How Our Convictions Changes as We Age
ELDER MUSIC: The 7th of April 2016

Senior Centers

Senior centers have a bad rap and they should not. Although there may still be too many that offer little more than bingo night once or twice a week and not much else, most are working hard to upgrade and update for the latest elder generations.

(You know those boomers – they don't want to be part of what “old people” do.)

Snark or not, boomers really should get over themselves. Some won't go to senior centers because they don't like that name – it makes them sound old, you know.

Although I often lobby against the word senior myself, a name is a shallow reason to give for not participating and when people start using euphemisms that are just too politically correct to take seriously, the only thing you can do is groan and move on. It is almost always a committee that causes such language effrontery.

The senior center in my town is called – ahem, the Adult Community Center, usually shortened to ACC.

LOACC

This is one of the better centers in the U.S. On any given day, the variety of fitness and well-being classes from aerobics to Zumba along with yoga, tai chi, strength training, meditation and more are filled to capacity.

There is a small gym with four machines, hand weights and balance balls. In a room nearby, there is a masseuse available one day a week that members can book in advance.

There are also a large number of gaming groups who meet almost daily – bridge, Scrabble, mah jongg, among them. There is a knitting group and a quilting group who donate the results of their work to local charities.

All activities are either free with an inexpensive membership or low cost.

Each Wednesday afternoon, I attend a two-hour current affairs discussion group at the center that is organized by a group affiliated with a local college. Membership is just $30 a year and if I were inclined or had more time, there are additional groups within relatively easy driving distance I could attend almost every day of the week at no additional cost.

The center also has a professional kitchen with a chef who oversees the town's Meals on Wheels preparation - nutritious food delivered by ACC volunteers to more than a hundred elders who cannot cook for themselves. The kitchen staff also serves lunch at the center three days a week for a fee of just $4 per person.

In my rounds for volunteer work, I've had some unspeakably awful institutional meals at senior centers but never at the ACC. They get a good amount of their fresh vegetables from a nearby community garden, the food is prepared from scratch, nothing frozen and reheated, and the chef is excellent.

In additional, there are reasonably priced day trips to restaurants, theaters, local historical sites, museums, etc., and there is a “solo” dinner club for singles, among many other choices.

As varied as the social choices are, the services are crucial to the well-being and health of elders in the community. Without the center, these services would not be available or certainly not all in one place where they are easy to find, easy to use and mostly free. There are so many that I will list just a sampling:

Blood pressure monitoring
Flu shots
Foot care clinics
Legal assistance
Tax assistance
Medicare/Medicaid help
Rides to doctor appointments
Rides for grocery shopping
Medical equipment loans
Caregiver respite groups
Widow support groups

When I needed rides to and from the medical center for my two cataract surgeries a couple of years ago, I used the ACC ride service and it went off without a hitch.

In fact, the driver told me that she had taken time to do a dry run the day before to check the traffic so I wouldn't be late, and the service was free. (I made a substantial donation to the Center.)

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), there are about 11,400 senior centers in the United States that serve more than a million elders every day.

The NCOA also runs the National Senior Center Accreditation Program that recognizes centers that meet nine national standards of operation. The ACC is one of about 250 centers who have achieved these standards.

The reason I'm telling you all this today is that I want some information from you. Three or four years ago, I wrote a post here titled Are You a Senior Center Snob? admitting to having been one myself. So did some of you.

At first, senior centers are like the word “retirement.” In the beginning I choked on it but with repetition as I wrote about it here, I got over my aversion. That happens similarly with senior centers when you've spent some time checking out what's there.

Maybe it is a gradual transition; maybe it comes in two or three steps. First accept that you are old, move on to tentative outreach to some elder activities and pretty soon, you've made an interesting friend or two and forget you once thought senior centers were boring.

A well-funded senior center like the ACC that also attracts a good number of volunteers (usually elders themselves) offers a wide variety of social activities and community services, something to interest most everybody in the ones that are as good mine.

Now, here's what I would like to know from you:

Do you regularly spend time at a senior center? If so, what activities and services do you like or use? What additional or different activities, services, events and programs would you like to have?

If you don't use a senior center, what would prompt you to do so? What kind of activities, services, events and programs would entice you to try it?

And one more thing. If you are reading this in another country, are there equivalent organizations where you live? Tell us about them.

Comments

I don't use our local senior center, which is very busy and popular. I'm too busy doing other things to take advantage of the many activities on offer. I wonder if I will when age forces me to stop doing the 'other things.'

We have a very active senior center. There have been pushes off and on to change the name so those that don't feel they are seniors will attend. The closest it's come to a change is adding the word activity, so it's the senior activity center now. You only have to be 50 to become a member. The membership fee is $25 with an additional charge of $5 for the few classes that have to pay an instructor.

I started going about 20 years ago because of the line dance classes and slowly started adding other activities. Two years ago I overcame my high school prejudice of Pom Pom dancers and learned how to shake it. Our group fell apart when our much younger instructor hurt her knees and had to quit. Over the years I've done clogging, taken an exercise class, learned to play a mountain dulcimer, taken tai chi, I attend a card making class and have taken other craft classes, we went on a sponsored tour to Italy and have attended special breakfast or luncheon days. My husband attends a wood carving group twice a week and uses the treadmills in a very small exercise room.

There is a crazy good group of ping pong players that use the center whenever they can find a space to set up. They do have set times but that is never enough for them. There are different card games almost everyday, the pool room is always open, scrabble, music groups, a small library, day tours, bingo, quilting, ceramics, knitting, book club and a scrabble group. I'm sure there are more that I'm forgetting right now.

I'd like to see a yoga class and mahjong offered but other then that there is more to do then I have time to do it.

Our city senior centers are called FiftyForward, so there you have it with the fear/dread of being thought of as old.

I do not belong to FiftyForward mainly because the one nearest me
is in the YMCA and I would have to join the Y to be a member of FiftyForward. The cost is $75, one time fee to join and $59 a month,
and THAT, as far as I can tell, is just for Y membership. It seems like such an affront to me that I won't even call to ask if there is more cost for FiftyForward. (You can see, that the Fifty-year-olds can say they belong to the Y--so no negative there for their images).

My senior hall has a very active calendar of lectures (mostly by authors) day trips all over the state, luncheons, a book club, lots of exercise classes, a card club, a craft club and off Broadway events. We get a newsletter every two months when we place our RSVP's. I sign up for around 12 things each newsletter but there are around 50 things I could sign up for. This summer they are going on sail boat, there were tours of a prison, a winery, a brewery, a water treatment plant, a quilt show, a trash recycling place, restaurant hops, to Chicago (from West Michigan) botanical gardens, the state capital, a Buddhist temple and we're going to a Islamic Center soon---the list of places we take full day or half tours to is amazing and reasonably priced. We have the free legal assistance and tax assistance too and a "geek zoo" where you can bring in your tech stuff to get help once a month. I wish they had a ride program. I'm jealous of that! Not that I need it but I might some day. If anyone has any resources on how to implement one, I'd love to pass that on to our senior hall director.

Sorry, for the mess I made of the other post.

I just found that the monthly fee for FiftyForward is $10.00 a month.
Go figure how the set-up in my area makes sense.


The Senior Center in my town appears to have a full roster of services and activities, most of which I can't take advantage of since I still work full time and things are offered during the work day. I did use the ride service (like yours, free and volunteer staffed) when I broke my ankle a few years ago and needed rides to medical appts. I began getting their newsletter ("Senior Spirit") when I turned 50 or 55 and was highly insulted at that point--it went directly from mailbox to recycle bin. Now in my mid-60s I'm more willing to say that's my demographic.

I should add the was even have choir and we rented a bus so much we raised money to buy our own brand new bus.

Your post prompted me to take a look at what the city funded center near me currently has. There seem to be a full roster of educational, social, and fitness activities, almost all bilingual Spanish/English. I've dropped in there, but as yet not become involved at 68. I have too damn many of my own activities at present ... Maybe one day ...

I don't go to the local senior centers because there is so much emphasis on exercise, dance, games, and arts & crafts classes. I get enough (and more enjoyable) exercise working in Central Park, and I'm not interested in hands-on activities. I'd consider the center if there were more classes in languages, history, religion, current events - what I call "neck up" stimulation.

The senior center in our town is called Vintage House (nice play on words). I decided to take up the ukulele a year ago and now I take weekly classes (about 40 people attend) at our center. Other activities include bridge, Mah Jongg, yoga, various computer classes, art classes, lectures, tax preparation, trips to San Francisco for the theatre, etc., senior day care, a library and much more. They organize "senior rides", "Meals on Wheels" and are well located in that they are very near a walking trail and the "down town" area. At other times, they make the facility available for non-senior related events. Last weekend it was used as a venue for our International Film Festival. The Vintage House is a very active place used by many local residents. I honestly cannot think of one thing I wish they would add.. . .or subtract. The Vintage House is an integral part of this community.

Our senior center has almost all of its activities M-F before 5:00 p.m. (The exception is a once-a-month supper club at 5:00, too early for me.) So I can't take advantage of it. I have checked out the local Y for exercise classes, but all the classes geared for seniors are during the day, not the evening.

I joined the senior center as they sponsor trips; some day, some for a few days.
Unfortunately, the members love to gamble so there are a lot of casino trips which
do not interest me.

The center is free and in a lovely waterfront location with computer room, card room, pool room and large general area along with a kitchen w/$2 hot lunches. Free coffee & tea
in the a.m. & not refilled until after lunch due to budget cuts recently.

The usual activities are offered as mentioned above. They pick up & deliver folks
who do not drive along with scheduled few=hour trips to local stores and have
various parties during the year along with monthly b'day parties. Bingo is every
Thursday and Friday there is usually a 10 to 15 BigBand playing for 2 hrs in the a.m.

All in all it is a boon for elder folks & provides comraderie too.

Ronni ~ Enjoyed your blog today and shared it with my world! The future of the senior center - meal site is a frequent topic around the senior advocacy table. Your local ACC looks lovely and sounds fabulous. I'd love to check it out and finally meet you. buty April but will be in touch to schedule a visit next month. Enjoy the sunshine! Suzette

To me, senior center is synonymous with group activities, and I've never been particularly interested in group activities. I can see needing/using their services at some point, but without joining, supporting, and participating the rest of the year, I wouldn't feel entitled to do so. That may change in time, especially if/when a recently announced new center is opened about two miles from here. Might be interested in some tours and exercise classes.

Re: today's post about the stigma surrounding senior centers: I am 64--yes, one of the boomers. Until very recently I was employed full time and now find myself being forcibly retired because of work force reduction/outsourcing effective the middle of this month. Besides working full time I have also taught yoga at my local senior center (now known just as a community center) for 8 years. It offers classes for all ages, youth on up, at very reasonable prices, and many free activities for elders on a fixed income, as well as many important services.

These centers are vital to the elder community, and the community at large. Without them, elders in particular would be isolated from vital connection to the outside world, as well as their own peer group. Seniors especially need connection and care, with so many adult children living in distant cities and even countries. Many of them have no one to check in on them on a regular basis.

Now that I will have all the time in the world and far less income, I will be checking out activities that I might like to try, as well as do some volunteering. I, for one, am eagerly anticipating this new phase of life that is sure to be more relaxing and joy-filled.

Well, I had to really look to find it, but our community center does have a seniors program. There are lots of clubs for activities, and all sorts of fitness classes. We use the community center for fitness ourselves and the hadn't thought to check out the specific senior activities.

There is also a lunch served 5 days a week for a nominal cost

And, aren't we all old here? Boomers are no more a homogenous group than any other age based group. I am not sure why Boomers should be singled OT as especially obnoxious.

I enjoyed reading the responses here about senior centers in various cities and towns across USA. I'm Canadian (Victoria), and think our centers rival your ACC (What do they call adults under the age of 50?) in terms of activities of all stripes. I'm 76, but have never entertained joining. I write daily, and can hardly find the time to take care of everything else I need to do to keep my life in some sort of order. I work out at the gym (cheaper), I see a few friends (more choice of venue), and I spend a great deal of time with my husband, out and about our city. I rarely travel, and have given up entertaining. I'm not a snob about joining centers. I am glad they will be available to me when I am ready!

Your post reflects what my husband and I learned on our cross country tour of senior community centers nearly four years ago. We visited 17 distinctly different centers (from Oregon to South Carolina), played music, and interviewed participants. An unforgettable experience we cherish.

...our local (county) senior center, where I am a member...rivals just about every other 'senior' center around. The only thing we don't have is a 'gym' or machines, but the other programs make up for it, and with Planet Fitness charging $10 a month, we don't need the machines.

I've loved joining and being a part of our senior center. I play bridge there three or four times a week, there are several other activities, and the trips are always interesting and fun. [edited to remove link]

Our senior center changed it's name to The Center at the Park a few years ago as it really is in a park. It costs $20 a year for a single membership.

I have belonged for awhile, only this year (my 74th) admitted that it had something to offer to me. I get help with my toenails when my back won't let me reach them and AARP does my taxes there for free. I have gone on a sponsored trip, an interesting tour one of the wind farms spouting up all over and taken Tai Chi there. They coordinate classes with the Quest program for over 50 students at Community College here. That's where you can get what Wendl called "neck up" stimulation from a broad spectrum of classes.

If you like there are free haircuts, and a masseuse who provides a $20 massage. There are two pool tables that are usually in use. Attorneys volunteer half an hour of advice gratis. There are assorted classes such as Dance to Fitness, Tai Chi, Yoga plus this spring Beginning and Intermediate Watercolors, Writing Your Life Story, Computer Literacy and Digital Camera Basics for now. Meals on Wheels is here and a daily lunch is served of decent quality for $5. There's a strawberry waffle dinner fund raiser once a month that I take my younger grandkids too. They like it and the other people attending seem to like them.

One of the more needed programs there is a day care center for those with dementia so their caregivers can safely leave them for errands or R&R and its a very good program. The clients are well cared for and involved in activities that fit. Not bad for a remote tiny town.

Our senior center is call Bellingham Senior Activities Center (BSAC). My weekly hiking group is there, and they have two others for less fit people. I get my taxes done by an AARP volunteer there, and I have attended several presentations that interest me. It costs &36/year to belong. It has definitely enriched my life!


I have discovered a near-by Senior Center in Rocky River OH and it is great !! I am attending history classes and art/drawing classes there and these classes are designed for ADULTS !
This is in a suburb near Cleveland.
But....the YMCA I go to has begun an effort to engage seniors in activities (this is in Lakewood, Ohio) and today when I went there seniors were sitting around a table in the lobby and their activity was....KNITTING !

Seniors clubs, as they are called in this S.W. corner of Spain, are very popular and exist in all towns throughout the country for anyone in receipt of a pension. It's a fun way to integrate into Spanish life and to improve language skills and foreigners are welcome to join in:

There is a library, computer room, unisex hairdressers, keep fit class, lectures in physical, emotional and sexual health, a Saturday night dance and all manner of subsidised outings and holidays. Food and drink are served at knock-down prices.

I have been in a few times with a group and, were I on my own, would probably use it much more as it is a very welcoming place in our town.

When I moved to East Bay, CA to be near my son and family it seemed a good idea to get some exercise and I joined the closest senior center. Gradually I worked up to 5 classes per week and have made some wonderful friends. Our center offers the same type of programs and classes that the others have mentioned. They also offer a hot lunch 5 days per week and an outreach to the home bound to come to the center for lunch. I also attend a second center for the knitting group and have really enjoyed that - gotten help and offered help on various projects.

As a single and being new to area the senior centers have great ways for me to make new friends and develop a social circle. Through these contacts I now have a number of volunteer jobs and a growing group of friends.

I don't mind admitting that I am 73 years old, but I too do not want to be considered "old", and have found lots of others my age who feel the same way.

Our senior center in Hilo, Hawaii is very active. We are putting on an art show next month, and participants will be showing their paintings and ceramics. Right now they are looking for a good place for their exercise classes, because the building is not suitable for installing air conditioning.
I started going to yoga at the Center, at the suggestion of a much younger friend. Then I took up ceramics, and she got interested in ceramics herself and is now doing excellent work and selling it.
I cherish my friends in ceramics class, and going there is the big social event of my week.
I once offered to volunteer and give some money to the center, but the director said, "No, this is a county service, and the county should pay for it. You are already paying for this with your taxes."

Although we are 65 and 67, my husband I have not yet had the need to access the services of our senior center, Lifescape. Basic services such as meals, help with Medicare, taxes, etc. and transportation seem to be about all that is offered and we're pretty self-sufficient yet in those areas. If there were a wider array of things offered, like some of the other centers described here, I would love to take advantage, but classes, trips and other and activities only seem to be offered through our Center for Learning in Retirement, which is way on the other side of town, with each class having a fee, along with an annual fee for being a member of the CLR generally. It's neither terribly convenient nor affordable, but we may need to make more of an effort anyway. I have to admit that reading about some of the other centers described here leaves me rather envious and feeling that I'd really like to move.

We have two wonderful senior centers nearby. My favorite is the one in my home town of Vista, CA. It is large and has all kinds of things going on all the time ... from dance classes to card tables. There are loads of good books in their library and you can just sit and read, or you can go to computer training classes.

They serve a terrific $3 lunch, and my friends and I quickly learned to take containers with tops along with us to take home leftovers enough for another meal. They also frequently have grocers/bread/etc that have been donated by shops and stores in the dining room that you can just pick up and take home. Also the kitchen apparently cooks all the meals for the Meals on Wheels in our area.

All-in-all, if I weren't still working practically full-time as a bookkeeper at the age of 79, I'd be spending a lot of time there ... probably help with teaching other Elders how to work with computers and the Internet, and Email. Would probably end up helping Elders with their taxes too. Well, maybe one day soon.

I must be weird. I don't really mind being looked at as old. But maybe that's because I'm only 59 and the only experiences I've had that fall into the "old" category are retiring, starting to need glasses, and groaning when I stand up from a lot of weeding?

It sounds that there are a host of services aggregated into a "senior center," and whether or not any one person over-50 might make use of of the service depends on so many things. Are you on a limited fixed income? Are you social and enjoy things like cards? Do you want to take classes and find that online offerings or continuing education in your area are insufficient? Has your physical capacity/mobility declined to the point where you need to find support services all in one place? And, finally, do you want to hang out with other people in your age group? Some do, some don't.

So in a way, the idea of a "senior center" seems a little arbitrary, and yet, still useful in different ways to different people.

My senior center here in Sacramento offers many of the activities and services described by other commenters except things like massage, foot care, rides, and discussion groups. To be honest, I don't know whether I would avail myself of its services anyway, but there is one thing which makes using it impossible for me. That is, that virtually everything is offered in the morning, some activities quite early in the morning. The day I leave my home before 1:30 p.m. will be the day I am carried in a van to the crematorium.

I'm in Australia. There is a Senior Centre near my home, A$5 annual membership fee I think, and have card games, tai chi only, and pool. No meals.

There is a separate Continuing Education for Seniors but the last time I checked, had very little on offer. Annual membership fee, and $ for each class.

The YMCA is great. Its open to all but offers seniors/retired a cheap $1 per day rate (charged fortnightly, but no contract, and can leave with a fortnight notice - that is wonderful flexibility as the other clubs are around $500pa fixed contract). Timings are Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat 8-12pm which suits me fine since I go mid-day.

Janine

Lots of great information. I checked out a senior center nearby a few years ago, but I wasn't ready yet. I was still working and didn't feel like I was "old" enough (at 74, I was!) I'm 79 and retired now, and this post plus comments may prompt me to check it out again. I'm not much of a joiner--never have been--but I recognize that down the road I may need some of the services they offer. On my first trip, it seemed like many of the participants were frail or disabled, but that could have been an erroneous first impression--and then there's the fact that I'm not quite as energetic as I was then. I'm not into gambling so Bingo and casino trips are not of interest to me.

The senior centers in my area are wonderful. There are several, all over town, and they have a multitude of programs and activities. The meals are good, the classes and trips and good. And it's all very inexpensive. I'm in a ukulele band, and we meet at one of the senior centers every Saturday morning to practice. We get to use the room at no cost.

Ronni, your senior center knows what it's doing.

Very impressive.

Every municipality on the island of Montreal has senior clubs that run all kinds of activities, and the price is right!

I have not fully joined the S club in my area yet, because I went for a looky loo and noticed the members are mostly my mom's age, so I will hold off for now.

The S group offers all kinds of trips, lunches, fitness, art, study groups, bingo, choirs, you name it, and you can also join other clubs on the island, as long as you can get to them.

Some clubs cost $20 a year!

My suburban city offers a whole batch of fitness and cultural activities for anyone over 60 at 50 percent off, at the rec center.

So for about $80 total, I take two Zumba gold classes, line dancing and Pilates. These classes are three months long. Bargain. Excellent teachers.

Way more frugal than joining a regular fitness club at $60 plus a month.

I will happily ease into some choice senior center activities when my body starts hollering.

Ukulele band? VIrginia, that is COOL!

Our upcoming Senior Center art fair got front page publicity in the local newspaper. I've never lived in a place before where elders are so respected and where our activities are of general interest to the public. It's the Asian and Hawaiian cultural influence.

Here in Delaware we have a fabulous senior center in Dover, DE. My husband and I joined immediately after moving here but have only availed ourselves of the classes associated with the University of Delaware. They offer much more but we have found ourselves so engaged in our long deferred interests that we have not participated in their activities. We think that will change as we age.

I'm 72 and have no interest in senior centers because all of my cultural, intellectual, social, and physical stimulation comes in other ways, e.g., museums, concerts, lectures, walking and biking, etc. that attract people of all ages. I still prefer being among heterogeneous groups but my needs will undoubtedly change as I grow older. For now though, I hope that day comes later rather than sooner.

Your center, Ronni, sounds terrific however.

I started to say that I don't do senior centers but... I live in a small, out of the way town on the north Kitsap peninsula. We have a community center with a large program for a town of 2,000 people. We don't do a lot of the traditional senior services but then.... I'd say about 3/4 of the town is 65+. So maybe it is a senior center. You've raised an interesting thought. Should we try to do a little more.

Thanks for the jog.

It's wonderful to read about the senior centers that all of you are familiar with. My local center isin Beaverton, OR and is called the Elsie Stuhr Center. It's run by the local Park and Rec District. As I join the P&C every year with the family..we take advantage of the swimming pool several times a week..it's a huge Olympic Sized pool..and where all my children and their children learned to swim, kayak, scuba dive and other water related events.

I have taken classes at Elsie Stuhr since I turned 50 and volunteered before that..my mother in law was an active member and I often took her to Tai-Chi and yoga classes - before I was 50 I wasn't supposed to be in these classes so I volunteered for the hour or so we were there. The month I turned 50 I joined Joan in her Yoga class and got a round of applause from the attendees for all the volunteer time I'd put in. And I quit my gym membership as I had access to all the activities I needed at a much lower cost.

Now I go for Yoga and art classes...and still swim frequently with the grandkids.

Hurray for the senior centers..by whatever name they are known.

Elle in Beaverton

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