It is clear that senior enters have grown and diversified over the years. Shifts in federal and state spending and priorities in health and social services for older adults to a great focus on cost containment and targeting the at-risk, and changing demographics and retirement patterns have had considerable impacts on senior center programming. Senior center professionals in the 1980s worked to identify and refine the roles of centers in relation to focal point functions and the (not always compatible) needs and interests of the newly retired, long-time center users, and frail, at risk older persons. They expanded center linkages with other agencies.
One of the biggest strengths of senior centers is their diversity and their ability to serve different segments of the older population in many different ways. Senior centers do many things well with relatively few resources and certainly are capable of improving and expanding existing functions given the appropriate resources and mission. They have been challenged by the growth of a larger and more diverse older population during times of fiscal constraints; challenges that will increase many fold with the aging of the baby boom. Although clearly a part of the community-based services system, they still carry an image for some (older persons, policymakers, and academics) of places largely for recreation and socialization. Much of the future success of senior centers will depend on the ability of center professionals to articulate and realize new visions of center roles and programming that respond to the interests and capabilities of both current and coming generations of older adults.
JOHN A. KROUT
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