Senior Centers: Celebrating a Community Focal Point

September is National Senior Center Month – Celebrate!

Across the country, more and more people are beginning to recognize their local senior center isn’t what it used to be – it’s a lot more! According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA) there are 11,400 senior centers across the US that serve more than 1 million older adults every day. Thanks to the Older Americans Act (OAA), senior centers have become a community focal point and one of the most widely used services among America’s older adults.

NCOA also shared that when compared with their peers, senior center participants have higher levels of health, social interaction, and life satisfaction. They go on to say that research shows participants learn to manage and delay the onset of chronic disease and experience measurable improvements in their physical, social, spiritual, emotional, mental, and economic well-being.

Senior centers typically offer a wide variety of programs and services such as, but certainly not limited to, the following:

* Meal and nutritional programs
* Health, fitness, and wellness programs
* Transportation services
* Public benefits counseling
* Employment assistance
* Volunteer and civic engagement opportunities
* Social and recreational activities
* Educational and arts programs

Locally Messiah Lifeways sponsors and operates two senior centers, Mechanicsburg Place: A Senior Center and More and the newly christened Senior Center in Shippensburg, now known as Branch Creek Place: A Senior Center and More. On September 2, a huge gathering came to celebrate the name unveiling at the future home of Branch Creek Place located on 115 N. Fayette Street in Shippensburg. This collaborative effort between Messiah Lifeways, local and county officials, and the Cumberland County Department of Aging and Community Services further demonstrates the commitment to and value of local senior centers. Thanks in part to a $112,000 state grant, renovations will begin on Branch Creek Place this fall, with an anticipated completion next spring. At that point, the center will move from its quaint yet cramped and temporary location at the Christ United Methodist Church at 47 E. King Street.

These senior centers are friendly community gathering places where you can connect, volunteer, enjoy cultural experiences, take educational classes and a lot more. Activities like line dancing, low impact exercise, health screenings and flu shots help members stay well and active. Members also experience culture with bus trips and outings to local restaurants, theaters and historical sites. They also have many opportunities to connect with others at meal time, game time or while playing pool or singing in the chorus. Participants also have many ways to grow and learn by taking computer classes, health and safety classes or simply by meeting new people. And like most senior centers, volunteering is a big part of the experience. Whether it’s helping out at the center by answering phones, serving lunch or helping out with community service projects, members can share their time and talents.

Recently, Mechanicsburg Place was chosen as one of ten senior centers in Pennsylvania to pilot a program called the “Sip and Swipe Café.” Essentially, it’s part of the center where members can get a cup of coffee and free lessons on how to use an iPad with trained members instructing other members. There will be multiple tablets for them to use on a regular basis especially as they become more and more proficient on them. This calls to mind that senior centers are making great effort reinventing themselves. Meeting the needs and desires of the aging baby boom generation has helped inspire these changes. Senior centers are developing new programs and opportunities for this dynamic generation of older adults.

As we celebrate National Senior Center Month, get out there and check out what’s new and exciting at your local senior center. Plus, to learn more about Mechanicsburg Place: A Senior Center and More, please call 717.697.5947 or visit Or to learn more about Branch Creek Place: A Senior Center and More, please call 717.300.3563.

Matthew J. Gallardo

Matthew J. Gallardo

Matt is the Director of Community Engagement and Coaching at Messiah Lifeways. He brings nearly 20 years of experience in counseling, advocating, and guiding older adults and caregivers through many of life’s tough decisions. His diverse background of working in hospital and rehabilitation settings, community services, and senior housing gives him the breadth and depth of knowledge to provide unique solutions, opportunities, and help individuals proactively plan for the future. He serves as the Lifeways Coach and as a writer, blogger, podcaster, and speaker for Messiah Lifeways, located in Mechanicsburg, PA.

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