With all of the free time that comes with retirement, the question arises of what to do with it. Over 11,000 senior centers across the nation are seeking to fill in that gap. Whether part of a community center or dedicated solely to serving seniors, these organizations play a vital role in the lives of countless citizens.
While residents at Capital Senior Living communities enjoy valuable amenities and homelike comforts, senior centers can provide a refreshing change of pace. From additional companionship to lifelong learning opportunities, there are many benefits to getting involved in outside activities. According to the National Council on Aging, participants at senior centers usually have a higher level of social interaction, which boosts their overall health and outlook on life.
Although the majority of visitors are women (70 percent, according to NCOA), senior centers cater to both sexes with a variety of interests and mobility levels. At Carrollton Senior Center in Carrollton, Texas, aerobics classes and monthly themed luncheons have proved to be some of the most popular activities. However, the center also hosts a diverse selection of classes that cover topics from ceramics and wellness to painting and finance. Group activities include book clubs, quilting parties, drama skits and movie showings.
The expanded facility boasts a large ballroom and Thursday night dances, complete with live bands and free refreshments for memorable nights of two-stepping and swing dancing. Seniors can also sign up to go on local, statewide and international trips, or simply stop by for a game of pool, dominoes, ping pong or Wii bowling. While the offerings go far beyond bingo, it’s still a popular staple at the facility!
In Omaha, Nebraska, Mockingbird Hills Community Center is just one of many facilities providing exciting wellness programs for seniors. Centers now offer much more than simple stretching sessions; Mockingbird Hills features Zumba classes as well as shallow- and deep-water fitness classes. At the Senior Activity Center in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, in-between games of Mah-jongg, residents can take part in Tai Chi and Pilates classes and participate in indoor pickle ball — a hybrid of tennis, badminton and ping pong — a trend that’s been sweeping across the nation. Serving seniors 50 and over in Greenwood, Indiana, The Social of Greenwood welcomes seniors with the tagline “Where acting your age is optional.” Seeking to serve its community will all kinds of needs, the center offers specialized boxing class for seniors with Parkinson’s disease, providing a unique way for them to work on reaction time, balance and core strength.
No matter whether seniors live alone, in Independent Living or even Assisted Living, all are welcome to enjoy the benefits that come from senior center membership. With so many offerings, it’s easy to assume attending senior center events might be a costly venture. However, most yearly memberships are less than $50 – and some activities are completely free for city residents. Many centers provide snacks and meals on-site, making it especially cost-effective for those not living within a senior living community with pre-paid meals.
Retired citizens who have recognized the benefit of being part of their local senior center will do whatever they can to get there. Those who cannot drive themselves will often take a bus or even an Uber. While many centers are supported by friendly volunteers, this transportation need opens another door for volunteers to step into and serve local seniors.
While the future of senior centers is not completely clear, the National Institute of Senior Centers is working to provide valuable resources for these community hubs while finding innovate ways to serve the older generation. There is also a growing trend to integrate senior centers with other community center activities (teen centers, for instance) to spur communication between generations.
While September may be the designated National Senior Center Month, it’s never too early to reach out to your local senior center to celebrate LIFE (Learning, Independence, Friends and Energy). Seventy-five percent of participants who do visit one to three times per week, with an average of 3.3 hours per visit, according to NCOA. Today, more than 1 million seniors are served every day at a local center.
Whatever the future holds, the significance of these centers on the lives of American senior citizens is undeniable.
Source: National Council on Aging
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