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  • Jennie Griggs

Senior Centers Beyond Walls


If you haven't noticed, today's 55 and older adult population is significantly different from yesterday. Due to societal influences and worldwide challenges over the last 55 plus years, the centers have and are forever evolving into something very different. Over the previous two years, with the influence of COVID, the need for change has been even more apparent, suggesting senior centers without walls where programs are virtual to meet the needs of those who can't participate in In-Person programming.

Senior Centers, now often called Engagement Centers, Active Aging Adult Centers, or Wellness Centers, have and are essential community resources for older adults and their families. This progression became evident in 1965 with the passage of the Older Americans Act of 1965. Much like our own experience of growing older, senior centers have evolved experientially since then. Did you know they started as small social clubs, often meeting in church or business basements across the country? As they grew in size and relevance, it became evident that there was a need for something more significant within the American culture. The passage of the Older Americans Act in 1965 forever changed their course, providing formal and national support for centers across the country. So, where are we today? Or even a better question is where were we before COVID?


Each community has its unique personality, which drives what a center may look like and offer. The local opportunities and challenges are based on various demographics, resources, and cultures. Regardless the alignment of diverse invested public and private stakeholders in the success of such a center is critical. This is why you are seeing Senior Centers align with various churches, parks and recreation facilities, and higher education institutions including local community colleges. Local healthcare systems, corporations, civic organizations, towns, and cultural resources including Fine Arts Centers and museums are equally as relevant. These alignments, activities, and outcomes can fulfill our commitment to focus on our population's dimensions of wellness. All are necessary to maintain greater well-being and encourage aging gracefully while providing essential prevention elements.


Let’s get the ball rolling and “Engage with Age.” Try a new approach, one incorporating a new vision enabling senior centers to engage their population with the entire community in a facility that may not include walls and go beyond the model we have always understood.

This is one of a new series of blogs about Communities Engaging with Aging.



Photo: My friend, Pat Jennings (left), and her sisters, Barb and Gayle who live in 3 different states and talk every day. They all do Silver Sneakers and were able to be together during the holidays to decorate some cookies for their families.


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