Whatever You Do, Don't Call Them "Senior Centers"

Senior Centers are attracting boomers and changing their name and their image

The next time you drop off Mom at your local senior center, you might want to stay. These places, known mostly for bingo, lunch and blood pressure screenings, can be a great refuge for family caregivers. You'll be surprised at the transformation. A motorcycle club at the Lakeville Senior Center in Minnesota??

As the oldest boomers turn 67 this year, senior centers are trying to attract the age 50-plus set as well as those in their 80s.  There are a lot of boomers and, according to the National Institute of Senior Centers, more than 11,000 senior centers. (September happens to be Senior Center Month.)

To entice the Forever Young Generation, some centers are offering Zumba dance (mothers and daughters can go together!), book signings, theater programs, painting studios, discussions about sexuality, spirituality, retirement and investing, yoga, tap dancing,  belly dancing, speed dating, jazz concerts, resume writing and wine tastings. The Summit in Grand Prairie, Texas, serves beer, wine and cappuccino.

Top-of-the-line, low-impact exercise equipment, perfect for aging bodies, can even provide an alternative to a fancy health club. Some senior centers have personal trainers. The Lakeville Senior Center in Minnesota, which bills itself for those age 50-plus, costs just $18 for a yearly membership for one  person and $34 for two. Who can beat that?

Mathers-More Than A Café is another non-senior center with a unique concept.  Located in three Chicago neighborhoods, each has a storefront restaurant open to the public of all ages. If you want to take classes or use the facilities, though, you need to be age 55+. The point is to reel you in through the restaurant and then once you're in the building, blow you away with its programming. The Mathers' model has been replicated in more than 20 places around the country.

Many centers have begun changing their names (i.e. The Center for Balanced Living in New York City, The Summit in Texas, and Chicago's Mathers--More Than A Café). The 19 Luzerne County senior centers in northeastern Pennsylvania have officially become "active adult centers."

So, boomers, don't pooh-pooh your senior center. Check out the offerings and get back to me!

Photo courtesy of Paul Swansen via Creative Commons

For more caregiving articles by Sally Abrahms, visit her website and follow her on Twitter.


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