What is a Senior Center?
"A multipurpose senior center is a community facility where older adults come together for services and activities that reflect their skills and interests and respond to their diverse needs. Centers are a resource for the entire community, providing services and information on aging, and assisting family and friends who care for older persons. For older persons at risk of losing their self-sufficiency, senior centers are the entry point to an array of services that will help them maintain their independence. Any variety of services to individuals or groups may be accessed depending on local community circumstances. Persons of differing backgrounds share and learn from each other. Persons of all ages with all types of skills and interests are needed to perform vital roles and enhance the services and programs at the centers. "
*courtesy of the NC Division of Aging and Adult Services
Currently, senior centers are evolving. Baby boomers have different expectations about what they are willing to accept from a community resource than many of the seniors currently utilizing senior centers. If centers of the future want to continue to be an entry into the array of services available to seniors and their families and if they want to continue to be a point of socialization, wellness and health promotion, they have to adjust to changing expectations. And they are.
Types of Centers
The Aging Network in North Carolina is working to understand the expectations and to bring the senior centers of North Carolina into the future with viable and sustainable programs and opportunities. As part of that effort, North Carolina looked at how current senior centers could be enhanced now. Two models of performance and programming were developed.
- Center of Excellence
- Center of Merit
To qualify in either category, a voluntary certification process called SCOPE (Senior Center Operations and Program Evaluation) is initiated. Successful meeting of the measures for merit or excellence leads to an appropriate designation.
Initially, it was hoped to offer additional incentive funding to centers based on their certification. However, this plan is dependent on current funding at any given time
Some Senior Centers choose not to apply for either designation. And, some Centers may not qualify based on a single determinant over which they have no control. An example might be the size of the building in which they are located. Typically, Satellite centers - smaller centers that operate in conjunction with but separately from a Senior Center - would not qualify on their own. Consequently, if they are formally designated as a Satellite of a particular Senior Center, the Center may include the Satellite center as part of the total package of services and opportunities that they offer. If that Center then qualified for a Center of Merit or Excellence, the Satellite could acknowledge their affiliation with the Senior Center but could not also identify itself as a Center of Merit or Excellence.
Funding for Senior Centers
Senior centers are primarily locally financed. The General Assembly provides smaller appropriations for Senior Center General Purpose funding and Senior Center Outreach.
Ann Johnson Institute for Senior Center Management
Another way that North Carolina is working to increase the capacity of senior centers is through the Ann Johnson Institute for Senior Center Management. The Ann Johnson Institute provides leadership and career development training for senior center personnel.
Nationally, there is an accreditation process that includes a self-assessment, peer review, and review by the National Senior Center Accreditation Board.