Each September we take time to celebrate our nation’s senior centers. The 2022 National Senior Center Month theme, Strengthening Community Connections, highlights the valuable role senior centers play in serving as vital hubs in the community that link older adults with critical programs and services. At ACL, we recognize senior centers as partners in supporting the health and independence of older adults – and harnessing the power and potential of their contributions to the community.
Senior centers offer nutrition and health promotion programs, including many that have been proven by research to be effective. They provide information about – and referral to – services, activities, and programs in the community. Many are even focal points for benefits enrollment. Finally, senior centers provide social engagement opportunities for older adults, which we know is critically important in supporting overall health and wellness. All of this is provided in a convenient and friendly environment.
Senior centers are forward thinkers and innovators. That was clearly demonstrated as they quickly developed creative solutions to continue to provide services during the pandemic. For example, many senior centers continued to provide meals by distributing them through carry out and drive-through pickup. They offered virtual socialization and health promotion programs through smart device technology and friendly reassurance calls. As restrictions allowed, they found ways to use outdoor seating to begin to bring people together in person.
As a nation, we are witnessing an incredible demographic transformation. The number of older adults is growing rapidly, and rapidly becoming more diverse. In addition, we are continuing to grapple with the long-term effects of the pandemic. Senior centers have been stretched thin as they have adapted and innovated to meet the needs in their communities that are growing and evolving as a result. ACL recognizes the importance of supporting senior centers as they provide crucial services to an increasingly diverse older adult population, while also providing opportunities for older adults to contribute to their communities in new and innovative ways. Last year, we were pleased to establish a Modernizing Senior Centers Resource Center that is working to ensure senior centers have the tools necessary to continue their important work in an ever-changing landscape.
Senior centers truly make a difference. At ACL, we look forward to continuing to work with the Aging Network, including senior centers, as we explore opportunities for older adults to live and thrive in their communities.