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4 Top Takeaways from Senior Centers 2016

Senior Centers 2016, which took place Sept. 25-28 in Philadelphia, was an invaluable experience for the senior center professionals who attended. Here are the top takeaways from attendees and members of NCOA’s National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC).

1. Bolster your best practices

There was so much to learn at Senior Centers 2016, and even some of the most experienced senior center professionals in the country found great value in the information on best practices shared at the conference.

Tracey Colagrossi, Chair of NISC’s State Association Team, enjoyed a session titled “Bring New Life to your Senior Center Association.”

“Presenters … described the challenges and victories they experienced in reviving the North Carolina Senior Center Alliance. I was very impressed with their use of marketing and ways they connected with professionals in their state.”

Colagrossi also attended Christine Beatty and Dr. Edmina Bradshaw’s presentation, “Unleashing the Power of Self-Directed Teams,” and found it very enlightening, too.

“Engaging people in your organization through purposeful and meaningful volunteer opportunities grows your center. Our senior center is using this method for accreditation this year. We have opened many new doors with this process.”

Elizabeth Bernat, Chair of the Improving Health Team, found great value in “Creating Successful LGBT Centers.”

“[Presenters] discussed ways that senior centers can communicate with their communities so that they are welcoming and inclusive of LGBT older adults.”

NISC Chair Lynn Fields Harris was particularly excited by the reinforcement of the amazing, innovative, and creative work that is going on in the national senior center network.

“I was pleased to receive marketing tips and resources and to confirm that senior centers are involved in advocacy at the state and local levels and utilizing the tools that are prepared by and available through NCOA.”

“The conference was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the innovative ways senior centers are reaching out to older Americans, working to improve their health and well-being. It also inspired ideas for how FRAC can partner with centers to help food-insecure seniors,” expressed Alex Ashbrook, Director of Special Projects and Initiatives at FRAC.

2. Discover your community role in preparing for the Third Age

The conference highlighted the role of senior centers in preparing their community for aging. The opening keynote from NCOA President & CEO Jim Firman on “Senior Centers as Longevity Centers, a Vision for the Future,” helped us understand the challenges and opportunities of a growing aging population and the steps senior centers can take to be ready to lead.

“I was inspired by Jim Firman’s challenge to transform centers, so they’re relevant, sustainable, and motivated by the public policy forum to advocate for senior services in my state,” said Sue Getman, former NISC Chair.

This relevancy theme continued with information on the latest research in the senior center field.

“Also valuable was the update on research evaluating the impact of senior center participation, being conducted by Manoj Pardasani at Fordham. It is definitely information that I am already using in presentations to promote the value and benefits of senior center participation,” Fields Harris said.

The movement toward age-friendly communities could be found throughout the conference.

“Peter Thompson with Senior Center, Inc. educated Charlottesville, VA’s community leaders in The Big Think. The event expounded on how aging will impact the entire community and resulted in a movement towards a more age-friendly community,” said Bernat.

3. Gather tips and strategies

A national conference is always a great time to meet professionals from around the country who share our common mission. Some of the most helpful information, best tips, innovative strategies, and heartfelt laughs can be found in those serendipitous conversations that occur between sessions.

“There is no other conference that speaks to what we do as professionals and gives tangible, useful information that creates an investment in you and your center,” said Colagrossi.

Fields Harris agreed. “Great information combined with the opportunity to meet and greet senior center colleagues from across the country – does it get any better than that?”

“The best part about the conference, as always, was the chance to be with friends who truly understand the hard work and rewards of running a senior center,” Getman added.

4. The biggest takeaway …

Perhaps the best takeaway from Senior Centers 2016 is that it was an invaluable experience that can’t be missed! If you weren’t able to attend, I encourage you to join NISC to stay up-to-date on plans for Senior Centers 2017, June 14-17 in Oak Brook, IL.

Did you attend Senior Centers 2016? If so, what was your biggest takeaway? Please share in the comments below!

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About Maureen O'Leary

Maureen O'Leary has been Program Manager for NCOA's National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC) since 2007.