What is a Senior Center, What Do They Offer, and Who Can Benefit?

What is a Senior Center, What Do They Offer, and Who Can Benefit?

A senior center is a type of community center where older adults can congregate to fulfill many of their social, physical, emotional, and intellectual needs. In the United States, many towns have senior centers that are usually locally funded, though some may receive state and federal money.

One of the most important things seniors can do to remain happy and healthy long-term is to engage with others on a regular basis. The busier seniors are, the more they enjoy a higher quality of life. Yet, many of the activities they used to do or those that they would like to do, do not always seem accessible. That is where senior centers come in. They provide an opportunity for seniors to get active, enjoy various social activities, and to improve their overall quality of life. Readily available in most cases, senior centers can provide a wide range of benefits to those that use them.

Recognized by the Older Americans Act (OAA) as a community focal point, senior centers have become one of the most widely used services among America’s older adults. Today, nearly 11,000 senior centers serve 1 million older adults aged 50+ every day. Approximately 70% of senior center participants are women.

For seniors who are looking for something to do to stay busy or those who want to meet new people, visiting a senior center is an option. It provides an opportunity to connect with others who are around the same age while also providing an opportunity for seniors to learn something new. Programs vary significantly, but most offer a variety of options to appeal to a larger audience.

Each location will offer programs and events that locals or members want to see available. Many senior centers are sponsored by governments, local community programs, specialized associations, and third-party organizations. The programs offered there are often based on the individual needs of those who attend and those who run them. Below are some of the most common senior center programs.

  • Senior centers offer a wide variety of programs and services, including but not limited to:
    • Meal and nutrition programs
    • Information and assistance
    • Health, fitness, and wellness programs
    • Transportation services
    • Public benefits counseling
    • Employment assistance
    • Volunteer and civic engagement opportunities
    • Social and recreational activities
    • Educational and arts programs
    • Intergenerational programs

Research shows that older adults who participate in senior center programs can learn to manage and delay the onset of chronic disease and experience measurable improvements in their physical, social, spiritual, emotional, mental, and economic well-being.

Today’s senior centers are reinventing themselves to meet the needs and desires of the aging baby boom generation. Boomers now constitute more than two-thirds of the 50+ population. Senior centers are developing new programs and opportunities for this dynamic generation of older adults.

In the Greater Charleston Area (tri-county) there are approximately 16 senior centers with more to come in the near future. Some of the activities provided at these centers include yoga, bingo, quilting & jewelry making, arts & crafts, community gardening, education workshops, card/board games, pickle ball, ping pong, pool, walking and exercise activities, field trips and much more.

Membership to these senior centers vary depending on who runs it however most are affordable options compared to a gym or social club.

Find a Senior Center near you (list on page 92) and arrange to go take a tour.  It could be the life change you need to be healthy and happy!