Senior Centers Going from Bingo to Tai Chi

By Ben Hamill - October 26 2018

Bingo chalkboard

Bingo and a meal have always been a firm favorite at senior centers. However, it can no longer be denied that the elderly adults of today are demanding much more from these establishments than just these classic staples to keep them entertained.

In fact, the offerings available at senior centers have evolved so much that many organizations in North America have now rebranded themselves as ‘centers for active adults’ rather than associate with the negative connotations of ‘senior facilities’.

Traditionally, says Bridget Schickel, a senior center services director for the Westmoreland County Area Agency on Aging (WCAAA), people used to come to a center first and foremost for a meal. Nowadays, she notes, that is seldom the case with so many other thrilling activities and pursuits to try.

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Focuses on Wellness and Health

The agency oversees 13 county active adult centers, and also contracts with four other providers that actually operate the venues. About five years back, she says, the WCAAA removed the word ‘senior’ from its offerings and renamed its organizations to make them attractive to a whole new older population, which will be inhabiting them in years to come.

While meals are still a primary service supplied by the centers, along with the classic parties, bus trips and bingo games, their offerings have branched out vastly as well. Physical and mental fitness are both massive focuses, especially as so much research has pointed to these being the keys to a healthy older age.

According to Schickel, the changes have come as people have started to stay healthier for longer and live longer lives as a result, while staying active and engaged in society even in old age. She noted that the changes are also driven by what center users enjoy the most, along with what federal regulations require of them.

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Bingo Still Remains Highly Popular

Come to one of these progressive centers these days and you would be just as likely to see visitors doing tai chi and learning to play musical instruments as you would be to see them engaged in a round of bingo. There are countless activities on offer at hotspots like the McKenna Center, including Zumba, yoga, memoir writing workshops, card games, crafts, and even interesting seminars targeted towards older ages.

Another huge focus is on ‘longevity training’, which is simply a holistic approach to aging. Such a program focuses on living with meaning, engaging in fun activities, paying attention to exercise, sleep and nutrition, and doing creative and intellectually stimulating activities to keep visitors sharp and happy.

With that said, managers are urging members not to count bingo out just yet. They all maintain that the activity is still highly popular at all of their centers – but nowadays, senior players can even enjoy their favorite game online if the need for more options arises!

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