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.