Commentary: Shrinking dollars vs. growing demands major challenge for senior center

The role of the Verde Valley Senior Center will continue to expand and have an increasing impact on structuring the quality of life of older adults. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

The role of the Verde Valley Senior Center will continue to expand and have an increasing impact on structuring the quality of life of older adults. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

Senior centers serve as a gateway to the nation’s aging network -- connecting older adults to vital community services that can help them stay healthy and independent.

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Elaine Bremner

Throughout the years, the Verde Valley Senior Center has offered a wide variety of programs and services, including:

• Meal and nutrition programs

• Exercise Classes

• Information and assistance

• Health, fitness, wellness programs, flu shots, hearing assessments and eye care

• Evidence-based programs, e.g. Matter of Balance, Chronic Disease Self-Management, all of which helps people with conditions like diabetes, heart disease and arthritis learn how to reduce their symptoms, eat well and communicate with their doctors

• Regular blood pressure and glucose screenings

• Nutritional support

• Transportation services

• Public benefits counseling and guidance in understanding Medicare

• Employment assistance

• Volunteer and civic engagement opportunities

• Social and recreational activities

• Educational and arts programs

• Intergenerational programs

• Veteran counseling for combat veterans

• Job training programs

• We are networked with other agencies to ensure the continued service and care of our clients

• AARP Tax Aide Services

• A variety of support groups, grief and loss seminars

• Avoiding identity theft

• Birthday parties

• Poker and Pinnochle

• Stitching Crafts, Bingo

• How to help seniors avoid scams

• Live music, dancing or karaoke offered Monday through Friday

• Weight Watchers

• Kiwanis

• Old Time Fiddlers

• Pool table

How are senior centers funded?

To maintain operations, senior centers must leverage resources from a variety of sources. These include federal, state, and local governments; special events; public and private grants; businesses; bequests; participant contributions; in-kind donations; and volunteer hours.

Nutrition services are partially funded by the Older Americans Act, SSBG funds and the State of Arizona. Funding is allocated on a regional basis from the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Division of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS) to Area Agencies on Aging.

There is no direct funding for social activities. Activities are a contribution based program.

Benefits and impact

• Activity participation is essential to quality of life.

• Activity has important life benefits:

• Reduces risk of depression

• Reduces global cognitive decline

• Enhances social connectedness

The role of the Verde Valley Senior Center will continue to expand and have an increasing impact on structuring the quality of life of older adults. We are integrated into the heart and soul of the communities of the Verde Valley.

Studies show that successful aging is more likely when individuals are actively engaged in life. In a rapidly changing environment where the needs and demands of our traditional customers and funding sources are shifting, we are evaluating what we have been doing and where we need to go in the future.

Our traditional funding sources – Older Americans Act and local government support – are shrinking. Older Americans Act dollars have remained virtually stagnant for several years and while the upcoming re-authorization may increase the total dollar amount available, there is no indication that funding will be increased on a scale that matches the growing demands.

Local governments face unprecedented pressures on their budgets and as a result have been reducing support (in one particular case) or not recognizing the increased demands of the Senior Center and keeping pace with it (in another particular case).

Eligibility

Many senior centers have begun to explore and access different funding opportunities including membership fees and fee for service programs to help offset costs.

The Verde Valley Senior Center has implemented a $1 per person, per activity fee in our beautiful, unique, air conditioned facility – no membership required. Scholarships are available for any qualifying individual over age 60 who completes an application. Some field trips, classes, and special events may require additional fees to participate.

Senior centers are one of the most accessible, friendly and inexpensive places that offer programs and services that promote active engagement and enjoyment of life by older adults.

If you would like to make a contribution to the Verde Valley Senior Center or the Scholarship Program for Activities via PayPal, please visit our web site at www.verdevalleyseniorcenter.org or mail your check to Verde Valley Senior Center, P.O. Box 681, Cottonwood, AZ 86326.

For additional information, please call (928) 634-5450 or e-mail us at info@verdevalleyseniorcenter.org.

Elaine Bremner is the director of the Verde Valley Senior Center in Cottonwood.

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