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March 2010
 

Meeting the Needs of "Younger Seniors"
The Challenge for Ohio's Senior Centers

Senior centers are one of the most widely used services developed by the Older Americans Act of 1965. Each of Ohio's more than 450 full- and part-time senior centers are organized locally and have staff and programs that uniquely reflect the diversity of the people they serve.

Ohio's Senior Centers

As a new generation redefines retirement, senior centers are evolving. A handful of studies show that those younger than 65 say they are too busy to use senior centers, but their main reason for staying away often is the stigma associated with aging and the belief that centers do not add value to their lives.

Many senior centers are working against the stereotype that they are just places for old people to hang out. Competition for the younger senior market has inspired centers to adapt and help a broader range of older adults use their considerable skills and knowledge to improve their lives and maintain their independence, while also providing opportunities for them to contribute to their communities.

Increasingly, senior centers offer healthy and active aging programs, such as fitness activities, chronic disease management and falls prevention. According to the National Council on Aging, participation in senior center programming is leading to the effective management and delayed onset of chronic disease, as well as measurable outcomes for physical, social, spiritual, emotional, mental and economic well-being.

Because today's seniors expect to continue to work after they reach retirement age, some senior centers help older adults connect with meaningful career and volunteer opportunities through classes and workshops, even offering these classes at night, after work. As a community focal point, senior centers are uniquely positioned to help increase seniors' access to valuable benefits and resources, guiding them through the Social Security and Medicare systems. Centers help to educate people about local and federal issues, providing both meeting places and materials so that their members can become better informed.

Senior centers can function as the hub of a social network. Some centers have created coffee shops or cafes inside their facilities to encourage members to socialize. By thinking outside of their facility, for example, by forming a dining club that samples various community restaurants, centers also help older adults connect socially.

And, senior centers now are using technology to attract older adults. In addition to computer labs and Internet classes, centers are moving beyond paper newsletters to let their communities know about their programs and services. Web sites and social networking pages are increasingly popular ways for centers to publicize their events.

Funding, as always, is an issue, but studies have found that younger seniors are willing to pay for quality programs that meet their needs. By conducting regular surveys and asking people want they want, centers can assure they remain relevant and continue to meet the needs of their communities.

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Network News

State ends waiting list for senior in-home care programs
Gov. Ted Strickland ordered $490,924 to be shifted to PASSPORT and other home and assisted-living programs to eliminate waiting lists that have swelled to nearly 600. A transfer of $4.8 million more is subject to approval of the state Controlling Board on March 8. About 5,000 Ohioans have been on waiting lists for home-based services since July. Currently, 592 are waiting for services. The state has been filling 500 slots a month.

Profile of Older Americans
About 3.7 million elderly persons were below the poverty level in 2008, according to the Profile of Older Americans: 2009, a new report from the U.S. Administration on Aging. Social Security constituted 90 percent or more of the income received by 35 percent of all beneficiaries. Other highlights include: More than one in eight of the U.S. population is age 65 and older, and the age 85 and older population is projected to increase by 36 percent, from 4.2 million in 2000 to 5.7 million in 2010, and then to 6.6 million in 2020 - a 15 percent increase for that decade.