weekly blog--one for the ages
Plans are underway in my town to build a new Senior Center. The major concerns are where it will be located, how much will it cost, and what services will be provided.
The National Institute of Senior Centers (2005) reports that there are currently 16,000 senior centers serving older adults in the US. In 1986, the National Center for Health Statistics estimated that 15% of all Americans aged 65 and over (roughly 4 million individuals) had attended a senior center in the past year.
While there is no reliable data available currently, over 10 years ago, a study estimated that nearly 10 million senior citizens utilize a senior center program or service annually. And according to AARP, approximately 70 percent of senior center participants are female, and the average age of all participants is 75.
Yet, despite these statistics, many senior center directors report an alarming drop in attendance rates among seniors. Other senior center directors complain about the lack of participation by “Boomers.”
Currently, programs typically offered range from nutrition and wellness programs to social and recreational activities. More than 60 percent of senior centers are focal points for delivery of Older Americans Act services, which means they provide access to multiple services in one place.
Also, senior Centers generally have between three and eight funding sources, including government funding, local business contributions, and in-kind donations. Most are heavily aided by volunteers as well.
While some senior centers that have diversified programming and/or modernized facilities report an increase in participation, most senior centers report otherwise. The issue is further complicated by the decreasing public support for senior centers from federal, state, and municipal sources of funding.
The dilemma towns like mine face is a Catch-22 situation--how do the Senior Centers’ attract greater numbers of older adults without modernizing and how do they modernize without adequate fiscal support? And to add to the confusion, there is a surprising lack of research in this area.