Key Takeaways

  • Today’s senior center is a vibrant, action-packed combination of local fitness center, job and volunteering headquarters, transportation hub, and tasty dining locale.

  • Thousands of senior centers across the country serve 1 million adults age 50 and older.

  • Check out your local senior center to see what it has to offer.

What do you think of when someone says the words senior center? 

Do you picture older people (much older than you, of course) sitting around playing bingo and shuffleboard? Eating bland meals while a television is blaring?

It's time to update your vision! Senior centers are not what they used to be. Today’s senior center is a vibrant, action-packed combination of local fitness center, job and volunteering headquarters, transportation hub, and tasty dining locale. Here are a few things things you might discover about a senior center in your community.

Most senior centers are for anyone age 50+

You don’t have to be on Medicare to take advantage of all the great opportunities at your local senior center. Today, more than 10,000 senior centers serve 1 million older adults age 50+ every day.

Approximately 70% of senior center participants are women. Three-quarters visit their center one to three times per week and spend an average of 3.3 hours per visit.

Research shows that compared with their peers, senior center participants have higher levels of health, social interaction, and life satisfaction.

Senior centers don’t just offer card games.

Sure, cards are available (and fun and challenging). But most senior centers offer far more than that—everything from trips and special events to fine arts and crafts, music and dance, lifelong learning, and fitness and health programs. Just check out these examples:

  • The Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center has its own television studio. Senior Center TV covers what’s happening at the center and produces original programs on nature, politics, and community life. Center performances, concerts, and lectures are recorded and broadcast for people who can’t attend in person.
  • The Bowie, Maryland, Senior Center invited the community to hear 20 published authors read from their works during a Book Lovers Expo. Participants also could purchase books and have them signed by the author.
  • Verona Senior Center in Verona, Wisconsin, hosts competitive Wii bowling teams, offers caregiver support groups and respite programs, and maintains a computer lab with Internet connections for public use.

Senior centers: A great place to find work and volunteering opportunities

Older adults who are looking for a part-time job to supplement their retirement income would do well to check out their local senior center. Many offer job training and placement programs.

In Columbus, Indiana, the Mill Race Center links older workers with a nearby private staffing business to help them land part-time, temporary, or full-time employment.

Senior centers are also a great place to find volunteering opportunities. At the Dallas L. Winchester Senior Center in Wabash, Indiana, older adults run the Community Cupboard Food Pantry, distributing 223,258 pounds of food to needy families every year.

The City of Madison/Madison Senior Services in Wisconsin has a successful volunteer program called CATCH Healthy Habits that pairs older adults with children to encourage healthier eating and physical activity.

Senior centers: A great place to get healthy

Health and fitness are where senior centers have really expanded in recent years. In addition to traditional programs like aerobics, Zumba, yoga, and Tai Chi, many senior centers now offer evidence-based health programs that have been scientifically proven to make people healthier.

One example is A Matter of Balance, a program that gives people practical tips to reduce the fear of falling. Another is the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, which helps people with conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis learn how to reduce their symptoms, eat well, and communicate with their doctors.

Many senior centers also offer regularly scheduled blood pressure and glucose screenings that can replace tedious trips to a medical clinic for those simple procedures.

Get to know your local senior center!