Key Takeaways

  • The Wood County Committee on Aging (WCCOA) runs eight senior centers in rural Ohio, including the flagship Wood County Senior Center.

  • A recent fraud prevention seminar is part of a national campaign by NCOA and Zelle to promote education and awareness of online scams targeting older adults.

  • WCCOA's YouTube channel gives those who are not able to attend the senior centers access to programs at their convenience.

A one-time roller-skating rink on the Wood County Fairgrounds in Ohio became the first home of the Wood County Senior Center, part of the larger Wood County Committee on Aging (WCCOA) serving older adults throughout the 618 miles of the rural and agricultural county. 

Now, the center is one of eight locations operated by WCCOA, which continues to expand its reach by offering online and in-person programs, services, and support.

What is the history of the Wood County Senior Center?

In 1974, local aging services providers and activists across Wood County began to plan activities for local older adults. In April 1975, federal grant Title III monies were received, and the WCCOA was incorporated. By fall 1975, they had hired a full-time director.  

Wood County Senior Center opened its doors in September 1975 under the sponsorship of the city of Bowling Green, the Wood County Commissioners, and the then-infant WCCOA. The project was administered that first year by the Wood Seneca Ottawa Sandusky Community Action Committee (WSOS) in Fremont and was funded under the Older Americans Act by a grant awarded to the Wood County Commissioners and supplemented by local matching funds.

Who goes to Wood County Senior Center?

More than 1,500 older adults participate at the Wood County Senior Center.  The center provides a variety of programs and services with an average daily attendance of 250 people. The demographics:

  • Approximately 72% female, 28% male
  • A cultural makeup of 60% white, 0.1% Black, 0.5% Hispanic, and 39% unknown 
  • Age ranges from 59 years or younger (less than 2%); 60-64 (74%); 65-74 (39%); 75-84 (27%) of age, and 14% 85 and older (14%)

What goes on at Wood County Senior Center? 

Participants at the center engage in a variety of programs and services. These range from:

  • Games and cards
  • Art therapy, art projects, and crafts
  • Seminars and lunch and learns
  • Hybrid programs offered both online and at the center, such as Name That Tune, Who, What, Where, When and Why, brain games and trivia, evidence-based programming such as Matter of Balance, chronic disease self-management classes, and technology training in various forms, including TED talks

Annual program offerings include: the Great Decisions series; a Foreign Policy Association program; 90 Plus Spectacular (a celebration of those 90 and over in the county); Golden Care Awards held annually in November to highlight caregivers in Wood County; a poetry contest; Arts Abound: Perennial Pursuits (a showcase of artists, singers, dancers, poets, theater performers, and musicians); and many local, national, and  international travel opportunities.  

WCCOA's YouTube channel gives those who are not able to attend the centers access to programs at their convenience. The center also hosts a variety of support groups, legal clinics, podiatry clinics, and much more.   

What is the Wood County Committee on Aging, Inc.?

The Wood County Committee on Aging, Inc. (WCCOA) is a self-incorporated non-profit organization that is committed to providing services to support the independence of older adults throughout the Ohio county. WCCOA provides programs, services, and activities through eight senior centers throughout the county, including its flagship location, the Wood County Senior Center.

Additionally, WCCOA is the Older Americans Act senior nutrition provider for the county, preparing and serving more than 53,000 congregate meals and 156,000 home-delivered meals in 2022 throughout the county thanks to an impressive, stand-alone production kitchen. 

How is the Wood County Committee on Aging funded?

Very early in 1986 WCCOA learned that federal revenue sharing funds to municipalities had been eliminated. This was, actually not unexpected, but it was devastating. By then, nearly 30% of operating costs were being met by revenue sharing funds turned over to WCCOA by the cities and villages in Wood County.  

The Governing Board decided to ask for a .2 mil county-wide tax to go on the ballot in the fall.  Since that time, Wood County voters have supported renewals and increases each time the issue has been placed on the ballot (1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2011, 2016, and 2021).

The current voted millage is .7 mil plus .3 mil additional (effective millage of .87 of one mil), which secures approximately $3.3 million annually for senior programs and services through the Wood County Committee on Aging, Inc.  The tax receipts generated by the levy account for 80% of the total operating budget ($4.1 million annually). The balance of the budget comes from federal and state funds, as well as program donations and other grant sources. 

What does the Wood County Committee on Aging do to help older adults? 

The Mission of the Wood County Committee on Aging, Inc. is to provide older adults with services and programs that empower them to remain independent and improve the quality of their lives. The committee provides a robust array of programs, services and activities to live that mission. Nutrition is a cornerstone of the operation with a daily congregate meal. In addition, the Wood County Senior Center offers regular dinners a few times a week.

WCCOA has grown and diversified programs and services to address the needs identified by and for the older adults throughout the county.

Programs and services are categorized by departments within the Agency and are structured as follows:

  • Social Services Department
    o             Insurance Counseling
    o             Information and Referral
    o             Support Groups (Diabetes, Caregiver, Bereavement, Parkinson’s)
    o             Medical Transportation
    o             Medical Equipment Loan Closet
  • Program Department (Life Enrichment Programs)
    o             Technology Classes
    o             Art Classes
    o             Seminars / Workshops / Discussion Groups
  • Professional Services
    o             Income Tax Assistance
    o             Legal Services
  • Volunteer Opportunities

What are the locations of Wood County senior centers?

From its roller rink beginnings, the old United States Post Office Building in the heart of Bowling Green became the site of the Wood County Senior Center in 1981, leased from the city at a cost of $1 per year. In October 2016, the City of Bowling Green notified WCCOA of their intent to construct a new city administration building on the footprint of the Wood County Senior Center.  With this news, WCCOA leadership explored options of retrofitting existing buildings or to go the route of new construction.

With the city of Bowling Green donating 2.35 acres of land located three blocks from the former location, they opted for new construction. WCCOA undertook a capital campaign, which raised over $1 million in donations for the project. Additionally, WCCOA was successful in applying to the state of Ohio and received $1.6 million in State Capital Project funds for the project. The balance needed for the $7.9 million building project is a secured loan from a local bank.

The construction project began in March 2020 (at the start of the COVID-19 shutdowns).  WCCOA moved into their new state-of the-art home on March 22, 2021. The new Wood County Senior Center opened to the public on June 21, 2021 (once the state of Ohio permitted senior centers to reopen).  

How does WCCOA partner to bring programs to older adults?

The WCCOA collaborates with other entities throughout Wood County (governmental, nonprofit, and for-profit) to provide programs and services to older adults in a large, diverse service area. Examples of these organizations include Wood County Hospital, Bowling Green State University, Job and Family Services, area nursing homes, and the library system.  

At the beginning of 2022, WCCOA launched a new online and in-person learning platform called “LivelyU Lifelong Learning Academy” in partnership with the Bowling Green State University (BGSU) Optimal Aging Institute. The Academy is designed to enhance senior center programming with opportunities for lifelong learning. Academy courses focus on education, engagement, and life enrichment and are facilitated by volunteer instructors with a passion/expertise for their chosen subjects. The majority of the instructors are retired professors from BGSU.

WCCOA drew on their connections in the community recently to provide a financial scam prevention event through a partnership with NCOA and Zelle. The event was held as part of a national campaign by NCOA and Zelle to promote education and awareness of online scams targeting older adults. The event featured a panel of local experts including representatives from a local bank, the Attorney General’s Office, the Senior Medicare Patrol, the Sherrif’s Office and a local business, Computol, and provided scam prevention awareness to more than 50 older adults. 

What does modernizing mean to Wood County Senior Center? 

“Modernizing our senior centers has had a significant impact on our users and the scope of services at our centers,” said Danielle Brogley, Director of Programs for WCCOA. “Understanding that their consumers have many obligations and commitments and may not have daytime access to some of our classes and programs, technology allows evening access, and they can connect with a broader range of older adults.” 

Modernization has included updating the physical structure of the Wood County Senior Center in 2021 as well as expanding online program offerings. 

The goal of expanded programs, Brogley said, is “Supportive and engaging classes and events that allow for self-exploration in a format that allows participants to be authentic and to learn at their convenience.” WWCOA’s YouTube Channel allows educational sessions to be viewed at each person’s convenience and expands access across the state. And the committee shifted to hosting concerts in person to include Facebook Live to provide access to a broader audience through the use of technology.       

Still not a member of the National Institute for Senior Centers? Join today, membership is free. 

If your center has engaged in a recent study or assessment or is trying out some new programming approaches, we’d love to hear about it. And if you haven't already, we'd encourage you to join the National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC). Free to all senior centers (and their personnel), NISC supports senior centers with best practices and innovations in programming, as well as networking and training opportunities. Ask for help, leverage NISC resources, or share your successes like the Wood County Senior Center. Find out how you can become a NISC Affiliate today. 

Photo of prevention of financial scams event at Wood County Senior Center by Dianne Stone