Dear Greatest Generation, Silent Generation, Baby Boomers,
First, allow me to apologize about my opinion of senior centers. To be honest, I really wasn’t quite sure what happened behind the secret walls of such an organization but the name “senior center” allowed me to form an opinion and one that wasn’t very vibrant. I have great respect for my seniors but a senior center didn’t spawn any excitement for me.
I had never known any seniors to go to a senior center. Because of that, I was under the impression senior centers might be a bit stagnant. About three years ago I was visiting a dear friend from high school and her mother came by to say hello (as I knew her mother from “back in the day”). Her mother, Michelle, was sharing with me all the time she spends at her local senior center. I didn’t think to ask more questions relating to what she would do at the center or how she would spend her time, rather I took the opportunity to privately think to myself, “That’s odd, I’m amazed that someone like Michelle goes to her local senior center.” Michelle was active, educated, and was always up for a good debate. What would “she” be doing at her local senior center? My attention was redirected to something else so I did not continue to explore this private conversation with myself.
Fast forward three years. A woman I had known while working on a volunteer board from years prior contacted me. Childlene Brooks was now the manager of the local senior center, Brookletts Place – Talbot Senor Center. She reached out to me as her Center was needing some marketing and PR support to get the word out about a significant fundraiser campaign, raise awareness in general about the Center, and to report to an advisory committee to complete marketing items needed for a national accreditation in which they planned to apply.
I had never been in Brookletts Place – Talbot Senior Center but knew where it was and appreciated the manicured exterior. I was happy that Childlene had reached out to me for both professional and personal reasons and I was excited about the project – although I didn’t know what to expect. I did think that we might do a brochure or two for them and spruce up their website but nothing “high level.”
WAS. I. WRONG. Brookletts Place has a number of advisory committees, staff, volunteers, strategic partnerships and relationships, members, and many, many moving parts. The marketing and public relations that Brookletts Place required was equal to that of a medium-sized business my agency would serve. I was truly amazed.
I would like to state at this time that as of the date writing this blog, I have only experienced one senior center, Brookletts Place – Talbot Senior Center. I know I can’t assume that all senior centers are the same and I am sure different levels of funding for respective senior centers greatly affects available programs and services. However, I would like to assume that although all senior centers might not mimic Brookletts Place, I think that the energy, camaraderie, and overall spirit are similar as other senior centers around the nation.
Brookletts Place – Talbot Senior Center has greatly changed my opinion about senior centers to the extent that I look forward to aging gracefully and becoming a member of the senior center near where I am living in my early 60s. I would hope to participate in the line dancing classes, listen to thought-provoking lectures, and be a volunteer at that center for many years thereafter.
Two things have fascinated me about the senior center. First, the plethora of programs and services offered to the members was actually overwhelming – in a good way. I absolutely couldn’t believe the breadth and depth of options available to a member. Want to go on a cruise to Alaska? No problem! Want to play Wii Bowling? Come on in? Want to try Tai Chi? Just sign up! Want to help volunteer to deliver meals on behalf of the local Meals on Wheels program? We would love to have you! Need help with some legal issues? We can direct you to the right session, person, or group that can help! The list goes on. My agency designed and developed the Center’s new website (www.brooklettsplace.org). The number of pages dedicated to describing all the details relating to meals, services, programs, resources, events, trips, and classes was 30 pages – 30 PAGES!
The second thing that amazed me was entering an organization where I was the minority and one that was able to observe the membership. My only other exposure to observing a group of seniors is when I would visit family in the convent. I recognize the group of nuns I would observe weren’t in a senior center but nonetheless it had been my only exposure of observing a group of seniors. What I have learned through my many visits to the senior center to participate in meetings, make deliveries, pick up materials, etc. is that the seniors as a group are just as wild, crazy, intelligent, mischievous, passionate, warm, and welcoming as I imagine respective collective groups of Generation X’ers, Millennials, or Generation Z’ers would be.
I shall close this letter to you repeating my apology. I apologize 1) for creating an uniformed opinion of senior centers prior to stepping into one and 2) pre-judging how members of a senior center would conduct themselves, act, or behave in what I thought used to be a “secret society.”
I was completely incorrect on both fronts.
Mary Ann Henker