Lifestyle

Most of us have heard of senior centers, but many may not be aware of exactly what they do. Their core function is to provide a way to connect older adults to vital community services and providers. They serve as ‘one-stop-shop’ resource centers focused totally on seniors and what they need to stay healthy, independent, and connected to their community. 

There’s So Much More

Senior centers do so much more than provide information. Helee Adkins, resource development coordinator for Hendricks County Senior Services, says, “We listen closely to someone’s story, then we provide resources that match what they need. Whether it be someone to clean, cook, transport them, locate housing, or provide them with something specific. If they need assistance, we create a plan to help get what they need.” 

Many seniors are on fixed incomes or face unforeseen circumstances that challenge making ends meet. Senior centers have food pantries where they can go for additional food and personal hygiene items, all acquired through local stores, groups, and individuals who donate.

Hot lunches are served on weekdays for a small suggested donation for those who can contribute, but no one is turned away. “It’s all about taking care of our community,” says Adkins. “We know through studies that people eat more when they’re with other people, and our lunchtimes are lively and filled with conversation. It’s a great way to enjoy a meal and socialize. And we know that our seniors are eating well when they’re here.”

Many center visitors are very active, and come and go on their own. For those who are homebound or don’t drive, centers can provide transportation to and from the center. Transportation is also provided for (life-sustaining) medical appointments, or to visit family and go on outings, for example. Centers just suggest a small donation for those 60+, or a set fee for those under 60. (All transportation is limited within the county.)

Seniors watching the eclipseThe Person-Centered Benefits

Senior centers provide a place for seniors to participate in weekly bingo and other games, fitness/exercise classes, dance classes, art club, woodworking, or hobby classes; seniors can also make use of the center library. Adkins says, “We know people live longer and have better quality of life if they are physically, mentally, and emotionally fit. Our activities and events help with all of that. Friendships and a sense of belonging are vital for health and happiness. People can have that when they come here. It’s impossible to be lonely or bored!”

Education, Awareness, and Support

Many senior centers offer a variety of educational seminars. Volunteer professionals present on topics such as Medicare and Medicaid benefits, Medicare fraud awareness (SMP), genetic testing fraud tips, legal issues, and many other topics. There are also support groups that focus on diabetes, cancer, loss and grieving, Alzheimer’s and Dementia Friends workshops, Parkinson’s, vision loss, caregiver support, and mental health.

Time, Talent, and Treasure

Helee Adkins
Helee Adkins

Local government helps partially fund senior centers through grants, and agencies such as United Way and CICOA. They also rely on small annual memberships. A large portion of support comes through individual donors and sponsor-a-senior programs. In-kind donations and contributions of food, personal hygiene items and other donations come from area stores, businesses and individuals. “We have people who buy and drop off extra toilet paper, personal hygiene items, and a variety of canned and dry goods to keep our food pantry stocked,” says Adkins. “Without these generous donations from individuals, business partners, lunch sponsors and others, I’m not sure how we’d do it.”

Although funding and donations are critical to the continued operation of senior centers, support from volunteers is what makes the wheels turn. Volunteers make it possible to maintain and expand the services provided. Industry specific professionals (lawyers, tax counselors, Medicare advisors), class instructors, club and project coordinators, administrative help (receptionist, computers, mailings), kitchen crew, lawn and garden maintenance, fitness specialists, pet therapy specialists, friendly visitors to the homebound, and extra hands at special events all make it possible to have a bounty of activities and events for seniors to enjoy. 

“Our goal is to provide resources that we know are needed,” Adkins adds. “It’s always growing because we’re so in touch with our seniors. Anything from lunches to learning sessions; blood pressure checks and flu shots to pedicures and pet therapy; we’re here to help and support our seniors in being healthy, enriching their lives, and most importantly, having fun. They are our inspiration and the reason we come to work every day.”


Thanks to Helee Adkins, Resource Development Coordinator, for providing information based on Hendricks County Senior Services. Services, offerings, availability and other details may differ at other senior services/centers.