Senior Centers: More Than Just a Place for Bingo
September is National Senior Center Month which makes it a great time to take a new look at the changing face of today’s Senior Centers! There are many reasons to go to your local senior center and see what they have to offer, both for older family members and for yourself. You may be thinking they are just for people your parent’s age but most senior centers are for ages 50+. It can be a great resource for health and fitness information plus a social hub for you and/or elderly loved ones.
Health Programs That Benefit the Elderly
Many senior centers offer fitness classes specially designed for the 50+ crowd including Yoga, Tai Chi, Zumba, aerobics classes and more. Also keep an eye out for educational classes such as how to reduce symptoms of arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes and how to reduce the fear of falling. Many centers also offer regularly scheduled health screening events with healthcare professionals on hand to do glucose screening and blood pressure checks.
Special Programs Offered by Senior Centers
Social isolation is a major health risk for the elderly population. Busy families should consider senior centers for their aging relatives. Your local senior center could have a variety of activities including organized trips, art projects, caregiving support groups, plus many different music and dance opportunities. Many centers also provide local transportation to stores, housekeeping services, and nutritious meals. This gives your loved ones the opportunity to share a good meal with new acquaintances or old friends. Many senior centers offer food delivery programs to help prevent isolation for the homebound and help prevent or delay institutionalization. See how senior volunteer, Mary Tarbit helps her community in a local Chicago suburb.
Volunteer and Employment Opportunities for Seniors
Volunteering can also be a way elders socialize with others. If this is something you are interested in, your senior center most likely will have plenty of ideas for you and/or loved one. They often have relationships with local charities like food pantries and animal shelters. One such collaboration, called the Senior Grocery Program is made possible by the collaboration between the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, the Partnership for Families Children and Adults, Meigs County Senior Center, and the AARP Foundation.
In addition, some communities are implementing newer programs that pair older adults and young children which can be an enriching experience for all involved. But volunteering may not be suited to every situation. A paid position might be a better fit.
Senior centers have made many changes through the years often becoming remarkable organizations, so much so that many centers around the country are gaining official recognition by becoming accredited. The National Institute of Senior Centers now offers the National Senior Center Accreditation Program which consists of nine standards that the center must meet. So far more than 200 senior centers have met these standards and have been accredited. In 2016, 15 senior centers were added to the growing list of accredited centers.
Whether your local senior center is accredited or not it can be a great place to help you get active and stay fit. View the comprehensive list of senior centers around the US. Your local senior center might be closer than you think!