Senior Centers: Meeting the Needs of Boomers
Seniors centers have grown from the first established in New York in 1943, to an estimated 11,000, serving over 10 million older adults throughout the country. Some centers are public, some are private. Each one is unique, serving a growing population of older adults. Senior centers serve people from those just preparing to retire to those struggling with the challenges of aging.
Senior centers were initially small, private clubs established by local non-profit groups or government. They grew dramatically in the 1970s when the older American Act (OAA) identified senior centers as “essential links in the service network for older adults.” Seniors centers have become community facilities that provide a broad spectrum of services, including health, social, educational and recreational services.
They support families and community by providing information and referral to a myriad of social service resources such as caregiving and long-term support.
Baby Boomers will be delighted to learn that senior centers have grown and evolved over the years. No longer do they provide only socialization opportunities. A senior center offers services and activities that reflect the experience and interests of its participants. Older adults used to feel that they were “not old enough” to attend events at a senior center; now people in their 50s are asking - “Am I old enough to attend this event? I really want to come!”
As a part of a comprehensive community strategy to meet the needs of older adults, senior center programs consist of a variety of programs and activities including the following:
- Health and wellness
- Arts and humanities
- Intergenerational activities
- Information and referral services
- Social opportunities
- Transportation services
- Volunteer opportunities
- Educational opportunities
- Financial and benefits assistance
- Meal programs
Senior Centers also serve as a resource for the entire community for information on aging, support for families and caregivers. The philosophy of senior centers is based on these premises:
- Aging is a normal developmental process
- Human beings need peers with whom they can interact
- Peers are a source of encouragement and support
- Older adults have the right to a voice in determining matters that impact them
At the Rocky River Senior Center, we believe that older adults - like all people - are individuals with ambitions, capabilities and creative capacities. They are capable of continued growth and development. They have certain basic needs, including the need for opportunities for relationships and for experiencing a sense of achievement. They need access to sources of information and help for personal and family problems and the opportunities to learn from individuals coping with similar experiences. They have a right to involvement and representation in a senior center’s decision making process.
There are an estimated 15,000 senior centers in the United States. The evolution and growth of these centers has mirrored society in many ways. As the nation’s older population has increased, centers have grown, adapted and changed to function as viable participants in the community-based system of services for older persons.
As we look ahead to the next 30 years, we welcome and encourage your input in order to continue provide the services and activities that meet the needs of seniors today and in the future. Please join us on this exciting adventure and consider joining a committee as we look to determine how to best meet the needs of seniors in our community.
The Rocky River Senior Center is located at 21014 Hilliard Blvd. in Rocky River. For more information, please call 440-333-6660.
Deborah (Bock) Capstick is the Director of Senior Services for the City of Rocky River. She has a B.A. in psychology and M.A. in counseling.