“I don’t need to go to the senior center. All they do is sit around playing BINGO, waiting to die.”
Back in the day that may have been true, but today’s senior centers provide a haven for seniors that offers guests so much more than merely ‘killing time.’ This environment satisfies essential components that improve the quality of life for our older loved ones, and many would be lost without it. If your aged loved one lives at home and isn’t currently visiting the local senior center, why not? Here are six reasons why your local senior center is the coolest place in town.
It Provides Social Interaction
Everyone needs somebody to care about them, and people to care about. Loneliness and depression are prevalent among those 65 and older. In an article recently published on agingcare.com, Anne-Marie Botek explores what she calls “The Elder Loneliness Epidemic.” She refers to a study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco, which found that 18 percent of seniors live alone, and 43 percent of those surveyed report feeling lonely.
The study also found that lonely seniors are more likely to decline and die faster with 45 percent of those 65 and older who reported feeling lonely experiencing a 45 percent increase in their risk of death, and 59 percent showed a greater risk of mental and physical decline compared to those who were more social. These startling statistics highlight the need for seniors to enjoy normal, everyday interaction with others.
Sometimes an older adult may feel the world has moved on without her. Technology has surpassed her, and media tends to focus on younger demographics. A visit to a senior center is a pleasant reminder that a support system exists, and it is comprised of people who share similar interests and life experiences. This may be all that is needed to improve mental health.
Related link: The secrets to a long life aren’t very secret
It Provides Friendships
The advice we heard on our very first day of kindergarten applies throughout life: people are just as anxious to make new friends as you. Feeling welcome in an environment filled with people of close age and interests is the ideal opportunity for friendships to develop. Your loved one knows his family loves and cares about him, but being able to visit with someone who can relate or empathize with his stage of life is a unique and special gift.
It Provides Purpose
As an adult granddaughter, my conversations with my grandmother consisted mainly of hearing her doctor’s appointment schedule. Sadly, visiting the doctor was her reason for getting up in the morning.
In an article by Angela Markus for jumblejoy.com, she refers to a video featuring a 98-year old woman named Mary. Mary is a dedicated visitor to her local senior center and has come to rely on the support and companionship the people at the center share with her every day.
“Mary reminds us that people her age are sometimes forgotten about because their offspring are all preoccupied with their lives. But the truth is, these precious beings are still very much alive.”
Our elderly loved ones deserve a purpose and access to an improved quality of life that visiting a senior center or program provides. Doctor visits are important, but so are lunch dates, games, classes, concerts, exercise classes, and other activities that a day at a senior center often hosts.
It Provides a Nutritious Meal
For many seniors, having a meal may be the only time they spend at a senior center, but that is time well spent. An article by the Mayo Clinic staff points out that there are many factors that contribute to malnutrition in our elderly population.
Factors such as a limited budget can make grocery shopping for nutritious foods difficult, and health challenges or diet may make eating difficult or seem unimportant. The social contact that once made meals a pleasant experience is also absent.
Most senior centers that offer meals are educated on the general nutritional needs of its guests and adjust the menu to accommodate those dietary restrictions. Moreover, mealtime is an extremely social event, offering guests a wonderful opportunity to establish friendships, engage in casual conversation, and catch up on all the latest gossip over dessert and coffee. Family members can find comfort in knowing their loved one is being provided a meal every day.
It Provides a Caring Environment
While most senior centers are limited on what kind of medical care they can provide, the staff is fully capable of advocating for the overall health and wellness of their guests. For example, the staff can make a note of a regular guest who has been missing for a few days. Are they ill? If so, are they receiving care?
Through conversation, the staff can learn whose home is properly heated during the colder months, who is missing their family, who received discouraging news at their last appointment, or who is struggling with tasks that didn’t use to be a problem. The staff at a senior center becomes the “eyes and ears” for their elderly guests and can help when needed.
It Provides Exposure and Experience
There is much fun to be had at a senior center, but many programs also pride themselves on providing practical, helpful activities that further a senior’s learning and skill level. Yes, senior centers are famous for dominating the Wii league bowling circuit, but centers often teach classes on computers and using social media. Others offer exercise and fitness classes, book clubs, concerts, plays, potluck lunches, music time, art, and many other activities based on common interests. Taking advantage of the events scheduled at the nearby senior center provides opportunities that wouldn’t normally be available for your loved one.
So yes, there is BINGO at the senior center. But your local center offers so much more than that for your elderly loved one. It reinforces the value of social interaction and establishing friendships, having a purpose and knowing you matter, enjoying a meal with friends and spending time learning new things and experiences. Today’s senior centers provide outlets that are often life-changing for those who seek it out. You will discover what many of its guests have known all along—today’s senior center truly is a cool place to be.