they may not want to do. It’s a way to have a positive impact and do something good on a regular basis.
Special Events Throughout the Year
There will be a range of special events that are hosted throughout the year. This will involve a variety of dances, gatherings, holiday celebrations, and other things. Each senior center handles this kind of thing differently but it’s fun to have these things going on throughout the year because it gives everyone something to look forward to. You should find out more about the various events and celebrations that happen throughout the year at your senior center.
Lastly, there are also field trips that are organized by many senior centers. Giving seniors in the community the chance to get out there and do something unique with their friends from the center can be a lot of fun. We all need to get away and change our surroundings from time to time and these field trips to new and interesting places give seniors the chance to do that. If there’s a chance for you to attend one at your senior center, you should make the most of it.
Who Can Use Senior Citizen Centers?
To put it simply, senior centers are for senior citizens, but that might not necessarily mean the same things at all senior centers in the country. They’re often open to anyone over the age of 50, but some places might have membership rules that state members must be over the age of 55 or maybe 60.
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) says that the average age of participants is 75. This is likely because younger people might still be working or if they are not, they feel more capable of staying active and involved with the community than senior citizens. As you get older, you can find that you benefit more from the services that senior centers can offer.
The NCOA also says that the majority of people who use senior centers are women – 70% of them, in fact. Half of the people who use senior centers live at home and 75% of them visit between one to three times each week. The average visit is 3.3 hours. People who use senior centers tend to have lower levels of income, but anyone can get in touch with their local senior center.
You should find out what the membership rules are at the senior center in your area. Beyond those kinds of age restrictions, there aren’t many other rules that will stop you from being able to attend your local senior center. They’re very open and welcoming places, so you should feel able to attend and join in when you want to.
Who Runs Senior Centers?
Different senior centers are run in different ways. Although it’s true that no two senior centers are exactly the same as one another, it is true that these centers are often run by local government entities. That means they’re publicly funded because of the vital services they offer to senior citizens in their local areas.
However, there are some locations in which senior centers are run by local non-profit organizations. These are often trusted charities that have a presence in the local area. If you want to find out more about who runs your local senior center, simply do some research or ask directly. They’ll be happy to help you find the information you need.
Accessing a senior center is often as simple as finding a nearby center and getting in touch or simply attending the center. Because they are either locally funded or run as non-profit organizations, you can usually access the programs and activities for free. Many places might appreciate a small donation for some things or might like families to donate regularly as thanks for their services. Centers are often staffed at least partly by volunteers to help keep running costs low. Some centers have membership fees, but they can be as low as only a few dollars per year. You might also be required to pay for outings and events, but membership will often get you discounts.
Many sessions run at senior centers allow you to simply drop in and join in whenever you want. Others might require you to book a place for some activities or programs, especially when there might be limited space. It’s easier to have larger groups for some activities than it is for others, so reserving your place might be necessary for classes, workshops or other activities.
The Benefits of Senior Centers
Now that you know a bit more about what’s offered at senior centers and what you can expect from them, we’re going to delve into some of the benefits associated with seniors using these centers.
Stay Active and Healthy
One of the first and most important benefits to mention is the ability provided by senior centers for seniors to stay healthy and active. There are lots of classes and activities that focus on exercise and mobility and that’s obviously a vital thing for all seniors. We know that mobility can suffer as we age but we can stay mobile and fit for longer when we do more exercise. Senior centers are the natural place to head to for seniors when they’re looking to improve their weekly exercise levels.
Meet New People and Make Friends
It’s also about being social. Seniors who might not have many friends or family living close to them can really benefit from attending a senior center regularly and making the most of all the activities that are going on there. They’ll make new friends who are in the same situation as them and are of a similar age. A person’s weekly visit to the senior center can be the social highlight of their week and without that, they can feel pretty lost.
Avoid Boredom and Isolation
Without senior centers, many seniors would be entirely lost for interesting things to do and fill their time with. Many seniors who live alone can get bored easily and that’s when they start feeling isolated as well. Without the company and friendship that can grow from attending a senior center, many people can really struggle. It can even lead to mental health problems developing for some people. It goes to show just how important senior centers are for many people.
Engage Your Mind
Engaging your mind is a key part of what you can do at a senior center. There are lots of activities and learning opportunities on offer and they get seniors thinking and learning. This is important because many people won’t have taken a class or gone out of their way to pick up a new skill for years or even decades. An active mind is a healthy one. It definitely pays off if you do decide to head to a senior center and start learning again.
Learn Things You Never Thought You Would
With so many learning opportunities on offer at senior centers, there’s nothing stopping you from learning things that you never thought you would. Of course, each senior center is different and the activities and classes on offer there will change regularly. But you’ll likely find something that’s interesting to you and that allows you to expand your horizons a little. It’s something that we all need to do from time to time, even if it involves stepping out of our comfort zone.
Do Things You’ve Never Done Before
It’s not just about learning new things, it’s also about doing things that you’ve never done before. After all, experiences are what matter most of all in life and that’s always been the case. If there are things in life but you’ve never had the chance to, you never know; your local senior center might be the place that gives you the opportunity to do it. There’s everything from art classes to field trips; there’s something new and interesting for just about everyone.
Get Transportation Help
Transport and mobility can often be a problem for senior citizens, but senior centers can also help with this. Many centers can help with transport to get you to and from the center. They can also offer transport to help you run errands or go on outings. Therefore, you are able to get out and about and connect with your community. As well as providing transportation, they might be able to help with public transport, whether it’s assistance with navigating the transport system or help with tickets.
Access Home Maintenance Services
Some senior centers are even able to help with home maintenance. If you need some help maintaining your home, you might be able to access assistance with some minor tasks. For example, simple home repairs or perhaps seasonal help with tasks like raking leaves or shoveling snow can help to make it easier for you to stay in your own home.
Finding and Choosing a Senior Center for You
Finding a senior center might be easier than you think. Some people are referred to a senior center, perhaps by a doctor, social worker or someone similar. You might even be recommended a center by a friend or family member.
There are a few things you can do if you want to find out more about the options in your area. The easiest thing you can do is carry out a simple Google search. Simply search for “senior center” followed by the name of your location and you’ll be presented with options. There’ll likely be at least one senior center not far from you. You can also use the website for the NCOA and similar organizations that provide lists of senior centers.
Senior Center Accreditation
The NCOA has the National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC) which supports a network of more than 3,000 senior center professionals. They help to set the standards for centers and promote new research, practices, advocacy, and professional development. They also offer an accreditation program for senior centers, which provides official recognition that a center meets nine national standards set by the NISC. You might want to check to see if a senior center has this accreditation, but it’s not essential for a center to have it.
Some senior centers might also be accredited by the Better Business Bureau or similar organizations. If you see any accreditations that senior centers have, you can check to see what the accreditation really means. It’s usually easy to find the accreditor online and find out how they award their accreditations so that you understand what the center has done to achieve the accreditation. Not having an accreditation doesn’t mean it’s not a good center. You can find other ways to determine if a center might be the right choice.
Senior Citizen Center Recommendations
Asking for recommendations from friends and family is often the first choice. It’s also useful to see reviews and testimonials for other people. If you look online, you can often find ratings, reviews, and testimonials from people who use the center or their relatives. You can check the center’s website or find reviews in other places, including on Google or in online directories. If the majority of reviews are positive, you are likely to have a positive experience too. However, reaching out to the center to ask about the services that you are interested in is the only real way to find out if their services are right for you.
You can also call your local Area Agency on Aging. They have all the information when it comes to the needs of senior citizens in the area. They’ll know all about the nearby senior centers. It’s important to understand that the services and the quality of the facilities on offer can vary from location to location. There are no guarantees about what can be offered at your location.
The Costs of Senior Centers
The cost of using a senior center is something that can vary from place to place. It’s another thing that you’ll have to explore for yourself in your local area. Some cities and counties offer the services provided by senior centers for free because they’re considered a vital public service. But that’s not always the case.
Some senior centers charge individual fees for each of the services offered. And some places will have a mix of free activities and fees that cost a little more. The costs are generally pretty low though, so even if you have to pay for something, it usually won’t be very much. The services represent good value for money. Some centers will require you to pay an annual fee as a member. This covers the cost of the facilities and activities provided.
As you now know, senior centers have a lot to offer senior citizens across America. If you like what you’ve read here, you should find your local senior center and head there to learn more. Each senior center is different, so it’s worth taking the time to research them. You can then find out what’s offered in the center closest to you.
Suddenly Senior Readers’ Favorite Senior Centers
Our readers have contacted us with comments on their favorite senior citizen centers. Please contact us with any updates.
Wetumpka Senior Center – Wetumpka, AL
“Wetumpka senior center is the best group of people I have met since moving to Wetumpka.”
Fontana Community Senior Center – Fontana, CA
“…we have a fairly new building…excellent food, exercise room, and computer room”
Griswold Senior Center – Jewett City, CT
“Best senior center around; We have so many people that we have outgrown the building that we are in.”
Newington Senior Center – Newington, CT
“Newington Senior Center has been recognized nationally as a very highly rated center for many years.”
Franklin Senior Center – Franklin, MA
“Offer a variety of activities, affordable, and a spirit of friendliness, support, and involvement. Franklin offers a free movie…DVD’s played through a laptop to a large TV screen in a large meeting room. The movies range from almost new (6-8 weeks from the box office) to classics. Free popcorn and a chance to mingle after the movie to talk about it and/or other social activities coming up. A great, non-threatening way to make new friends who share the same interests.”
Lincoln Senior Center – Lincoln, RI
Fussell Senior Center – Katy, TX
“Fussell Senior Center in Katy Texas has a great variety of activities and several day trips every month. Wonderful place to make and meet friends!”
Epson Center for Seniors – Laramie, WY
“The Eppson Center for Seniors in Laramie, Wyoming, is a GREAT senior center. Good food, lots of activities, a wellness center, and just a nice bunch of people to visit with!”
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