- A sense of community. While it’s understandable that many seniors want to remain at home as they age, it’s also true that this can become an incredibly isolating experience. Multiple scientific studies show a dramatic correlation between aging, loneliness, and depression. Even with the benefit of an hourly or live-in caregiver service, this is not the same as a community of like-minded peers. Joining in a community can help your senior develop new friendships, find solace in others who are mourning similar losses such as the death of loved ones, health issues, or loss of mobility. After a visit or two to a senior center, you may be surprised when your parent or grandparent looks more forward to their visits every week.
- Keep the mind active. In addition to community and physical well being, brain boosting activities also help to keep seniors interested and excited about life. The more mentally active we are, the longer we can keep age-related conditions like dementia and Alzheimers at bay. One of the benefits of senior centers is the classes, activities, and entertainment they offer. Your local senior center may also provide free copies of crossword puzzles, Sudoku, educational magazines, daily papers, and other mentally stimulating formats your loved one might not take advantage of in his/her own home.
- Physical activities. Senior Centers are specifically designed for one sector of the population: seniors. This means all of their activities, from yoga and Tai Chi, to aerobics and team sports, are designed with the physical needs of seniors in mind. Seniors who spend the majority of their time at home have a tendency to be more sedentary than those who participate at local senior centers. Physical exercise can help to mitigate depression, reduce pain associated with arthritis/health conditions, and keep off unwanted weight.
- Respite Care. Many family members opt to take care of their senior relatives, rather than bringing in outside help. Unfortunately, this can cause caregiver burnout, which is unhealthy for both the senior and his/her caregiver. If you, or someone you love, is suffering from caregiver burnout, it’s a good idea to learn about respite care options. Many senior centers provide senior day care. This allows your relative to enjoy the company of others in a safe environment while you get a much needed break. If your local senior center doesn’t offer senior daycare or respite care opportunities, they will be able to refer you to a local respite care provider who can help.
- Free or low-cost health screening. Some senior centers offer free or low-cost health screening services to their members. This can make it easy for seniors to receive check-ups, seasonal flu shots, etc. without having to make another appointment.
- Free or low-cost hot lunch. Most senior centers also offer free or low-cost hot lunches to those interested 4-5 days a week. These lunches are designed to be nutritious and well balanced. Not only can this be a great help to seniors, but it can also be a good time to socialize and get to know other seniors.
These are just a handful of examples of the benefits of senior centers. Don’t let your guilt, or resistance from a loved one, prevent you from trying one out. The first visit could be the best gift you give your aging family member.