With 33.76 square miles of land and only just over 5000 residents, Rochester, is a quiet, rural community in Southeastern Massachusetts. Its beautiful, open spaces reflect its history as a farming community. The town’s center, a lovely New England Commons is just a quarter of a mile from the Senior Center. The census reports that there are 1017 residents sixty and above making up roughly 20% of town’s population. This is the Senior Center’s fourth accreditation.

The center was built approximately 18 years ago and serves as both the senior center and a public meeting place. The building is located adjacent to park space and the local police department. There is no senior housing or subsided housing in town and no public transportation besides the 3 vans operated by the Council on Aging (total of 43 hours weekly – staffed with part time drivers.) The building is very easily found due to great use of signage leading to the facility. The building is an attractive, well maintained structure with great use of natural lighting and traditional décor, senior artwork and furnishings combining for an inviting and welcoming atmosphere. The parking is ample on a regular day, but problematic on a busy day or for large functions.

The senior center provides a wide variety of programs and services for seniors. With limited space available, the center makes the most of the space that they have, using the conference room in the Police Station for their French Conversation Group and a small studio down the street for their chair yoga classes when needed. The staff have an open-door policy, use surveying and have a program advisory group to create, enhance and adapt programming. They have a good range of multilevel fitness/wellness programs including evening programming. They have numerous collaborative programming efforts as well. The peer reviewer noted these four areas:

  1. The breakfast program which is volunteer run, serves all ages and is a wonderful collaboration between the Friends of the Senior Center and the local Lion’s club group.
  2. An excellent volunteer program which provides a large portion of the programming in the center and raises both public awareness and funds to support programming.
  3. The two day a week (when congregate meals are not available) lunch program which is coordinated, prepared and served by self-directed volunteer teams and open to the public. Amazing meals and wonderful marketing tool for the community!
  4. The fitness program that includes equipment which they got for an extremely low price from a facility that was closing. In a small, rural community this is meeting a need for low impact fitness program. This is also complimented by a variety of other fitness programs offered at the center.

The Peer Reviewer notes the following strengths of the senior center:

  • Well maintained building with plans to expand both building and parking in the future. The building is well cared for with nice interior and exterior space and has excellent visibility in the community.
  • Good support from the town decision and policy makers, Council on Aging Friends group  and the community at large.
  • The director is very experienced, dedicated and enthusiastic with great ideas for programming and collaborations.
  • Broad-based programming that is constantly evolving. They have really maximized the limited space that they have available for programming.
  • Fantastic meal program with high end food at a reasonable price. An excellent collaborative effort with volunteers and the Lions Club. This program is truly a model program!
  • Extensive community connections and collaborations. It is apparent that a lot of effort has been placed by the staff to look for every opportunity to partner to bring in new and improved services.
  • Very active volunteer program and a commitment to volunteers.
  • Creative programming ideas abound, love the summer cookouts, breakfast program, fitness room, and volunteer driving lunch program that are all open to the community!
  • Great Evaluation Plan and a separate volunteer advisory group that is responsible

Rochester Council on Aging and Senior Center is a wonderful example of how a small senior center with one full time staff person can achieve National Senior Center Accreditation. They cannot do it alone but with the support of volunteers and the community it is achievable. Remember to involve others in your future goals and plans, instill pride in your community, strengthen your capacity through the national accreditation and the self-assessment process. Learn how the National Senior Center Standards and self-assessment process can help you achieve excellence at your center.