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Blessing in Disguise : How Senior Centers Can Help Caregivers & Seniors

Rita Dichele - November 22, 2010 12:53 PM

The senior center is a community program that is made available to individuals age 60 and older and those who are disabled. Typically, communities have a designated space to accommodate a senior center program.  In many instances, the center is a standalone building. Most senior centers are run by the town and the day-to-day operations are typically overseen by a director and the director’s staff which may consist of paid and volunteer individuals. 

In essence, the Senior Center is often thought of as a place for older adults to gather, perhaps, to play cards, bowl, shoot pool, eat lunch, watch a movie, or even a place to discuss world affairs.  But, it is also a place that can provide access to the valuable resources in the community that benefits the older adult.

In fact, the senior center has a great deal to offer which is often not known to the senior community, especially for the family caregiver. The senior center can be, however, a valuable resource for the older adult, providing a window of opportunity for aging successfully.   

Historically, the concept of the senior center evolved from the original Older Americans Act in 1965 which was enacted for the benefit the older population age 60 or older.  The senior center was established to provide programs, services, and supports that would enable the older adult to remain in the home, which is often referred to as “aging in place”.  Some of the resources, also known as “focal point services”, include but not limited to, are:

Meal and nutrition programs:

On site

Meals on wheels (meals are available daily to be delivered to the home)


Information and Assistance:


Referral information:




Support Groups

Elder Abuse Protective Services

Healthcare Insurance

Medicare/Medicaid Counseling

V.A. Agent (available to answer questions related to benefits for the veteran and family  members)


Health, Fitness & Wellness Programs

Diabetes screening

Cholesterol screening

Blood pressure monitoring

Fall prevention



Belly dancing

Gentle aerobic exercising


Transportation Services

Vans/mini busses available to pick up older adults for:

Medical appointments

Grocery shopping


Hair appointments

Other relevant activities


Outreach services (programs available in the community for low income individuals)

SNAP (food and nutrition assistance)

Fuel Assistance

Senior Housing

Case Management (arrangements made for home health care)

Personal Care Attendants


Intergenerational Programs

Social/Recreational Activities


Educational Classes

Computer Learning

Special Topics of Interest


Cultural Activities:

Art shows



Employment Assistance

Volunteer Opportunities

Essentially, the senior center is a gateway to the services that can enhance the older adult’s life as well as sustain quality of living in a place of choice.  Research supports the concept that community resources can help the older adult cope with the emotional void that often results during a life transition or event that disrupts the flow of day-to-day living.  It is a valuable community resource for older adults, not only to socialize with other older adults, but to remain in their homes in lieu of institutional care such as a skilled nursing facility, assisted living program, rest home, or adult day health. 

Overall, the senior center can provide the necessary means to guarantee older adults peace of mind that there exists a place where they can get help in order to live independent lives.

Rita Dichele holds Masters’ degrees in Counseling and Healthcare Administration.  Currently, she is an advanced doctoral learner at Capella University where she is writing her dissertation on successful aging.  Rita resides in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts and serves as a board member on the Council on Aging. She is a town appointee for the Shrewsbury Cultural Council, facilitates two groups at the Shrewsbury Senior Center, and is a certified SHINE Medicare/Medicaid counselor.  Rita is also a past presenter at the 2009 American Society on Aging Conference.

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