When you visit the senior center

Senior centers have provided services under the Older Americans Act since 1965. One of the objectives of the OAA is Freedom, independence, and the free exercise of individual initiative…..and protection against abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

Not all Alaska communities are fortunate enough to have a senior center. Nevertheless, small places are able to contract with their local restaurants or a van owner to provide basic services.

Bethel has a senior center and nearly $1 million dollars a year is spent on the program. About 300 of us are old enough to be eligible to use the senior center, although fewer than 10% or so are regulars.

When next you go (if you can’t go in person, go virtually here), try these ideas—Because, not everyone has had a chance to use a wheelchair or a walker, or hasn’t pushed their grandbabies stroller, or hasn’t had a bad cataract surgery—

  • Before leaving your vehicle or taxi, take off your shoes and socks. Enter the senior center (do not use any stairs).
  • Inside, unless you have just been to the eye doctor, wear your darkest glasses or double-up sunglasses, or borrow someone’s “coke-bottle” glasses. Or, perhaps, smear a light coating of Vaseline or motor oil on your glasses. Quickly walk from the lunch room through to the other room and back again (yes, you are still barefoot).
  • Try to read a book while sitting in front of the reception desk or in the seats away from the windows.
  • Go up to the open loft area where the day program for the most frail occurs. Grab a pillow with one hand. Put the other hand behind your back or in your waistband. Quick! you have fewer than 90 seconds to get 150 feet away from the building (remember, no stairs, no elevator, no shoes). How many cars were parked in front of the bottom exit? (Grate Sidewalks (Bad gate)
  • Go to the toilet—While balancing on only one leg, sit on one of the commodes. Stand up.
  • Pretend you are Goldilocks—sit back in each of the chairs and sofas. Place your hands on your shoulders (hug yourself tightly). Now stand up.

Matt Erin sit-to-stand Image from Exercise: A Guide from the National Institute

  • Do you remember building a sled or repairing a boat in the workshop? Try to take it back in to the renovated shop. While you are there, point to the fire alarm or emergency telephone. Be sure to wash your hands of chemicals before returning to the main building.
  • Back inside the main room, lie on the floor and look up. How long have those clerestory windows been boarded over? When was that piece of cardboard tacked on the ceiling to cover where the heating stove was?
  • I don’t know how one can mimic hearing difficulties. I do know that people have said that even with the loud speakers it is very difficult to make out the Yup’ik or Cup’ik or English used in meetings.

Ask the Senior Director to see—

  • the last 5 logs of the regular fire drills
  • the certificate of national accreditation for senior centers (National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC), a unit of the National Council on the Aging, Inc. (NCOA)
  • minutes of the Senior Advisory Board for the past 5 years
  • staff roster


The following are suggested to bring with you when visiting adult day centers (from the National Adult Day Services Association, Inc., http://www.nadsa.org)

Adult Day Centers provide a planned program that includes a variety of health, social and support services in a protective setting during daytime hours. This is a community-based service designed to meet the individual needs of functionally and/or cognitively impaired adults.

The following list will help you decide which day center is the right one for you.

http://www.nadsa.org/quality_providers/default.asp#s5

SITE VISIT CHECKLIST (retrieved 2005)
Yes / No Did you feel welcomed?
Yes / No Did someone spend time finding out what you want and need?
Yes / No Did someone clearly explain what services and activities the center provides?
Yes / No Did they present information about staffing, program procedures, costs and what they expect of caregivers?
Yes / No Was the facility clean, pleasant and free of odor?
Yes / No Were the building and the rooms wheelchair accessible?
Yes / No Was there sturdy, comfortable furniture?
Yes / No Loungers for relaxation? Chairs with arms?
Yes / No Is there a quiet place for conferences?
Yes / No Is there a place to isolate sick persons?
Yes / No Did you see cheerful faces on staff and participants?
Yes / No Do volunteers help?
Yes / No Are participants involved in planning activities or making other suggestions?
=====================================================

And don’t be a such a stranger; it’s your center.


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8 Responses to “When you visit the senior center”


  1. 1 Anonymous 2005 August 7 at 2:18 pm

    Hey, thats a very good description of the center, I hope you sent a blog to the state, and to city and onc. Look for something to do other than watch tv or work a jig saw puzzle or go in the green room and see something other than rummage stuff , very good article

  2. 2 vuee— 2006 August 24 at 12:43 pm

    Added the animated image from Wake Forest biomechanics students, Erin McCabe and Matt Vargochik, which shows a way to test seating. See WFU research resource—
    http://zsr.wfu.edu/research/guides/sci_math_hes/biomechanics.html

    Here’s the reference for Matt and Erin’s animation on sit to stand. Their paper is still available on-line! at http://www.wfu.edu/~marshap/MattErin.htm

    Kinematic comparison of rising from two types of chairs, Erin McCabe and Matt Vargochik, Class of 2002, Biomechanics of Human Movement – HES 370

    My original 24 Nov 2003 posting (pre-blog), looking for ways to modify, buy, or build suitable seating for older people, I ran across this. And the conclusions (but not yet specific enough to build from)–

    Based on displacement and velocity data of the study participant, one could speculate that rising from the rocking chair was a more difficult task than rising from the standard chair. The lower and more posteriorly slanted seat of the rocking chair and the more forward movement of the knees during the rocking chair condition contributed to greater hip, knee, and ankle flexion (Wheeler et al., 1984; Rodosky et al., 1991).

    Larger torques at lower extremity joints likely occurred as a result, and more knee extensor muscle activation would be necessary during the extension phase (Wheeler et al., 1984). Using arm supports on rocking chairs would help to decrease joint torques (Bahrami et al., 2000). While greater momentum is generated in the rocking chair, quicker completion of the sit-to-stand transfer does not imply less stress on the joints. While rocking chairs may be comfortable for sitting, they do not provide the best conditions for standing up. For those who lead sedentary lifestyles, the elderly, or those with limited lower extremity range of motion, chair types other than rocking chairs would help to facilitate the sit-to-stand movement.

    Site Search Tags: biomechanics, ergonomics, elderly, rocking+chair, chairs

    Technorati Tags: biomechanics, ergonomics, elderly, rocking+chair, chairs

  3. 3 Charles Osborne 2007 December 10 at 11:59 am

    Please add our senior center to your list. If you are ever in Anchorage, please stop by for a tour.


  1. 1 O’Folks » Administration on Aging Pandemic Preparation Trackback on 2006 May 30 at 8:52 pm
  2. 2 O’Folks » Virtual aging for living in a real world Trackback on 2006 August 19 at 5:31 pm
  3. 3 Bath falls common among older adults, but can be prevented « O’Folks Trackback on 2006 September 13 at 9:10 pm
  4. 4 Senior Center Self-Assessment « O’Folks Trackback on 2007 June 26 at 4:24 pm
  5. 5 Alaska senior center blogroll addition « O’Folks Trackback on 2007 December 10 at 1:34 pm
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