Senior Power: Age Well

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Tuesday February 15, 2011 - 08:25:00 PM

There’s too little emphasis on seniors as individuals as well as on their involvement in senior center programming. 

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a nonprofit service and advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, DC. It is described as a national voice for older Americans--especially those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged--and the community organizations that serve them. 

The Accreditation Manual of the National Institute of Senior Centers (part of the NCOA) describes the role of senior centers in the community “As an integral part of the aging network, a senior center serves community needs, assists other agencies in serving older adults and provides opportunities for older adults to develop their potential as individuals within the context of the entire community.” 

In January 2010, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee heard from senior center leaders about the important role senior centers play in the aging network. In a two-hour meeting, 13 NCOA members and NISC staff launched an important dialogue about how the Administration on Aging and senior centers can work together to help older adults age well in their communities. 

The meeting focused on: 

  • The current role senior centers play in the aging network and the important contributions they make.
  • NISC’s vision for the future of senior centers.
  • Policy considerations that impact senior centers and the older adults they serve.
  • The potential impact that a strategic investment in senior centers could make.
The meeting was a step in an ongoing dialogue about how to strengthen and support the nation’s 11,000 senior centers, 116 of which have met the National Senior Center Accreditation Board’s self-assessment requirements and peer review process. 


This “snapshot” of accredited senior centers was provided by NISC vice chair Jay Morgan. Today’s senior centers are constantly evolving from social centers to service centers to community centers and even becoming entrepreneurial centers in order to adjust to the changing needs of the seniors they serve. As generations change, successful senior centers are adapting to new challenges by listening to the expectations of their communities and designing facilities, programs, services and activities that meet the needs of this dynamic market. 

Senior center accreditation serves as the tool centers need to assist with potential change, identify target markets and compare themselves to the national standards. 

Senior center accreditation began in 1999. In 2004, the Aurora (Colorado) Senior Center became the 100th senior center to earn national accreditation. 

Based on an analysis of the first 100 centers to complete the accreditation process, the average nationally accredited senior center 

· is part of a governmental agency located in an urban/suburban area. 

· It opened in 1977 and, if it added a new renovation or opened in a new expanded facility, it took 14 years to accomplish. 

· It has 16 members on its board. Although the director reports to the board, it is an advisory board and does not have the power to hire or fire the director. 

· It is open a little more than 43 hours weekly, 5 days a week. It is only open on weekends for special events or rentals. 

· The typical accredited senior center serves 3,700 participants each year, with an average daily attendance of 200. Two thirds of participants are female; they are predominantly white, 60-74 years old. 

Is your senior center becoming entrepreneurial? Are you, and it, a dynamic market? 


For more about senior centers, see August 24, 2010 Planet SENIOR POWER column. 

"How to Market to an Aging Boomer: Flattery, Subterfuge and Euphemism," by Ellen Byron (Wall St. Journal, February 5-6, 2011). 

"In a Graying Population, Business Opportunity," by Natasha Singer (New York Times, February 6, 2011). 


“We all know that I’m no spring chicken,” writes Rita Moreno (born 1931) in a note informing that she has had a knee replacement and her Berkeley Rep premiere of Rita Moreno:Life Without Makeup has been postponed. But not cancelled! Call the box office at (510) 647-2949 if you have tickets and to receive a special bonus surprise or refund! 


UCB 58th Annual Noon Concert Series, Hertz Concert Hall, 12:15-1:00pm, free admission: 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011: Voice and harpsichord, French and English music of the 15th and 16th centures: Elizabeth Elkus Memorial Noon Concert. Alana Mailes, soprano; Melody Hung, harpsichord. French and English Music of the 15th and 16th century Harpsichord pieces by Catherine de Loison, Elizabeth Jacquet de LaGuerre, Nicolas Le Bègue, Johann Jacob Froberger, and Gaspard Le Roux. Vocal music by Purcell. 

Friday, February 18, 2011 noon: Chamber music: Beethoven Jason Yu, piano; Rachel Keynton, cello. Beethoven: Sonata for Piano and Cello, No. 2, Op. 5 in G minor. 

Jewish Community Center of the East Bay-Older Adults 

1414 Walnut Street, Berkeley, 94709 | 5811 Racine Street, Oakland 94609 | Berkeley and Oakland | CA | 94609:  

Kosher Lunch every Monday and Thursday. 12:00-1:00pm. $5 for older adults, $8 general. Fresh fruit and salad served at every meal! 

Tuesdays - Dine-Around First timers welcome. Experience new restaurants and meet new friends while enjoying great Bay Area restaurants. To RSVP or for more information, contact Tuesday-Dine Around coordinator, Jordan, preferably by email at or by phone at 206-666-6517. 


Helen Rippier Wheeler can be reached at No email attachments; use “Senior Power” for subject.