Each year in September we pause to honor our nation’s senior centers. The 2016 National Senior Center Month theme, Find Balance at Your Center!, highlights how senior centers are providing programs that focus on the whole person allowing seniors to live healthier lives and stay involved in their communities. I have had the pleasure of visiting senior centers around the country and I have seen firsthand how these community hubs are linking older adults with critical programs and services.
At ACL, we recognize senior centers as valued partners in our effort to promote community living by keeping older Americans active, informed and healthy. Although the modern day senior center can be traced back to the 1940s, they grew rapidly with the passage of the Older Americans Act in 1965 and are continuing to enrich communities by harnessing the power and potential of older adults. Many senior centers serve as important focal points for the delivery of comprehensive services.
Most senior centers are providing essential health and wellness programs including health screenings and nutrition programs. Many are delivering proven evidence-based programs and practices, such as the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, which are empowering older adults to successfully manage their health conditions so they can maintain their independence. For example, the Southeast Seattle Senior Center in Washington offers the A Matter of Balance: Managing Concerns About Falls program and it is changing lives. One participant, Majorie Brown, noted that because of the class she “gained confidence that I don’t have to sit at home and worry about falling, that I can get out and do things.”
From health insurance counseling to benefits enrollment, senior centers are empowering older adults with information and knowledge to better equip them to make informed decisions that best meet their unique needs and preferences. Senior centers are also places where social connections can flourish and grow through educational and creative activities and civic engagement. In other words, senior centers are truly making a difference.
As our nation continues to witness an incredible demographic transformation with over 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, ACL looks forward to working with the Aging Network, including senior centers, as we look to modernize and provide older adults opportunities to contribute to their communities in new and innovative ways.