September is National Senior Center Month

We know most seniors prefer to age in place, at home. In fact, according to AARP, over 90 percent of older Americans want to stay home as opposed to relocating to assisted living or nursing homes.

The challenge with aging in place is that unless the senior has a full time caregiver, they can wind up being alone most of the time. That isolation and inactivity can begin a downward spiral of depression and loneliness. Not exactly the picture of a happy way to age.

Senior care at home can also get expensive, especially if you’re paying for simple companionship. Paying a companion caregiver $15 per hour to sit and play bridge might be a bit of overkill, especially since most seniors live on a fixed income.

The National Council on Aging has designated September as National Senior Center Month, and the theme for 2014 is Senior Centers: Experts at Living Well — Discover, Play, Create, Challenge.

Not to be confused with Adult Day Care Centers which are more costly and offer a higher degree of structure and supervision, Senior Centers are facilities that offer a wide variety of activities and offer opportunities for independent seniors to interact. It’s perfect for the active elderly—those who would like a place to “hang out”, have fun, and maybe learn a little something new.

Senior Centers often offer classes, trips, parties, volunteer opportunities, and recreational activities, and lifetime learning programs, including expert lectures. A healthy meal can also be had for an additional minimal fee. Oftentimes, they provide opportunities for day- and sometimes even overnight-excursions.

Regionally, some senior center endeavors are pushing boundaries and giving area seniors a little extra this month.

  • In Livermore, California, the California Highway Patrol will be offering a free public presentation on “How to Recognize Elder Abuse”.
  • The Glastonbury, CT Senior Center are inviting seniors to take part in a 10-week fitness challenge that includes a variety of activities to make people more aware of their own health and well-being.
  • The St. Clair Street Senior Center in Tennessee is featuring a Drum Circle, Tai Chi, St. Clair Walkers and an Art Show.

Some programs have been developed specifically to highlight this month’s senior center theme, but some communities see a great opportunity in working with local seniors.

In New York, for example, the Department on Aging is teaming up with local arts councils and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs to present SPARC : Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide. The initiative places 50 artists-in-residence at senior centers across the five boroughs of New York City. The goal is to produce arts programming for seniors in exchange for workspace and a small stipend. As reported by website Hyperallergic, last year, participating dance company De Novo staged Houseguest at the Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance and included seven seniors from the Astoria senior center where they had been in residence.

I plan on exploring this month’s theme by taking my own mother to a local senior center. Looking ahead to winter, it may be just the place for her to spend some time among her peers in the community. While I don’t expect she’ll be performing any contemporary dance moves, they might just get her to Zumba.

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