What is a Senior Center?

what is a senior center

As you get older, or if you have parents or grandparents that are getting older, you may start to wonder about the differences between senior centers, and adult care centers, and nursing homes.

My grandmother just turned 90. She has lived independently all of her golden years. In fact, she has lived alone since she was in her 50s, when my grandfather died unexpected in an accident at work.

This situation has worked well for her (and the rest of her children) for years. Until recently, that is. My fiercely independent grandmother is starting to struggle, and her decline is happening shockingly quickly.

elderly man laughing

Fortunately (and unfortunately), my grandmother is still very sharp, though she is struggling now with keeping up her house, remembering to eat and to drink. She knows that she is at home (where she wants to be) and she doesn’t want to live in a “home.”

She spends most of her time alone, in her home. She gave up her license recently, and she lives in a small rural town without a whole lot to do as far as food, shopping, or entertainment.

I don’t think that she needs to live in a home, but I do think that she needs to do more than sit at home alone. I think if she had more of a life (socially or something to just do) that her overall mood might be better and she might have more drive or energy to work harder to take care of herself. (I dunno, I feel like she might be a bit depressed, which I understand is common in aging brains). I think she should make more use of the local senior center.

In this article, we’ll talk about what a senior center is. We’ll also chat about the advantages and disadvantages are of utilizing a senior center, and how a senior center differs from an adult care center.

Basics of what a senior citizens center is and does

In most communities, a senior center is an organization that is operated by the local city (or county) government. In other places, a senior center might be run by a group of citizens with a board, or as a non-profit.

Senior centers are places where aging adults who still live on their own and have a lot of independence, can gather on a regular basis to eat and to engage socially with other people.

Senior centers can be a really awesome place for an aging adults to join. If your mother or grandmother is living at home alone and is struggling to find enough to do during the day, or feels like she or he is a burden on their family for entertainment, this can be a great option.

Senior centers are all about providing regular social, intellectual, and physical stimulation. This is a great place for seniors to meet other seniors who are active and who want to do things, but don’t necessarily have people to do it with.

elderly couple holding two young children

It is hard out there in the world to meet people if you are not savvy with the internet. As most young people know, the internet is the way to find people who have things in common with you. But people from previous generations may not feel that same comfort and ease with reaching out to meet new people that way. The technology may be overwhelming, or they may just not have adjusted to the idea of meeting strangers in this manner.

Access to good food and company to eat it with

For seniors who have a lot of support at home, or even those who don’t, the senior center can be a vital component of an aging adult’s nutrition plan. Some adults do not like to cook, or they are not skilled cooks. After a long life of eating food cooked by others, if someone is in a situation where that food is no longer being prepared for them, they may not make the best meal choices for themselves, or they may not be able to prepare meals for themselves. At a senior center, aging adults can in many cases access better meals and snacks than they can provide for themselves.

(Plus, who likes to eat alone all the time….I don’t!)

Support for physical activity goals and needs

As time goes on, many senior centers are adding more and more physical activities and actual physical equipment to their Center site the more research is done, we understand how important weight training and physical activity is during the aging process. Senior centers can be a great place to learn about how to exercise for an aging body, or to find other like-minded people to do exercise with.

Learning never stops

Finally, senior centers often host educational programs, such as seminars about estate planning, medical insurance/medicare/medicaid, and home repair. We’ve seen arts and crafts, writing, and other more creative presentations as well. Senior centers also sometimes offer courses for seniors to learn about computers and technology, as well as in other interesting skills or topics.

Senior Centers aren’t for everyone

However, a senior center may not be for everyone. Depending upon the individual, some seniors may find the senior center to be uninteresting, and unsatisfying.

The activities and courses offered may not be challenging enough, and instead focus more on enjoyment. Some people don’t like senior centers because the makeup of the individuals who attend the senior center is not “their kind of people.” This may be a matter of gender, age, race or ethnicity, or even socioeconomic status. For someone to really enjoy a senior center, they need to feel like they fit in, and if they don’t fit in, then they won’t access the center or its services often.

Who should choose a senior center?

If the senior is an individual who is in good mental and physical health and lives independently, he is in an individual who could get the most out of what a senior center can offer. If a senior can take care of themselves but still needs assistance with driving to and from the center or two other activities, this individual could be accommodated.

A senior center is not the place for someone who struggles with the tasks of daily life such as dressing, bathing, feeding themselves, and navigating throughout the day. Of course, is a senior who needed assistance had a caregiver with them to help them enjoy the center, then that could work as well.

Senior centers are generally a good fit for individuals who want to get active but have limited means. In most cases, senior centers charge very little or nothing for seniors to participate in activities. Sometimes, some centers will charge only for meals and we’ll get donations or do fundraising in order to pay other expenses.

elderly woman looking into a mirror

How is a senior center different from an adult care center?

An adult care center is often a community-based organization or a non-profit, much like a senior center. However, these care centers are more focused on providing seniors with supervised care in a safe community space during the day.

Adult care centers try to provide the seniors in their facilities as much independence throughout the day as possible, and the level of their activities and their freedoms will depend upon their individual situation and their families.

For some seniors, and adult care center could be considered the equivalent of placing a child in daycare during the day while the parent is away at work. But a senior who is utilizing an adult care center doesn’t have to look at it that way, because the amount of care and supervision each individual needs is going to vary.

Some advantages of an adult care center:

  • the senior will be in a safe environment
  • the environment will be secure and the senior will not be able to escape or get lost
  • there are tons opportunities for socialization and education
  • the senior will receive support if they need it for whatever is going on in their life
  • nutritious meals and snacks are provided.

Adult care centers can provide a respite opportunity for family caregivers who just need a break while knowing and having peace of mind that their loved one is safe.

Adult care centers aren’t for everyone

A senior who is independent and who does not eat need assistance with daily tasks of life and can keep themselves safe will not be happy in an adult care center. Some disadvantages of an adult care center is that the senior who is an adult care center in me feel abandoned by their family because they don’t have the freedom necessarily to do what they want, or even to leave.

It can be hard to know as a family member how good and adult care center facility is, because you are not there all the time and you can’t necessarily get information from your loved one about their experience in it. And not every adult care center is going to fit in your loved one’s needs, or your personal philosophy for his care.

Adult care centers can be the right option if there is a senior who cannot be left alone at home safely, who needs help structuring their own activities, and regardless of mental status, is isolated and needs to be around other people, or is in the early stages of Dementia or Alzheimer’s.

These facilities tend to cost more than senior centers, but they are not extravagant to to utilize for a day here and there.

At what point does your senior need more than a senior center or an adult care center?

Changes in the senior’s physical health and or changes of the needs of the caregiver can be the motivating factor to stop utilizing senior centers or adult care centers.

I’m not saying that a nursing home is the solution, as non-medical care at home works well for a lot of families when functional decline becomes significant. But when the senior gets to a point where they need more assistance than the adult care center can provide for their daily tasks of living, or their Dementia or Alzheimer’s issues are progressing rapidly, the caregiver will need more help.

We also see seniors leaving the adult care center facilities when their caregiver is no longer able to assist them to get to the senior center or two adult care.

I think my grandmother would benefit…

From visiting the senior center….or even spending time in an adult care center. I don’t want her to be in a position where she doesn’t have control over herself, or treat her like a child (putting her in daycare). But I just have a hard time seeing her sitting at home, alone, not eating or drinking.

Just a little more something in her life to give her a boost could keep her around on this earth for a few extra years, you know what I am saying? She can walk, talk, play cards, garden, read….why not do it around other people?

I also like the idea that she could get a good meal while she was there (my grandmother won’t eat fruit or vegetables at all if left to her own devices….that’s not an aging thing, that is just a stubborn thing that she has done most of her life).

I might ask around to my aunts and uncles to see if anyone has an experiences with the local senior center (some of them are seniors now as well, no surprise when the matriarch is 90 years old). I would help boost her confidence a bit to go into one with one of her children on her arm, and to help her meet some people she could look forward to seeing there.

How about you? Do you have any aging members in your family you are making plans for? Let us know in the comments section below.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *