By Peter G. Tamburro, Boomerang staff writer
Over my nearly 25-year career in the aging network, I've visited many senior centers throughout Ohio, celebrating local Senior Citizens Day activities, a new center dedication, someone's 100th birthday or a significant wedding anniversary, and more. Each center is a snowflake, shaped by the unique needs of its community and the diverse talents and preferences of its members and staff. No two are alike, which means there probably is a center out there that can help you find opportunities to grow, thrive and contribute in ways that are meaningful to you.
My first visit was to the London Senior Center, where a group of people was baking cookies. In one corner, there was a high-spirited card game. The commotion continued as all made their way to the dining room for lunch. What impressed me the most was that, in a very inconspicuous way, some people were receiving services at the center to help them remain healthy and independent. For example, staff explained to me that there were few nurses in the area, so the nurses would come to the center to check on multiple people at the same time, making the most of limited resources.
The "modern" senior center has been around since World War II and is still popular with older seniors. These centers offer socialization and nutritious meals, have mental and physical activities and provide creative outlets. Younger elders and baby boomers, however, are not typically attracted to the traditional senior center and aren't looking for a gathering place. Instead, they're looking for an organization that can meet them where they want to be; "senior centers without walls," if you will.
Twenty-first century senior centers organize excursions to casinos, stores, zoos, parks and other recreational activities. They connect with their members online and help them use technology and social media to enhance their lives. Some offer gyms and modern workout equipment, exercise classes and more to keep members healthy and vibrant. They foster relationships with intergenerational activities and provide opportunities to learn and grow.
As our population grows and ages, we older adults will be our most valuable and abundant resource. What if we, the baby boom seniors, approached the centers and offered our service and resources to the older participants? What talents could you contribute?
- Are you a decent cook? See if you can help prepare or serve meals, clean up and assist diners.
- Are you good with a computer? Maybe you can offer to teach other members how to use Facebook, shop online or file their taxes?
- Are you crafty? Maybe you can give a scrapbooking class, show off your woodworking or your fluency in a foreign language.
- Love books? Maybe you can start a book club.
- Are you a good organizer? Lead a community fundraising effort to raise money for a new wing or equipment.
It's wonderful to be part of a generation that has much to offer, and your local senior center can be a wonderful place to share your ideas and energies. Maybe you can help rally the troops and connect your senior center and community with a renewed spirit led by your example. With nearly 500 senior centers in Ohio, it's time for all of us to get started.
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