Ten Senior Centers earn NISC accreditation in July
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Ten Senior Centers earn NISC accreditation in July

August 21, 2014

In July, ten senior centers received national accreditation. The accreditation board met on July 10 and July 31 to review the reports.  

On July 10, five senior centers received national accreditation. They included four centers from the city of Albuquerque and one from Groton, CT. On July 31, an additional five senior centers received national accreditation. These included two centers from Delaware County, PA, two from Salt Lake County, UT, and one from Plymouth, MA. 

Albuquerque, NM

The four centers from Albuquerque are part of the second wave of the accreditation process that was begun by the City of Albuquerque’s Department of Senior Affairs in 2011. Three senior centers and one multi-generational center received accreditation in December, 2012. In September, 2012, the managers of the previously accredited centers launched a series of meetings to plan and organize the process for the next four centers. The second wave included Bear Canyon Senior Center, Barelas Senior Center, Highland Senior Center, and North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center. 

All sites in the Albuquerque centers included the following strengths:

  • Dedicated, friendly, and professional staff.
  • Site specific programs are diverse, and members have the option to easily attend programs in the other five senior centers or two multi-generational centers with their membership card.
  • Logo is pleasing and utilized within the centers and on print material to clearly identify individual centers.
  • Ten-Decade Plan for Capital Improvement ensures capital improvements are included in the budgets for the centers’ maintenance.
  • ABQ 50+ Activities Catalog 

Barlas Senior Center 

The Barelas Senior Center opened its doors in early 1970. Over the past 40 plus years, it has undergone several renovations, the most recent one in 2010. The facility has an overall building area of 21,672 square feet and houses the senior center, the Department of Senior Affairs’ administration and fiscal management, case management, and information and referral call center. Share Your Care, a private elder day care, is located in the same building. The middle portion of the building includes the center’s social hall, lobby, four multi-purpose rooms, an exercise room, a billiards room, and a computer lab.  

The center offers an all-inclusive membership fee of $13 per year for anyone over 50 years of age. The average daily attendance is over 300 participants. The center participants are 60% female and 40% male.  

The Peer Reviewers noted the following strengths:

  • Comprehensive volunteer system coordinated by RSVP. Volunteers are utilized as exercise instructors, front desk receptionists, program leaders, health and wellness facilitators, data entry specialists, custodial aides, and van drivers. 
  • Updated facility with adequate space, natural lighting, and sufficient storage. 
  • Site-specific programs are diverse.
  • Transportation is provided for the meal program, as it is a sanctioned meal site. 
  • Social Services and information and referral are provided on-site. 
  • Closing centers for thorough cleaning and staff team building and training

Bear Canyon Senior Center

The Bear Canyon Senior Center is located in the northeast quadrant of Albuquerque in a residential section of the city.  Recently renovated, the center has a clean, fresh appearance that fits well with the surrounding neighborhood. The Bear Canyon senior is a well-educated, older senior. The center has a square footage of 19,771 and consists of five classrooms, a computer lab, a billiards room, a social hall, a multi-purpose room, a full-service kitchen, and five administrative offices. The entrance to Bear Canyon boasts their newest member, Oso Beautiful, a carved wooden bear who serves as the mascot. The Friends of Bear Canyon commissioned the piece and held a “name the bear” contest. The lobby is bright, clean, and well furnished. Display cases along one wall showcase participant artwork including hand-crafted jewelry pieces and ceramic works. 

The Peer Reviewer noted the following strengths:

  • Excellent use of Oso Beautiful mascot and Bear Canyon logo within the building. 
  • Bear Canyon website is easy to navigate and up-to-date. An asset in an emerging technology with savvy senior population. 
  • The center is closed twice yearly for a week at a time for a thorough cleaning and team building of center staff. This gives the center time to touch up and refresh spaces in addition to giving the staff time to plan, organize, and draft future center opportunities. 
  • Friends of Bear Canyon are an enthusiastic, dedicated group of 24 motivated to make sure Bear Canyon has the essential supplies (i.e. playing cards, pool cues, window treatments, new piano, etc.) The group fund raises throughout the year in a variety of ways (restaurant discount, ArtFest, Flea Market). 

Highland Senior Center

The Highland Senior Center is located in the NE quadrant of the City and began operations in 1980. The Center is 10,400 square feet and consists of 6 classrooms, a computer lab, a library, a billiards area, a social hall, a full-service kitchen, and an administrative area, including two private offices. The interior is warm, well lit, and inviting.  The center is open 53 hours, including Wednesday evenings and Saturdays, with an estimated daily attendance of 305.  

The center offers a wide array of programming, including but not limited to health and wellness programming, art classes, ceramics, painting, quilting, computer classes, games, and exercise. In addition, the Highland Senior Center offers special event programming, day trips, and hiking tours. The Center offers a breakfast and lunch for a nominal fee, but is not a designated meal site.  

The Peer Reviewer noted the following strengths:

  • Comprehensive volunteer system coordinated by RSVP. Volunteers are utilized as exercise instructors, front desk receptionists, program leaders, health and wellness facilitators, data entry specialists, custodial aides, and van drivers. 
  • Updated facility with adequate space, natural lighting, and sufficient storage. 
  • Emergency Suitcase filled with first-aid, flashlights, and other safety needs stored in the Senior  Vans. 

North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center

The North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center is located in the Northeast quadrant of the city and is the newest DSA facility. “The multigenerational concept represents the ultimate streamlining of community programming by potentially eliminating the need of building separate buildings for separate populations, thereby leveraging taxpayer dollars more efficiently and utilizing public facilities more effectively.” Usage for the 50+ population is primarily during the day time, with the facility changing over to a younger user in the late afternoon. The over 40,000 square foot two-story building features a computer cafe, a computer room, a game room, classrooms, outdoor decks/patios, an aerobic room, a card/table games room, a fitness center, and community rooms.

The Peer Reviewer noted the following strengths:

  • Use of center logo throughout the building. 
  • Excellent use of center closing time to team build, strategize, and plan for future events and programs. 
  • Commitment to ‘green building’ designation by minimizing paper use. Directing users to the website for information offers the opportunity for staff to assist novice computer users at the convenient computer café. 
  • The North Domingo Baca website is easy to navigate is updated daily to ensure the accuracy of calendared events. 

Groton, CT

Groton Senior Center

The Groton Senior Center is located in the town of Groton, Connecticut situated on Long Island Sound and the Thames River, and is known as the “Submarine Capitol of the World.”  This suburban town has more than 40,000 residents. The Town includes divisions of Pfizer and General Dynamics, the Avery Point campus of the University of Connecticut, and the U.S. Naval Base New London. This mixture provides for a diverse population which includes military members, students, and technically trained, as well as blue collar workers.

The Groton Senior Center is a municipally funded center which has been in operation for 33 years. For the past four years, it has been in this newly renovated and constructed 35,000 square foot building. It is open to all residents and non-residents age 55+. In 2013, approximately 2,500 people took advantage of the services of the center.  

The Peer Reviewer noted the following strengths:

  • Facility: beautiful décor, great floor plan, spacious and clean, plenty of parking; lots of seating for conversation throughout the Center; Electronic bulletin board of events outside.  nternet Café in lobby is cutting edge.
  • Highly qualified and trained staff. Comprehensive policy and procedure manual.
  • Programming highlights: Excellent range and diversity of programs. Excellent pricing and cost analysis of programs. Many evidence-based programs in health and fitness, and health services. Fitness Center is state-of-the-art. Boot Camp for Boomers series is a great idea. The Barbershop and Hair Salon is a nice service!  The Hobby Lobby Gift Shop is impressive, with great merchandise and excellent displays.
  • Senior Citizen Club 55 is a wonderful asset!  
  • “Elegant Dinner Delivery Program” is a model of community collaboration for the homebound.
  • Transportation program is multi-faceted and diverse; something is available for everyone.
  • Financial support from the town.

Delaware County, PA

Hometown Senior Center and Havertown Center are two of five locations under the umbrella of Surrey Services for Seniors in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.  Another one of their centers, Surrey House in Berwyn, is also an accredited senior center.  Surrey was awarded the contract to manage Havertown Center by the Delaware County Office of Services for the Aging (COSA) in 2011. Surrey was founded in Delaware County in 1981 as a private, non-profit organization based on the concept of neighbors helping neighbors. From its inception, Surrey provided transportation, home and community based services, and an array of activities hosted in various sites around the community. 

The Peer Reviewers noted the following strengths:

  • Talented corporate staff and strong board commitment.
  • Stellar reputation in the community.
  • Impressive core values and commitment to mission.
  • Solid financial footing.
  • Business Plan.
  • Strong Evaluation Plan.
  • Attractive marketing materials and Volunteer Handbook.
  • Comprehensive Crisis Management Plan.
  • Good representation on community boards.

Surry at Havertown

Surrey at Havertown is located in a residential, suburban, unincorporated community approximately nine miles west of the center of Philadelphia. Center programs are located on the ground floor of the former Brookline Elementary School, an old, beautiful stone building.  This space is approximately 8,000 square feet. The upper floors are used for a pre-school, kindergarten, and school administrative offices. 

The center provides meals, transportation, health and wellness programming, arts and humanities classes, recreational activities, intergenerational programming, and counseling. The center is routinely open 40 hours per week, as well as two Monday evenings a month. Last year, the center served 1,033 individuals. 

The Peer Reviewers noted the following strengths:

  • Spirit of the center, staff friendliness, care, and outreach.
  • Strong volunteer commitment.
  • Program diversity.
  • Strong collaborative partners.
  • Attractive member artwork exhibited throughout center.

Surrey at Hometown

Surrey at Hometown Senior Center, located in the borough of Media, Pennsylvania, is the County seat of Delaware County and is located approximately twelve miles west of the center of Philadelphia. 

The center is located on the first floor of the Media Fellowship House building. The Victorian style building is located in a residential neighborhood. The center is routinely open 40 hours per week and is occasionally open on Tuesdays or Thursday evenings.  The center also has monthly off-site evening events. Last year, the center served 602 individuals.

The Peer Reviewers noted the following strengths:

  • Warm, friendly, highly respected staff who are open to suggestions from members, community, volunteers, and funders.
  • Members extend a warm welcome to each member who comes in the front door.
  • Volunteer efforts of the staff in the community are notable.
  • Creative programming off-site at Upper Providence Library and School District Night School.
  • Strong Volunteer Pool, which includes high school students.
  • Well established and highly regarded Peer Counseling Program.

Salt Lake County, UT

The Aging Services Division of Salt Lake County government, Utah is designated as the local Area Agency on Aging. Their purpose is to consolidate resources and establish programs for seniors in order for them to maintain their independence and dignity. The Aging Services Division embarked on a county wide process to obtain National Senior Center Accreditation for fifteen senior centers in Salt Lake County.

L. Clark Cushing Heritage Senior Center

The L. Clark Cushing Heritage Senior Center, or Heritage Center, is located in the city of Murray, Utah (47,000 residents), which is in Salt Lake County and adjacent to Salt Lake City.  When Salt Lake County Aging Services announced that the Salt Lake County Senior Centers would be completing the national accreditation process, the Heritage Center, an independent center funded and operated by Murray, decided the process would be beneficial and joined area colleagues.

The center is part of the city’s Park and Recreation Department and located in a lovely neighborhood with surrounding park areas and easy access. The center, presently 15,586 square feet, opened 33 years ago and was expanded in 1989 to include a wing for recreational activities. The center serves the entire county with many seniors 55. The center serves approximately 1700 seniors. There are no membership fees to attend the center. Daily average attendance is 141 and varies depending on the programs. The center is very vibrant and busy, with multiple activities in each area for participants and with staff who are most welcoming and attentive. 

The Peer Reviewers noted the following strengths:

  • Commitment to mission statement—the mission statement of the center as well as the city of Murray’s mission statement is prominently displayed throughout the senior center and in publications.
  • The center has highly qualified and compassionate staff. 
  • Great facility and well used. The senior center building is surrounded by a park. The facility is clean, well lit, and inviting. The rooms are utilized for multi-use activities as well as meetings. And a beautiful, recently renovated outdoor patio was well utilized for summer brunches and outdoor special lunches.
  • Three-tier document of self-assessment results, strategic plan, themes, and goals.
  • Scholarship program to assist participation.
  • Wide range of programs – the center has numerous community partners, which is shown through their many and varied programs, as well as special events. Their program with the University of Utah physical fitness students is a model.

River’s Bend Senior Center

River’s Bend Senior Center is located on the west side of Salt Lake City in the older neighborhood of Rose. The center was founded in 1970 as the Northwest Multipurpose Center.  The senior center shared space with the community center for years. In 2008, the senior center was remodeled into the River’s Bend Senior Center. The center is part of the Salt Lake County Active Aging Program.  The center averages 46 participants a day.

The Peer Reviewers noted the following strengths:

  • The center is in the heart of the long established and diverse Rose Park neighborhood.
  • The staff is very much appreciated and they are dedicated to the agency’s mission and are quite attentive to all participants.
  • There is a great group of loyal volunteers, which assist in assuring varied programs are available.
  • The center has found success at extending program hours in the evening and seeing an increase in the number of participants.
  • The staff works with the other county senior centers in exchanging ideas and uses a “Hot Topics” agenda during meetings to report on what is new at the center.
  • The center presented a well done summary notebook with self-assessment worksheets followed by action steps for everyone to be able to follow, work with, and observe achievements.

Plymouth, MA

Plymouth Council on Aging Senior Center

The Plymouth Council on Aging Senior Center is located in the Town of Plymouth, Massachusetts with a population of approximately 57,350 residents, which includes approximately 10,000 persons over 60. This historic, coastal town is south east of Boston.  Home of the famous Plymouth Rock, the town is very proud of its history and heritage. The town is a popular tourist attraction due to its location and historic significance.

Established in 1972, the center was originally in the basement of the town hall and later moved to several other spaces. In December of 2012, the grand opening was held in the newly constructed 18,000 square foot building. It is located in proximity to several other municipal buildings. Most participants are over age 59, but younger people are welcome. The center has an average daily attendance of 95 participants. 

The Peer Reviewers noted the following strengths:

  • New building in an excellent location with beautiful interior and exterior space, which is linked to a high school, allowing for excellent visibility and encouraging intergenerational programming.
  • Good support from the town decision and policy makers, Council on Aging, and Friends of the Senior Center Association. 
  • Very inclusive strategic planning and self-assessment process, with a plan to review and evaluate progress on a regular basis.
  • The staff is very experienced, dedicated, and enthusiastic with great ideas for programming and collaborations.
  • Broad-based programming that is constantly evolving, along with great use of marketing techniques.
  • A passion for intergenerational programming with a plan to expand opportunities. Of particular note is the collaboration with the court system for the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program, as well as the collaborations with the schools, including the pilot lunch program and a planned senior project mentoring program.
  • Extensive community connections and collaborations. It is apparent that a lot effort has been placed by the staff to look for every opportunity to partner to bring new and improved services.
  • Very active volunteer program and a commitment to volunteers, which is evidenced by having a dedicated staff Volunteer Coordinator.

NISC offers the only National Senior Center Accreditation Program. Accreditation provides official recognition that a senior center meets the nine national standards of senior center operations. Maybe it is time to assess your center through the National Standards and workbook and then pursue National Senior Center Accreditation. The manual and self-assessment notebook are a member benefit.  


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