The management of a senior center is a complex task, but it is a need that is growing throughout our communities. As healthcare improves and baby boomers age, the need for community centers and programs that cater to the senior population is becoming more and more necessary. A 2011 AARP report shows that today’s senior citizens are more actively seeking out centers that offer a vibrant, active and involved community than seniors from generations past, and suggests that seniors who are actively engaged have a far better quality of life than those who are not active in their community.
With that being said we’ve collected four tips for running an active, enjoyable, and community-oriented senior center.
Family and community involvement are important elements of a quality life for senior citizens, and senior centers with outreach programs that include families and friends in the regular, day-to-day life of seniors can have happier, healthier and more alert participants.
Offering family outreach can also help alleviate the concern that family members feel when their loved one is aging and in need of more assistance. By helping to assuage those fears, senior center staff can help ensure the family is actively involved in the life of seniors in positive ways. This leads to a better quality of life for all those involved.
Living in a highly connected world, we sometimes forget that our senior population can feel isolated and left out. Often times, those who have a difficult time moving around, seeing or hearing feel especially removed from the general population and, more importantly, the younger generation.
One senior center in New York City runs a program that connects high school seniors in need of volunteer hours with seniors who are visually impaired. Not only does this fulfill the needs of the students and the seniors, but it also gives both groups a chance to really interact, at a social level, with a completely different generation. Mutually beneficial, this type of relationship can help seniors feel more connected with the world around them.
Connect with the Community
When dealing with a special population, like seniors, integrating the actual population and the center into the community around it can be helpful in building a good relationship and fostering a symbiotic relationship.
For example, senior centers across the United States have reached out to local community colleges to connect seniors with young students who are working on their college education. By connecting these two populations, the senior center integrates its residents into the local community (specifically the community of a college town) and creates a beneficial relationship between the community at large, and the special population it is working with.
Seniors, just like every other population, need fresh activities to keep them engaged. While Bingo is a staple that people want to see in a senior center, it is important to get creative with new activities. New activities can be created with their outcome in mind. According to the National Institute of Senior Centers, considering health outcomes, activities surrounding balance, strength, and cognitive health can be improved through lectures, study classes, and a variety of exercise classes.
With the growing need for community centers focused around the senior population, we, as a community, need to work together to ensure these spaces are up to date, engaging, and most important, supported in their efforts. The senior population needs the help of the community, as a whole, to ensure their health and well being for years to come.
A graduate gerontology degree, paired with your professional experience, can prepare you to make an impact on the lives of older adults. Learn more about the Master of Arts in Gerontology online program at USC.