When you think of a senior center, you probably think of a place where a bunch of old people sit around and stare out the windows all day. (Particularly if you are not yet a senior yourself.) Not true! Many senior centers are vibrant hubs of activity and social interaction, yet they’re often overlooked, even by the people who can most benefit from them.
Most metropolitan areas (and plenty of rural areas, too) have some version of a place where senior citizens can gather together and participate in activities. Many are free to join, while some charge a nominal membership fee. Others are free to join, but may charge for specific activities or materials. Even better, many don’t even require you to be “elderly” to join. Some allow membership as young as age 50 or 55. There are many benefits of senior centers ranging from the financial to the personal. Here are just a few reasons to look into your local senior center.
Move it or lose it becomes truer as we age, but it can be hard to find motivation to move. Senior centers often offer exercise classes geared toward the aging body. Low impact areobics, stretching, and strength training are likely on offer, and some centers may offer a pool or dance classes. Some also offer sports, both competitive or “just for fun” teams.
Senior centers can be a hub of learning. They may offer classes on nearly any topic, but some popular ones are computers/tech, languages, local history, scam awareness and prevention, gardening/nature, and estate planning/legal/financial issues.
The center near me opens up activities after 4PM to teenagers and younger adults. This means that the seniors have some time to interact with the younger generations, and to bring their grandkids or young friends to the center for some bonding time. Some centers bring in younger volunteer groups to join in the activities and teach classes. It’s beneficial to interact with all ages and share differing perspectives.
Some centers offer a free mid-day meal, and others offer a low cost option. It can be a good place to get at least one nutritious meal a day that you don’t have to cook or clean up after. Some partner with Meals on Wheels to bring food to your home.
Day Trips/Cultural Events
Field trips to local attractions and events are popular activities. Tickets might not be free, but they are usually deeply discounted and transportation is provided.
Health and Wellness Activities
While nothing is a substitute for your primary doctor, a senior center can offer a good supplement to your health care program. Many offer weight loss and addiction programs, free flu shots, blood pressure and cholesterol clinics, basic screenings, nutritional advice, and activities such as meditation and cognitive activities for the mind.
Card and Board Games
Chess, checkers, bingo, canasta, pinochle, dominos, and modern board games or role-playing games such as Catan, Dungeons and Dragons, or Wingspan are likely available. If you’re into games, bring your own to the center and get a group going.
Hobby Classes and Groups
Into a hobby or craft? Chances are your senior center offers a group or class for you. Needlework, woodcarving, movie and book clubs, coloring, music, painting, pottery, and more are likely on offer. Some will provide materials free of charge, some charge a nominal fee, and some are BYO. Regardless, it’s more fun to pursue your activity of choice with others and receive some instruction.
Sometimes local businesses help support the senior center, and may also offer deals to members of the center. Percent-off discounts, special shopping days, or reduced price memberships may all be offered. It can be a good way to save on services (legal, cleaning, home care, and haircuts are usually popular), merchandise, or restaurants.
Senior centers may have volunteer groups that you can join and help out in your community. There’s probably an opportunity to match your interests, but I’ve seen senior groups hosting story time at libraries, doing litter and park clean up, visiting hospitals/nursing homes, walking dogs at the animal shelter, teaching, and working at food pantries.
Access to Community Resources
Many senior centers serve as one-stop shops for those looking for help within the community. They may be able to help you find specialized services such as in-home care, legal services, geriatric medical specialists, job placement, transportation, and financial and estate planning. They can also help navigate the red tape associated with various government programs, or refer you to someone who can.
Never underestimate the simple benefits of connection. One of the greatest risks of aging, from both health and safety standpoints, is isolation. Belonging to a senior center can give you a group of people to interact with, and a group of people who will miss you and know that something is wrong if you don’t show up one day. When you have people looking out for you (and you’re looking out for them), you’re more likely to be happy and healthy in your golden years.
Have you found any other benefits of senior centers? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Jennifer Derrick is a freelance writer, novelist and children’s book author. When she’s not writing Jennifer enjoys running marathons, playing tennis, boardgames and reading pretty much everything she can get her hands on. You can learn more about Jennifer at: https://jenniferderrick.com/.