‘Active adult centers’ part of new strategy

June 24th, 2015 1:37 pm

First Posted: 7/12/2013

Luzerne County has officially renamed its senior centers “active adult centers” as part of a push to attract baby boomers who have turned 60.

This image change includes more welcoming designs at the county’s newest leased centers in Dallas and Kingston, Aging Director Trula Hollywood said Monday.

“We’re slowly changing the way the centers look. We’re trying to get centers to feel comfortable, more of a homey, cafe style — not institutional,” Hollywood said.

A Zumba exercise program was set up to bring in younger seniors, she said. Hollywood plans to start literary discussions on new or classic books at centers and envisions a big-screen TV at each center with members engaged in Wii games such as golf or tennis.

“We will still have bingo, but there will be other activities going on at once,” Hollywood said.

She identified the quest for more boomers among her department’s top goals in a report submitted to county council as part of tonight’s budget work session focusing on county human service agencies.

Salad bars in 2007

County officials first zeroed in on the need to change the stereotype of senior centers for incoming boomers several years ago, which led to the 2007 introduction of salad bars as an alternative to hot meals on center luncheon menus.

While many boomers are not ready to spend hours at their local center, the changes are meant to warm them up to the center concept, Hollywood said.

“We want to give them a chance to see it’s not their vision of what a senior center is,” she said.

The county aging department, which also covers Wyoming County, operates 19 centers that provide low-cost lunches and social activities. These centers entice thousands of area residents to leave their homes to socialize and exercise their minds and bodies, which is why she wants them to be appealing to incoming boomers born from 1946 to 1964, she said.

“I truly believe the centers keep seniors living longer because they’re not sedentary,” she said.

Kingston Active Adult Center Director Sandy Acornley said more than 20 new members, including some boomers, have joined since the recent switch to a “brighter and more open” center on Third Avenue.

“We offer Tai Chi. We’re trying to offer things other than traditional bingo,” she said.

Some veteran center members also find the new activities appealing, she said. A group of mixed ages line-danced Monday at the Kingston center.

“They can line dance two hours straight no problem,” Acornley said. “Age is the attitude of the heart.”

The report to council also says the aging department is exploring switching to a private nonprofit entity governed by a board of directors, which should increase access to more grants and donated funds, the report said. Nineteen other aging agencies in the state are no longer branches of county government, she said.

The agency’s revenue has hovered around $14 million for years, she said. The lion’s share — $11.8 million — comes from the state. Wyoming County contributed $15,000, and Luzerne County pays nothing, she said.

In addition to adult centers, the $14 million funds services that allow aging residents to remain in their homes.

Agency’s protective unit

The agency also has a protective service to investigate alleged elder abuse, and abuse reports have increased 33 percent since 2007-08, Hollywood’s budget submission said.

The protective unit investigated 255 reports in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, and 41 percent were substantiated.

Most of the increase stems family members or caregivers who want access to money, often for drug addictions or gambling, she said. Some have moved elderly relatives into their homes to get access to their money and then fail to care for them.

“We’re getting more and more criminal cases, and we try to get justice,” she said.