What is a Senior Center?

Sheri Cyprus

A senior center is a place in a community where seniors can gather for support, socialization, fitness and/or other services provided for older people. Senior centers are important as many older people live alone and don't see family members regularly. The resources and activities available at many of today's senior centers help many older people remain a vital part of their communities.

A senior center might offer card playing and other games.
A senior center might offer card playing and other games.

While senior centers vary widely in size and scope of services available, every senior center has regular meetings for members. There may be a small fee required for membership, plus extra fees needed to cover costs for crafts or field trips, but those with a limited income usually receive a discount to make the activities affordable. The main idea behind a senior center is to provide a welcoming environment for all seniors in the community interested in taking part in the group atmosphere.

Senior centers often include outdoor activities.
Senior centers often include outdoor activities.

A senior center may be located within a larger community center complex or it may be in a separate building. It may be completely or partially government-funded or rely mostly on donations to keep going. Volunteers and paid staff may work together to organize the programs, services and activities at seniors centers. The seniors themselves also often volunteer at their center.

A senior center might offer lawn bowling as a pleasant outdoor activity.
A senior center might offer lawn bowling as a pleasant outdoor activity.

Outside activities at a senior center may include lawn bowling while indoor options may include playing cards or other games as well as creating crafts. Dances and other events may be held and outings to casinos or concerts may be arranged. Since many seniors no longer drive, senior centers are often located on a bus route and/or are in the central core of a city or town.

Senior centers may organize shopping trips.
Senior centers may organize shopping trips.

Senior center staff may provide referrals to services for seniors such as meal delivery or home care aide services. Different areas have different types of senior centers. For some seniors, the center may be their only source of socialization with people their own age so a senior center can fulfill a very important role in society.

Senior centers offer creative activities.
Senior centers offer creative activities.
Senior centers may offer classes, such as yoga classes.
Senior centers may offer classes, such as yoga classes.
Senior centers may offer information on how to get reduced cost prescription medications.
Senior centers may offer information on how to get reduced cost prescription medications.

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Discussion Comments


I think that senior centers are a wonderful idea, but how can you be sure that you are choosing the right one? We hear on TV so many times about abuses. How do we make the right call?


Senior centers are not set up to serve today's seniors, except for the most elderly, in their 80s and 90s.

There is just about nothing for people in their 70s--the music is for the much older seniors and so are the activities. The boomer age seniors are left out. Boomer age seniors are mostly educated and the women have worked most of their lives. They want to learn new things and have more sophisticated activities than the very elderly. They do not usually want to play bingo or shuffleboard.

Most senior centers are outdated because they do not serve the needs of the incoming seniors. These new seniors turn away due to the lack of interesting activities and opportunities.


I believe that senior centers are for old idiots. I have seen the people who go. It ages the people. I am 65 and I look like I am 40. I would not go near this place. I hate all the ageism it promotes. I work and will do so for the rest of my life.


I feel senior communities are great for families so they can get some private time to themselves while their loved ones are in a safe, caring place. It also helps to keep families from putting their loved ones in a nursing home.


Senior citizens have a tendency to be lonely and disconnected from the rest of the community. They benefit greatly from gathering places where people their own age can visit and share time together.


I agree that having a place for the elderly and disabled to go to during the day and sometimes taking a field trip, is good for that person and their families. The activities are great for them and their low cost is good for their budget. The centers make it nice to interact with and make friends and is a good outing.


Senior Centers are a great place for seniors to go, they can socialize, and feel needed. And it's a place they can enjoy music and games like bingo. We just need more for our communities.


Senior centers are great for those seniors who want to remain independent and who may have lost a loved one and are alone and have nobody to do anything with. Many seniors who have not previously been involved in such centers may not know they exist and should be encouraged by those local senior centers to attend so that they don't just walk in blindly and feel insecure about being somewhere they've not previously been with or without a spouse or family member.


I agree the senior centers are great for socialization for most seniors. It is also a great help to families or care provider because it allows for a safe and caring place for their senior to go during the day while they work or shop, and the seniors are still able to maintain their independence.


I think that it is great that there are places for senior citizens to go instead of a nursing home.

A senior community is beneficial to the elderly because its a place where they can go and be social and safe at the same time. A problem that senior citizens face is a loss feeling of self worth and loneliness. It would be great for them to be involved with volunteering but if not, it's still good for them to be with other people who might feel the same way.

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