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Inevitable Change

Inevitable Change

There are many things that are inevitable in life. We are all going to get older. We will all eventually pass away. As time goes by, change will always happen. Why? The world changes. Every generation, usually through new experiences, stronger data, education, medical advances, new technology, new trends, and greater experiences, will change. Not better necessarily…but different.

Ageism is a variable that is prevalent in the lives of many seniors. It is a factor within the senior population. Why? Every generation, even within the senior population is different. As we get older, we hold onto the things that make us happy: the food we are used to, the activities we know and enjoy doing, and often the beliefs that were strong within our childhood and active lives. Our oldest generations are very different from our younger 50+ generations. In talking to many people who realize they are getting older; I understand there is a fear of becoming older. Whether they believe they will lose the things they cherish and enjoy doing, or whether they realize they will soon be the same age as they remember their grandparents or other seniors within the memories of their younger lives. This makes labeling themselves as a senior hard…and sometimes resentful of the process. Deniability is understandable. My response: we all get older but getting old is a mindset.

We have 50 years of Seniors and three (soon to be four)  generations  at the Blaine Senior Center. This means the Center has a diverse population of members that grew up in different generations with different wants and needs, different expectations of how they want to grow older, different interest, and different taste. There is not a formula that says once you succumb to the fact you are older that you will want to play cards, play pool, or that you will become your memories of what it is to be older. This is generational. The reality of what it is to be a Senior is more likely going to take on the variables of your generation. The things that you like doing and hopefully can sustain long into your life. This is where the senior centers of the country should be helping.

When I took my job as the Senior Center Executive Director, my first task was to look at the changing demographics of the senior population, understand the differences between our elder generations, and to look at issues Senior Centers were now facing. I formed a belief that it was imperative that Centers changed their perspective of Seniors to understand the generational differences, to offer progressive resources that all generations could enjoy, and to offer specific resources that could help bring our younger elder generations into the Center’s population. The biggest reason for this is because it became apparent that if Senior Center’s do not change, they will stay old and eventually die out. A senior center is not a convalescent home. It should be a “Center for Active Living”  for those who want to stay busy, enjoy resources that could make life better, and most importantly, could have a community that nurtures their lives. Community is so important.

This perspective, in my eyes, meant we had to change. We needed to offer progressive programs. We had to open the center up to the community to show seniors are thriving. To bring in a multi-generational perspective that embraced our community: Education, health and fitness, art, technology, live music, community activities, and programs that showcased our center was relevant, strong, and a pillar in this community. Anything, really, that our members can imagine, and we can produce.

Since my hire the center has done this. We have doubled our membership. We have embraced every senior generation and the community at large. We have taken our facility and brought in a fresh environment that showcases the vitality of the Center. Our center has become a resource for every senior and member of this community.

Change is hard. It was predictably hard for some of my older seniors, but they have been amazing. The center changed and as time has gone by this has been embraced by most. W# offer services and programs for every generation. We are proud to be Seniors (even though I would like to take the word seniors out of our name).

We still need to grow. We need the support of our city government, local agencies and non-profits, and of our community to continue to grow and develop into a community pillar. Makes sense in a community that has more 50+ individuals than any other population. Makes sense in an era where people are not only living longer but the quality of life will also, hopefully, get better. Seniors are strong and important in Blaine. We need the support of community organizations as we transform ourselves into a much needed “Center for Active Living”.


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