Older Adults Build Momentum for National Senior Center Month

By CEO Deb Taylor

September is National Senior Center Month in the U.S.! Every year since 1979, the National Council on Aging has celebrated Senior Center Week. In 1985, President Ronald Reagan signed the first Senior Center Week Presidential Proclamation, and in 2007 the week-long celebration was extended to the full month of September to give centers greater flexibility in scheduling celebratory events.  The first senior center was opened in 1948 in New York City. Today, there are over 11,000 senior centers in the U.S that serves millions of older adults every single day. And that momentum only continues to grow.

This year’s national theme, “Building Momentum,” was chosen to highlight how senior centers use innovative programs to change the perception of aging and create important community resources for aging expertise. This month, we want to place special focus on the personal growth and momentum senior centers bring to their communities, including programming that empowers older adults to learn, give, and connect. These resources include:

  • Fitness wellness programs
  • Financial planning seminars
  • Art classes
  • Community volunteer projects
  • Health screenings
  • Social outreach events
  • Career planning opportunities
  • Caregiver support groups

Today’s older adults are a far cry from the era of your great-grandparents.  There is a new generation of older adults looking to redefine retirement and reimagine how we age. Now more than ever, older adults are opting to “age in place”, a term used to describe a person living in their own home independently and safely without losing their quality of life. Senior centers are undoubtedly an invaluable part of that process. They serve as a community hub for older adults, connecting them to indispensable services to maintain and elevate wellbeing through a combination of life engagement and both cognitive and physical stimulation.

But it’s more than just keeping our older adults physically healthy and independent; it’s about creating a physical space to forge meaningful relationships within the community that help foster purpose, prevent isolation, and promote mental health. “Depression unfortunately is very real for too many older adults in our community,” says Pam Loidolt, Director of the Monticello Senior Center, ”Being part of a senior center can help combat depression and without a doubt improve a person’s wellbeing.” Research shows older adults who feel lonely and isolated are more likely to report also having poor physical and/or mental health and is even linked to quicker cognitive decline, high blood pressure, and higher rates of elder abuse.

When these centers are at their best, it’s because intergenerational members of the community are coming together to promote a positive image of aging as we all grow older.  So this year, take some time to celebrate the many ways your own community’s senior center builds momentum for the future of people’s health, economic security, and independence.  “Include older people in all community and local decision making,” says Steve Pieh, the Manager of Senior Services at the Minnetonka Senior Community Center, “advocate for meaningful senior programs and resources, for older adults in their communities.  Highlight active roles and accomplishments of folks during their retirement years.  Evaluate how we use older workers, in their various part or full time jobs.”

That’s exactly what aging in our society should look like; collaboration between generations to create a richer and more meaningful future for the members of our community.  It’s been 75 years since the first senior center opened in the U.S., and with that comes 75 years of experiences, lessons and wisdom. Looking forward, we’re only going to continue to build on that momentum with the help of lasting community engagement from all ages to truly reimagine the way we age.

To find the Senior Center in your community and a list of all the centers in MN, visit: https://www.mnseniorsonline.com/senior-centers.html

Deb Taylor is the CEO of Senior Community Services and its Reimagine Aging Institute, a nonprofit that helps older adults and caregivers navigate aging to maintain independence and quality of life. We provide a wide array of programs — www.seniorcommunity.org