Some of the first senior centers were created in the early 60s as a place for aging individuals to gather to socialize with one another. Now, not only do most large cities have a number of senior centers available for the elderly, most small towns have established a place to gather as well. After my mother’s death in 2004, one of the first things we did as a family was encourage my father to start attending the local senior center luncheons held three times a week. He also went along on a couple of daytrips and seemed to enjoy himself.
Because he lived in the small town since 1962 and in the area for much longer than that, he knew many of the men and women who attended the luncheons. Having a regular schedule for meeting with friends gave him something to look forward to and helped him get through the grieving process.
However, you may not be familiar with your loved ones local senior center or you may have several to choose from depending on where you live. You also may wonder where the best center is for your aging parent to attend. There are a couple of things you may want to consider in choosing a senior center for your mom or dad.
Finding a Senior Center
A senior center functions to help aging individuals cope with their daily needs, as well as provide activities, entertainment and counseling for a renewed sense of well-being. If you are unfamiliar with the local centers, the first step to locating one would be to search your local phone book. There is a special section with pages for the community that includes all resources for senior citizens.
View the county or city web site for the community where you belong. Several web sites include a specific section for aging individuals, complete with information regarding local resources. Find the regional and local area agency on aging. These groups contain a lot of information and helpful resources for seniors. Request for a complete list of centers found in your area or community.
Searching for the Right Place
Once you have a couple of places that might be of interest, you can call the agency supporting the center and arrange for a tour with the directors of the senior center. These individuals can show you all the facilities and let you know what events are available. Many senior centers also publish a newsletter that provides information and can help you see how active the center is.
It is recommended that you consider location as a factor in choosing the right senior center. If you plan to drop off your parent or grandparent when they want to attend activities, it will be to your advantage if you live nearby. In some cases, volunteers will come to your loved one’s home to pick them up and drop them off after the activity if they do not have transportation.
Assessing the Available Services
Check the different programs available and compare the physical appearance of the choices you are considering. It is important that the place has all the right amenities that the senior citizen personally prefers. If your loved one is suffering from a disease or disability, make sure the center knows. If they need to follow a specific diet such as a diabetic diet, it is important that those who order the food know of their special needs.
Make sure the senior center has followed all safety guidelines including handrails, wheelchair accessibility, elevators if located on an upper or lower floor, etc. Accidents and emergencies should be attended to immediately through a prepared backup plan and ready-to-use equipment.
Finding a local senior center for your aging loved one will help them feel they are part of the community even if they are no longer able to get out as much as they used to. It is especially fulfilling for those who have lived in the area for a long time as they are more likely to know at least some of the other attendees. And, you can rest assured that your parent is enjoying an outing with other seniors.