Inspiration for Senior Centers
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Inspiration for Senior Centers

October 16, 2013

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What do you get when you attend a conference? Time to imagine new possibilities, find great ideas, become inspired, and feel rejuvenated. 

That's what happened for attendees at Senior Centers 2013: Where Do We Grow from Here? in Sturbridge, MA Oct. 2-4.

MCOA President David Stevens

NISC Chair-Elect Sue Getman, Current Chair Carol Reagan, and NISC Program Manager Maureen O'Leary

NCOA President & CEO Jim Firman with Sharon Lally, Director of Rochester Senior Center, which recently earned NISC National Senior Center Accreditation

ICAA President Colin Milner

Participants at a special workshop on NCOA's new Aging Mastery Program 

NCOA collaborated with the Massachusetts Association of Councils on Aging (MCOA) to promote an affordable national senior center conference. More than 700 attendees, speakers, and exhibitors representing 25 states from Alaska to Maine attended the conference.

“The conference was a great opportunity to meet senior center representatives from around the country, share best practices, and hear from national experts in aging,” said Carol Reagan, NISC Chair. 

Attendees could take advantage of 91 workshops, two field trips to area senior centers, four plenary sessions, and many opportunities to network. 

The conference workshops were as varied as the presenters. During one session on Thursday, participants could: explore Models of Service Delivery from Salt Lake County Aging Services, UT; learn how to develop a Community Leadership Program from Tallahassee Senior Services; and find workshops on the Spiritual Issues of Dying, Mental Health, a New Healthy Aging Website, longevity, and a statewide coalition of public health organizations.

And that was only one hour of the conference! You were lucky if you brought other staff to divide and reap the wealth of information shared.

Conference Highlights

Senior center professionals also had time to step back and see the big picture during the plenary sessions: 

  • James Firman, NCOA’s President & CEO, talked about "Creating the New Generation of Senior Centers: A Strategy Guide for All of Us." He inspired the opening day audience with real-world suggestions for broadening their reach, the national perspective, and tools to reinvent their centers, in the way they present programming, along with empowering healthy aging and economic security. 

  • Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council of Active Aging, gave us a lot to think about during his session “Building the Foundation for Active Aging.”  He presented an international perspective on aging and led us through ICAA’s Nine Principles of Active Aging, which form a guide to educate professionals on our aging population.  

  • James Arena-DeRosa, Northeast Regional Administrator for the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services, spoke about the “Hidden Hunger Among our Senior Citizens" and presented tools to address the issue.

A Win-Win for Everyone

Sometimes the most value from conferences happens by chance. You meet someone new at lunch or when chatting as you walk to your next workshop, and you discover a programming gem.

Past NISC/NCOA leaders Christine Beatty, Bob Pitman, and Jill Jackson-Ledford took the chance out of it during their “Ask the Experts” session. They demonstrated the value of a chat with experienced professionals and the varied approaches they take with the issues of running a senior center.

The collaboration between MCOA and NCOA was a win-win. MCOA is a model for state associations in the country. They were able to run a comprehensive conference that would appeal to a national audience. 

This success was due in no small part to Executive Director David Stevens, who works to secure senior center funding at the state level and organizes an association that delivers high-level training. He has a vision for his organization and, more importantly, for the people involved. He listens. He is there for those directors who are struggling, along with empowering those who are at the right stage in their careers to share their talents. We thank him and his colleagues for hosting such an impressive event.  

Where will “Senior Centers 2014” be held? Several state associations have expressed interest in hosting this event. As we are evaluate the possibilities, be on the lookout. You may find the next national senior center conference in your own backyard!