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What’s at Your Senior Center: Bingo… or Speed Dating and Wine Tasting?

Category: General Retirement Issues

December 12, 2016 — Baby boomers have finally got to the age where senior centers actually are meant for us… oh perish the thought! Sadly it is true, the oldest of us baby boomers turned 70 this year and tens of millions are in our 60s.

Which brings us to one of favorite pet peeves. In our Connecticut town there was a proposal to build a new “Senior” Center. The old one was a mess and not big enough for the number of people that wanted to use it. We lobbied, unsuccessfully, to build a “Community”, rather than a “Senior” Center. The Community Center would have had all the facilities and resources that aging boomers want and need. But in our view, freeing it from the “Senior” stigma would have boosted attendance and been a resource that the entire community could enjoy. Happily, a beautiful and spacious Senior Center was built and enjoys great popularity – it is busy all day and night long. Blood drives, community meetings, and voting takes place there, so it does serve the larger community as well.

The new senior center – a lot more than Bingo (learn more about the ways to play) and mahjong.
Fortunately there is a trend in this country to update the traditional concept of a senior center, and in the process make them attractive to many more people. In these centers dynamic new directors are doing a better job of reading the interests of the newly retired. They are providing activities that pull more people in – folks who just can’t get past the notion that they are seniors.

In Chicago there is a center, Mather’s More Than a Cafe, with some unusual offerings. There are classes on sushi making, Egyyptian history, architecture, plus wine tasting, line dancing, and flower arranging. Most, but not all of of the attendees are seniors. Rochester, Minnesota has 125 Live, which has a big lap pool, teaching kitchen, gym, and pottery studio. Speed dating and wine tastings are popular at other new centers.

The National Council on Aging says that there are 11,500 senior centers in the U.S. Many of these facilities are adapting to become more social and up to date. The concentration is on lifelong learning, fitness, entertainment, and wellness programs for those 50 plus. Unfortunately, many are stuck in the old rut. Experts believe the rest will either go away or adapt. The NY Times article below has a lot more on the topic, and cites the Robert Putnam’s book, “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community”, as a big force in these changes.

For further reading
New Senior Centers Offering a Lot More Than Bingo

Comments? Would you go to a place that calls itself a Senior Center? Does your community have a Senior Center? Would you consider its offerings appealing to your interests, or those of people like your parents? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on December 11th, 2016


  1. Upon moving to Jonesborough, TN in Sept., i would never have considered going to the Senior Center. However, my long-time friend, who’s lived one town south of Jonesborough for the past 9 years, has raved about it. I still would probably not have gone, but conceded to attend a class with my friend, really just wanting to spend time with her. I was stunned by the beauty of the new (one-year-old) center and by all the activities taking place there and from there to other places (restaurants, hikes, and all kinds of events). I like it so much, i’m planning on volunteering there. However the one problem, it’s full of old people!

    by ella — December 12, 2016

  2. The “Senior” Center is one of the first places I check out when considering a possible retirement location. Some have truly unique offerings. I think the Senior Center will grow in importance, especially as one ages.

    by Staci — December 12, 2016

  3. When I look at places online, I get the heeby-jeebies if I see bocce ball in any of the photos. Also, if the fitness center only has a few token treadmills/steppers/bikes and hardly any strength training machines, I am not going to go look at that place. Not when there are great fitness centers to be found elsewhere. And as this article says, more are being built all the time. If you want to see one of the best fitness centers I’ve seen so far, go to and large photos will begin scrolling by. Wait for the 10th photo. BAM! Now that, folks, is what I’m looking for.

    by Barbara — December 12, 2016

  4. Hi Ella,thinking about checking jonesborough for retirement would love to know the pros and cons of the area Thanks Noel

    by Noel — December 13, 2016

  5. Noel and Ella,
    You may want to post on the Tennessee forum and see if you can find more about Jonesborough.
    Good Luck

    by Moderator Flo — December 14, 2016

  6. Great idea to think of the younger seniors for senior centers. Most are for older seniors. I’m 66 and want to do younger active activities. I think speed dating and line dancing would be great! I find myself to be too young in my community and do not fit in. I go to dances and rarely find a dance partner- too old. Where are all the young boomers?!

    by Dale — December 14, 2016

  7. That’s a great question Dale! I would like to find
    A place like that in Florida if that’s possible?

    by Virginia — December 15, 2016

  8. Noel, Can you give me an idea of what you’re looking for. That would help me know what to address and what to leave out. Please keep in mind, i’ve only been here for three months. Lots of places i haven’t visited.

    by ella — December 15, 2016

  9. Dale, I find that a whole different (younger) set turns out for the exercise classes. Haven’t been to the crafts classes, so i don’t know.

    by ella — December 15, 2016

  10. Barbara, The fitness center at the Jonesborough Sr. Center is of medium size (not small) and has top-of-the-line machines. Windows with a view of the street below. Very functional and attractive.

    by ella — December 15, 2016

  11. Virginia
    You may want to post your question on the Florida forum to see if you can get some more information.

    by Moderator Flo — December 15, 2016

  12. The Senior Centers where I live are basically serving the poor seniors only. They serve a hot meal 5 times a week, but there are no activities really.

    by MaryNB — December 16, 2016

  13. Thank you, Ella. I googled it and looked at all the photos. Looks like a great facility for those in the Johnson City area of TN. I’ve eliminated that area from my search due to winter weather. Focusing on areas more southern and temperate. Glad you found your ideal town.

    by Barbara — December 16, 2016

  14. Ella interested in real estate and also things to do in the area.Is it senior friendly. jonesbough tn. Thanks Noel

    by Noel — December 19, 2016

  15. Noel,

    Jonesborough is the most senior friendly place i’ve ever lived in. Probably because so many people retire here, or just move here in their later years (including mid-life). As a result, there’s a lot of older people here, and most are very open to new-comers. As for transportation, unless one lives in town (and it’s very small), a car is needed. So, it that regard, it’s not senior friendly.

    by ella — December 20, 2016

  16. Thanks Ella,aim going to try and visit, one more question what about buying homes or condos in the area? Thanks Noel

    by Noel — December 21, 2016

  17. Noel,
    I haven’t looked around a whole lot. Went out with one realtor once, but as i want a really nice house this time around (the homes i’ve lived in for most of my life have been v e r y simple), with some property – what i was shown was pricier than most people pay for their houses around here. That said, i don’t really know of any current prices as the people i’ve met have purchased their homes at least several years ago. I am told the property taxes are quite low. Sorry, i realize i’m not offering much here. Should you want to contact me, you can email me at:
    Then you can fire as many questions as you can think of. I will have no problem answering all i can!

    by ella — December 22, 2016

  18. Barbara,
    Johnson City has their own senior center. But this won’t matter to you as you’re searching for warmer climes. I, too, would like a warmer winter; but can’t handle hot, humid summers. Hope you find your sweet spot

    by ella — December 22, 2016

  19. A few months back my husband and I decided to go back to his small town to help care for his mother. Since I knew it is not going to be long term I haven’t gotten involved in the community and never went into the senior center ( I am ashamed to admit I didn’t like the looks of it from the outside). But I decided I would go in with a sign I had made offering rides to vote in Nov. Much to my surprise this senior center was not full of old people who may need rides to vote, there was music and laughter coming from one room where men and women were trying yoga moves and a table of bridge, and quite a few men and women trying a new soup recipe in a very old kitchen but having a very good time. We don’t have a senior center where I live because Y is a very active place and provides many classes and events for a price. But I am going to enjoy this senior center while I am here, it was a very friendly and busy place. Can’t judge a book by its cover I guess!

    by Ann — October 13, 2018

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