New wave of seniors changing Senior Center service

SHERIDAN — There’s a new wave of older adults coming and they don’t want the same things as their parents. From differing tastes in activities to food, younger elders are challenging senior centers across America to rethink the way they connect with them if they want these younger elders to cross the threshold of senior center doors. The Sheridan Senior Center is in the midst of this wave.

“Many people don’t want to acknowledge they are aging. Some think you have to ‘need’ to come here, not that you want to be here. You don’t have to be ‘old enough,’” said Jane Perkins, the “fun” director at the Sheridan Senior Center.

Perkins touches on an important issue the Sheridan Senior Center and other senior centers face: many people think that you must need senior services to utilize what they have to offer.

“We nurture the mind, body and soul through activities,” Perkins said. “We provide a comfortable place to do something different. It’s a safe place to try things you’ve put on hold for awhile.”

Perkins and assistant, Jean Harm, work to provide a variety of activities at the Senior Center. Working months in advance, they schedule artistic venues, exercise and wellness programs, lecture presentations from history to current events, day trips, and entertainment for a quarterly calendar. Other program directors work with Perkins and Harm to schedule and offer health management, nutrition education and support group programs for the community at the Senior Center.

While young elders have differing tastes, this generation will face the same issues as their parents. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, dementia care, caregiver support, exercise, wellness, nutrition, enriching experiences and support for living at home will continue to be paramount to older adults. And the Sheridan Senior Center can be a good place to start for help.

But these younger elders are not flocking to senior centers for help…yet.

A feasibility study commissioned by the Sheridan Senior Center in 2011 set in motion the direction of the Sheridan Senior Center to expand, transform and build its facilities and services to serve the new generation as well as the current generation of older adults.

Today, the community can see the beginning of changes at the Sheridan Senior Center with the construction of a new Day Break facility next to the current building at 211 Smith St. Day Break supports families by offering a place for older adults during the day when living at home alone may not be feasible.

Changes to the Senior Center’s facilities will continue through the remainder of 2016 and the first half of 2017, the result of a prior year-long capital campaign headed by community volunteers.

But transformation is not limited to changing the physical facility of the center: the Senior Center is also looking at redesigning services and programs to meet emerging demands.

Public bus transportation in Sheridan underwent a new look and name earlier this year to emphasize that bus service in Sheridan is not limited to elders. This door-to-destination service is available to riders of all ages and the new look is designed to reach out to the wider community.

New menus, expanded food hours, daily breakfasts, and carry out meals are all on the table, so to speak, for discussion, to meet emerging lifestyle choices and needs of the new senior population.

And while the Sheridan Senior Center looks at the viability of services to elders, other programs will continue to be offered such as in-home services for personal care and in-home support.

The center will continue to offer a wide variety of activities, serve as an information portal for community services and provide support for independent living to older adults. So, when the new wave of elders comes to town, the Sheridan Senior Center is ready for them.

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