The Future Of Seniors’ Centres

Question- Seniors’ Centres- Should They Go or Should They Stay OR Is There Another Way?

ALBERTA SENIORS’ CENTRES STUDY

University of Alberta researchers from the Faculty of Extension have teamed with the Alberta Association of Seniors’ Centres (AASC) to explore how these gathering places fit into the province’s social and health-care landscape.

Supported with a $70,800 grant jointly awarded by Alberta Health in 2013 to the U of A, AASC and the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton (SAGE), the researchers are pinpointing the challenges facing these community gathering places, to help government and seniors’ groups answer pressing questions about future sustainability.

Lacking a one-size-fits-all standard, the question of how these organization should meet the needs of baby boomers entering their golden years is complex.

The KEY to unraveling this complexity is found in the question- How do we meet the REAL needs of the baby boomers and the large cohort of people, the millennials coming after them and do we continue funding the present seniors’ centers?

Jason Daniels, Associate Professor, Faculty of Extension said that “the solution to this problem comes from changing the public’s perception. These centres are not just settings for the elderly to be entertained, but instead gathering places facilitated by the community for seniors to share their stories, skills or have a casual conversation over coffee.” And, Jason also added that “there is no model of what a seniors’ centre should be.”

To add some more support for this particular vision of seniors’ centres is Luanne Whitmarsh, CEO of the Kerby Centre in Calgary, Alberta, Luanne said that “Without seniors’ centres, there’s a void in how people continue to be engaged in their lives as they age. These centres keep people out of hospitals, they increase quality of life, they matter.”

SOME RESEARCH RESULTS (TO DATE)

The year-long Alberta Seniors’ Centres Study research uncovered some key issues.

A lack of consistent funding and a struggle to attract new, younger senior membership for future sustainability are two main issues. Linked to that is a need for qualified leadership in senior’s centres, in areas such as program development and specialization in working with an aging population.

Diana O’ Donoghue, the City of Edmonton Seniors Team Accessibility Liaison said that, The benefits to seniors is just to be engaged in their communities, creating social networks, because once you transfer from work to retirement sometimes you lose those social connections.”

LET’S DISRUPT AGING

Jo Ann Jenkins, newly appointed CEO of AARP (American Association of Real Possibilities) wants us to reimagine what it means to get older. Let’s disrupt aging. Let’s upend our thinking around what it means to get older, she said.

In Canada, we do not focus per se on ‘productive longevity’ which is encouraging seniors to become more active, creative, productive, and prosperous in our pre-retirement or retirement life. CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons practically all of their focus is spent on improving government health-care polices and/or implementing pension reform. As a result, CARP spends a lot their time and resources on trying to get more entitlements for Canadians. This is not a strategy about increasing the quality of an active, creative and productive life for seniors. It’s about aging and decrepitude. Seniors are literally being ‘put out to pasture’ before their time.

To disrupt aging, we need to own our age. We need to get to the point where we’re no longer defined by the old expectations of what we ‘should or should not’ do at a certain age.

We don’t want to be defined by our age any more than we want to be defined by race or sex or income.

The 50+ Group are a generation of makers and doers who have a desire to continue exploring their possibilities and to celebrate discovery over decline.

POSSIBLE SENIORS’ DILEMMA

Most seniors that I know or don’t know want to keep physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually fit for as long as they can. At the same time the transition to pre-retirement or retirement life is an unknown. In an endeavor to increase lifelong learning opportunities for seniors I think that we will need to add more options or choices to our current seniors’ centres. Let’s keep the basic amenities that most seniors’ centres offer but at the same time let’s go outside these centres to get more seniors involved directly with other options such as more libraries, more lifelong learning centres; and more discussion around other ideas such as ‘senior entrepreneurship’ and retirement transition workshops. The main dilemma is that too many seniors sometimes don’t know where to look, who to talk to, how to find the information or where to go?  A possible solution to alleviate some of these problems is scheduling weekly workshops with like-minded 50+ people , discussing some real possibilities and then planning a course of action, that is reasonable and appropriate for each senior that is involved in this kind of program for the benefit of Seniors 50 Plus.

Question-  Do you have any ideas as a reader about what we should do with Seniors’ Centres?

Thanks for reading this Blog.  Any comments that you have would be appreciated.

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