Tips for Connecting with a Senior Center
By Ashlee Williman | 11/13/2019
Senior Centers are a vital community resource for older adults, providing a wide variety of programs, services and supports, and enabling older adults to remain active and engaged, while combating social isolation and loneliness. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports that “Today, almost 10,000 senior centers serve more than 1 million older adults every day.” Some of the activities senior centers can provide include:
- Exercise classes such as Tai Chi and Yoga
- Supportive services including congregate meals, mental health and financial counseling
- Intergenerational programs with prekindergarten through high school students
- Art, music and computer classes
- Educational presentations by community organizations and businesses
- Seasonal parties and events
- Group outings to museums, theatrical performances, restaurants and shopping centers
These programs and services are essential in supporting older adults’ independence and connection to their communities.
It can be intimidating or challenging to initially connect with a senior center. Here are some practical tips to get started:
- Identify a local senior center in your community. There are several ways to do this, but a good place to start is by contacting a local Area Agency on Aging by calling 1-866-243-5678 or visiting this online locator to obtain a list of senior centers. Additionally, a call to 2-1-1, a free telephone service provided by United Way, can connect us with useful resources in our communities.
- Determine which senior center fits your needs. Once we’ve identified a senior center in our area, we can now begin to explore which center will best suit us. Here are a few important items to consider…
- Variety of activities. Would you like to learn new computer skills? Are you interested in exercise classes? Do you have a favorite card game you’d like to play with others? We can ask for a current newsletter or activity schedule to see which activities are offered on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Additionally, we can ask the staff which activities are the most popular, or what programs best match our interests.
- Transportation. Do you need transportation to/from the senior center? If so, we can ask if this service is provided. Is transportation available for group outings to restaurants, museums or stores? If the center does not provide transportation, can they suggest other options for getting to and from the center?
- Cost of programs. Does the center have an annual fee or suggested donation? Are there charges for activities or lunch? This may vary from one senior center to the next, so we will want to take the time to ask in order to choose our best option.
- Hours of operation. Do you plan to attend a senior center during the daytime, or would you prefer evening or weekend activities? Senior Centers can offer a variety of options, so again, inquire first to select a center that meets our expectations.
- Meal program. Lunch programs can vary among senior centers. Some sites offer a hot lunch, while others may have a café style to choose from.
- Reservation policies. Many senior centers require a reservation for lunch and transportation. Knowing these policies ahead of time will ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience.
- Invite a friend or family member. Visiting a senior center for the first time can be overwhelming. For your initial visit, it might help to ask a family member, friend or neighbor to accompany you. Maybe that person will want to join you on a regular basis! Before going, call the senior center to find out the best time to arrive, what information will be needed, and the name of the staff member who can assist you in signing up. You might also ask the staff or volunteers to introduce you to participants who regularly attend. This will help you feel more confident and comfortable on subsequent visits.