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Boomers' Prospective Needs for Senior Centers and Related Services: A Survey of Persons 50–59


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The future service needs of baby boomers are unclear. A survey addressing work/retirement, family, civic engagement, health, caregiving, leisure, and perceptions of senior services was mailed to 800 addresses randomly selected from a upper Midwestern county voter registration list. The response rate was 28%. Fifty-three percent of the respondents (N = 225) intended to work and increase civic engagement. They expected more time for hobbies and friends, and to travel more. Family will continue to be their highest priority. These findings will be useful to service providers who are invested in providing services that are attractive to boomers.
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Journal of Gerontological Social Work
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Boomers' Prospective Needs for Senior
Centers and Related Services: A Survey
of Persons 50–59
Eileen E. MaloneBeach a & Karen L. Langeland b
a Department of Human Development & Family Studies, Central
Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, USA
b Department of Human Environmental Studies, Central Michigan
University, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, USA
Published online: 17 Dec 2010.
To cite this article: Eileen E. MaloneBeach & Karen L. Langeland (2010) Boomers' Prospective Needs
for Senior Centers and Related Services: A Survey of Persons 50–59, Journal of Gerontological Social
Work, 54:1, 116-130, DOI: 10.1080/01634372.2010.524283
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Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 54:116–130, 2011
Copyright ©Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 0163-4372 print/1540-4048 online
DOI: 10.1080/01634372.2010.524283
Boomers’ Prospective Needs for Senior
Centers and Related Services: A Survey
of Persons 50–59
Department of Human Development & Family Studies, Central Michigan University,
Mount Pleasant, Michigan, USA
Department of Human Environmental Studies, Central Michigan University,
Mount Pleasant, Michigan, USA
The future service needs of baby boomers are unclear. A sur-
vey addressing work/retirement, family, civic engagement, health,
caregiving, leisure, and perceptions of senior services was mailed
to 800 addresses randomly selected from a upper Midwestern
county voter registration list. The response rate was 28%. Fifty-three
percent of the respondents ( N=225) intended to work and
increase civic engagement. They expected more time for hob-
bies and friends, and to travel more. Family will continue to
be their highest priority. These findings will be useful to service
providers who are invested in providing services that are attractive
to boomers.
KEYWORDS quantitative, social services, retirement
As the post World War II baby boom ages, the population aged 65 and
older is projected to reach 55 million in 2020. Between 2004 and 2030,
the number of older individuals in the United States will nearly double,
reaching approximately 71.5 million (US Department of Health & Human
Received 23 February 2010; accepted 11 September 2010.
Address correspondence to Eileen E. MaloneBeach, PhD, Department of Human
Development & Family Studies, Central Michigan University, 412M EHS Building, Mount
Pleasant, MI 48859, USA. E-mail:
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Boomers’ Needs for Services 117
Services, 2005). In anticipation of the pending demographic shift to an aging
nation, the Older Americans Act of 1965 established Senior Citizen Centers
and charged them with the development of services and supports for the
nation’s aging population. Senior centers deliver a broad spectrum of ser-
vices to people age 60 and older, including caregiver support, adult day
services, transportation, travel services, shopping, care management, care
coordination, education, and health screenings.
In 1972, the Administration on Aging’s Elderly Nutrition Program was
established to supplement the 1965 Act. This improved the dietary status
and social integration of older adults and enhanced their general well-being
(Aday, 2003). Turner (2004) identified benefits in the areas of nutrition, social
activities, and information and found that many older adults (85% of his sam-
ple) use senior center mealtimes as a vehicle for social engagement. Older
adults who participate in senior services report lower levels of loneliness,
higher levels of life satisfaction, and a better quality of life (Kirk & Alessi,
2002). Home-delivered meals and senior nutrition sites are now common-
place, and community-dwelling older adults are able to extend their years
of independent living because of these services (Aday, 2003).
Recently, however, the numbers of attendees at senior centers and par-
ticipants in senior services are decreasing nationwide. For example, in 2003,
of 48,024,860 individuals who were 60+, 1,836,552 (3.82%) were receiv-
ing services in congregate settings. By 2006, when the total number of
elders had increased to 50,603,476 (US Census Bureau, 2010), the num-
ber of senior service recipients at congregate meal sites had declined to
1,695,740 (3.35%; Administration on Aging, 2006). The diminishing num-
bers lead to concern that senior services are losing relevance. As early
as 1993, Miner, Logan, and Spitze speculated, based on declining num-
bers, that senior social services in general, and congregate meal sites
specifically, had served their purposes and were outdated (Alt, 1998; Eaton
& Salari, 2005).
Throughout the country, as agencies conduct mandated evaluations,
providers are gaining insights into how services might be revised to optimize
their usefulness. The Arkansas Aging Initiative’s statewide survey asked older
adults (Mage =72.2 years; Range =65–103) for their opinions regarding
problems with current services and needs for improvement (Beverly, Mcatee,
Costello, Chernoff, & Casteel, 2007). Florida, where one quarter of the pop-
ulation is over 65, has initiated several programs to improve meeting and
understanding the needs of older adults including Respite for Elders Living
in Everyday Families (Department of Elder Affairs State of Florida, 2010).
In New York State, Project 2015 was created to assure that each publicly
funded entity develops a plan to better address the needs of the aging pop-
ulation (Calvo, 2010). These examples are representative of evaluations and
needs assessments, however, they are based on samples that are already 60
or older. None taps the expectations of boomers.
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118 E. E. MaloneBeach and K. L. Langeland
Boomers are expected to pose new and different needs and demands
for services than the current clientele of older adults (Turner, 2004). The
boomers span 18 years (born between 1946 and 1964) and, like earlier
cohorts, have a wide range of both life experience and expectations for
their future. If current trends continue, boomers will live longer, healthier
lives than earlier cohorts (Crimmens, Hayward, Hagedorn, Saits, & Brouard,
2009; Manton, Gu, & Lowrimore, 2008). They have higher levels of educa-
tion, higher incomes, and are more affluent and less prepared for retirement
than previous retirees (Schulz & Binstock, 2006). But generalizations about
the boomers belie their diversity. Some boomers have retired early and oth-
ers will delay retirement, particularly as they view the impact of the current
downturn. Some will continue to work part time even after retirement for
added income, health insurance, other employer-funded benefits, and for
their social and mental health (Haas & Serow, 2002).
Boomers are the generation that “shook things up’ as teenagers and
are now expected to alter how people think about aging (Hinterlong &
Williamson, 2006; Reinventing Aging Conference White Paper, 2006). The
shake up was expected to occur in several domains: work/retirement,
family, civic engagement, health and well-being, caregiving, leisure, and
perceptions of senior services.
Prior to the 2008 recession, significant numbers of boomers indicated that
they intended to remain in the work force past their official retirement ages
(Schulz & Binstock, 2006). Between 1992 and 2004, the percentage of indi-
viduals between the ages of 51 to 56 indicating the likelihood of working
past age 65 increased from 27% to 33%. Causes for the increase included
lower rates of retiree health insurance, lower rates of defined benefit pension
coverage, and greater educational attainment (Mermin, Johnson, & Murphy,
2007). The extent to which retirement intentions predict retirement behavior
remains to be seen (Barkin, 2009; Morgan & Eckert, 2004). Plans to return
to some kind of postretirement employment, to decrease hours rather than
retire fully, or to continue with full-time work are all alternatives to earlier
plans to retire that are explored in this study.
Family is expected to be a significant aspect of life for retirees. Dorfman
(2002) argued that the family is one of the most stable social institutions
and that people turn to family for social support for assistance in both good
times and bad. In two longitudinal studies of intergenerational exchanges,
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Boomers’ Needs for Services 119
the frequency of interaction was related to levels of financial, social sup-
port, and instrumental exchange (Lennartsson, Silverstein, & Fritzell, 2010).
A national sample of 800 boomers turning 60 revealed that 80% would like
to spend more time with loved ones (Gordon, Keegan, & Fisher, 2006). This
sample was asked to describe their current involvement with family and
their expectations for continuity and change in the roles and time spent
with family when they were retired.
Civic Engagement
Civic engagement is comprised of actions in two domains, political and
social, and is defined as citizen-initiated actions that have consequences,
hopefully beneficial, for communities (Hinterlong & Williamson, 2006). The
benefits of civic engagement, whether immediate or delayed, accrue to older
adults in terms of physical and social activity, physical and mental health,
cognition, and the development of skills (Hinterlong & Williamson, 2006;
Morrow-Howell, Hong, & Tang, 2009). In addition, benefits are received
by the recipients of the engagement, including children and adolescents,
older adults, and the greater community (Achenbaum, 2007). American
Association for Retired Persons’ (AARP’s) Boomers Turning 60 (Gordon,
et al., 2006) survey reported that 47% of the respondents indicated a desire
to volunteer more within the next 5 years. This investigation assumes that
some boomers are already engaged in their communities and philanthropies,
and others are in the process of deciding if and how they will be involved
post retirement. Thus, questions tapped levels of current civic engagement
and their thinking about the amount and type of civic engagement they
anticipate in retirement.
Health and Well-Being
By the year 2020, 157 million Americans are expected to have some type of
chronic illness ( Even though boomers are
expected to live longer, more years may translate to more time with chronic
conditions (Crimmens, et al., 2009; Liang et al., 2008; Martin, Freedman,
Schoeni, & Andreski, 2009), the need for a caregiver to help manage one’s
disabilities, or the need to care for an aging family member. AARP’s turning
60 (Gordon et al., 2006) reported that 87% of their sample (N=800) of
boomers approaching 60 wanted to make a life change and take better
physical care of themselves. This survey asked participants about their sense
of health and well-being as they neared retirement.
More than 34 million people over the age of 20 provide care for
an individual aged 50+who is chronically ill or living with disability
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120 E. E. MaloneBeach and K. L. Langeland
(; over 65% of the caregivers are women and
13% of the caregivers are 65+( Almost 70% of older
adults who need care depend on informal providers, their families and
friends ( Family members assume these responsibilities
for a variety of reasons including obligation, love, filial responsibility, values,
sense of duty, reciprocity, and fear of placing a loved one in an institution
(Peters-Davis, Moss, & Pruchno, 1999). This investigation sought to measure
the extent to which boomers anticipate parent care, as well as consider their
own needs for care as they age.
The social construction of retirement as full-time leisure may not be realis-
tic for boomers, many of whom have not prepared adequately for lower
incomes and longer lives. Economic realities may force a reconstruc-
tion of retirement as it is known. The economic downturn has depleted
retirement accounts, increased unemployment, and forced some early retire-
ments (Mermin et al., 2007). Alternately, retirement may be delayed by the
same forces and, for older people whose retirement plans are postponed,
leisure may be increasingly important in maintaining psychosocial well-
being (Brougham, & Walsh, 2009). Hansen, Dik, and Zhou (2008) suggested
that leisure pursuits may buffer the effects of vocational disenchantment.
But will boomers look to senior services for cultivation of leisure? This sur-
vey asked respondents how they used leisure time at the present time and
how they expected to use added leisure time after retirement. Specific ques-
tions asked about involvement in age-homogenous versus age-integrated
activities, interest in learning new things, and concerns about continuing to
participate in meaningful activities.
Perceptions of Senior Services
Choi and Smith (2004) found that older adults are less to likely to use ser-
vices when they are unaware that the services are available, or when they
misunderstand the scope of services. Although their findings are specific to
older persons from minority groups, they may also provide insight into the
barriers that older adults from the dominant group encounter. In this inves-
tigation, older adults were asked what they thought about senior services in
regard to service offerings, fees and funding, and clientele (age, need, eco-
nomic status). These questions were designed to gain insight into the image
of the services, whether or not the respondent could foresee themselves as
potential users, and to any real or imagined disqualifiers for access to senior
Despite increasing numbers of people over 60, participation in senior
centers is decreasing. Aging services are expected to need revision to meet
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Boomers’ Needs for Services 121
the needs of the boomers as they age (Haber, 2009). This study examines
boomers’ perception of aging services, familiarity with services provided,
their visions of work/retirement, family, civic engagement, health and well-
being, leisure, and what aging services they intend or expect to use. The
purpose of this study is to examine baby boomers’ visions of their retire-
ment, to identify what aging services they intend or expect to use, and what
alternatives they would prefer.
Residents of an upper Midwestern county, aged 50–59 years, were randomly
selected from the voter registration list made available through the county
clerk’s office. Surveys were mailed to 800 names, randomly selected from
the list of 10,509 voters by selecting every 15th name until the 800 names
were identified. Funds from the evaluation budget of a senior service agency
and a university grant permitted a maximum of 800 mailings, which included
a self-addressed stamped envelope to increase the likelihood of response.
Forty of the 800 surveys were returned as “not deliverable as addressed”
(Table 1). Of the 760 remaining surveys, 225 were returned for a response
rate of 29%. Individuals who responded to the survey remained anonymous
unless they choose to identify themselves. All procedures were approved by
a university institutional review board.
The sample was comprised of men and women between the ages of 50 and
61 inclusive. Sixty percent of the respondents were women (n=135). Eighty
percent (n=182) were married, and almost all were of White/European
ethnicities (n=211; 93.8%). Seventeen percent (n=40) were high school
graduates and 25.8% (n=58) had completed baccalaureate degrees. Over
6% (n=14) had achieved advanced degrees. Most were long-term res-
idents of the county (Myears spent in county =30.30; SD =17.12;
Range =.3659). No direct measure of income was taken. However, the
educational attainment of the respondents suggests above average incomes.
Forty-one percent (n=93) reported that they intend to work in retirement.
Fourteen percent (n=33) described themselves as retired and still working.
The 24-item survey posed a battery of demographic questions regarding
age, sex, marital status, ethnicity, education, professional/work experience,
retirement status, current and anticipated civic engagement and work
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122 E. E. MaloneBeach and K. L. Langeland
TABLE 1 Sample Characteristics (N=225)
Characteristic N%
Men 90 40
Women 135 60
Age in years
SD 2.72
Range 50–61
<High school diploma 7 3.1
High school diploma 40 17.8
Some college 42 18.7
Baccalaureate degree 58 25.8
Advanced degree 14 6.2
Vocational/technical 47 20.9
Other 13 5.8
Marital status
Single 14 6.2
Married 182 80.9
Widowed 4 1.8
Divorced 23 10.2
Other 2 0.9
White/European descent 211 93.8
Black/African descent 2 0.9
Hispanic/Latino 2 0.9
Asian 1 0.4
Native American 4 1.8
Other 5 2.2
activities, household composition, and proximity of family members. The
survey also asked what came to mind when they thought of the local senior
center (image of the center and services) and what services they were aware
of. In addition, the survey asked respondents what service would improve
their satisfaction with leisure activities. Drawing from a list of current ser-
vices, respondents were asked to identify which of these they expected to
use in the future. Further, respondents were asked to imagine themselves
and their changing needs for services and activities as they age.
Forty-five percent (n=102) of the sample was retired at the time of the sur-
vey. Another 33% intended to continue to work full time until full retirement,
and of those not yet retired, 52% (n=93) expected to work in retirement
(Table 2).
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Boomers’ Needs for Services 123
TABLE 2 Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test of Differences Between Current Leisure Activities
and Expectations for Leisure in Retirement
Current Expected Zscore Significance
M1.24 1.22 2.04 .050
SD .43 .41
M1.37 1.25 5.14 .000
SD .48 .43
Educational activities
M1.77 1.70 2.98 .010
SD .42 .45
M1.11 1.11 .57 NS
SD .32 .31
M1.30 1.27 2.29 .050
SD .44 .44
Civic engagement
M1.69 1.44 6.82 .001
SD .46 .49
Other activities
M1.75 1.66 3.04 .010
SD .43 .50
Eighty-seven percent of the participants were married at the time of the
survey. One hundred forty-four of the participants (64%) had living parents.
Of these, 84 (56%) respondents had parents who resided within 50 miles.
Even more 86% (n=194) had children and 113 of the respondents had
children who were residing within 50 miles. Eighty-eight percent (M=1.11;
SD =.32) of the respondents valued spending time with their families at the
time of the interviews; 88% (M=1.11; SD =.31) expected to prioritize family
time in retirement. Increasing time with family was identified as a motivator
for decreasing involvement in work, however, no significant difference was
found between current time spent with family and expected time with family
in retirement.
Civic Engagement
Of 213 respondents, 31% indicated that they were currently volunteering
(M=1.69; SD =.46) and 96% (n=217) expected to increase civic
engagement in retirement (M=1.44, SD =.49). Wilcoxon comparison of
nonparametric distributions was significant (Z=6.82; p<.000).
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124 E. E. MaloneBeach and K. L. Langeland
Health and Well-Being
Seventy-three percent (n=164) of the sample expressed concern about
managing health and avoiding potential physical problems. Sixty-four
percent (n=144) reported that they needed to make an effort to maintain a
healthy lifestyle, and 43% (n=96) wondered if their current housing would
be suitable as they aged and their needs for support increased. Related
to health and well-being, 54% (n=121) felt uncertain about being able
to afford the goods and services that they might need as they aged; this
included worries about rising health care costs.
Forty-nine percent (n=110) expressed concern about caring for a spouse
or parent and 44% (n=99) indicated that they would use services related
to caregiving. They looked to senior services to learn about and to get help
with caregiving, if and when the need arose.
The survey specified education, hobbies, time with friends, and travel as
leisure pursuits. Ninety-four percent (n=211) of the respondents indicated
that they enjoy learning new things and 23% (n=52) were interested in edu-
cational activities. About 42% (n=95) of those who indicated an interest
in learning new things expected this learning to occur at the senior center.
To compare current activities (“How do you spend your leisure time now?”)
with expectations in retirement (“How do you expect to spend your leisure
time in retirement?”), Wilcoxon signed ranks tests were used; this test is
appropriate for non-parametric distributions based on multiple responses
(Table 2). Significant differences were found for hobbies (Z=−2.04;
p<.05), travel (Z=−5.14; p<.000), education (Z=−2.98; p<.01),
friends (Z=−2.29; p<.05), civic engagement (Z=−6.82; p<.05), and
for other (Z=−3.04; p<.01). Respondents expected to be more involved
in hobbies, travel, civic engagement and other.
Perceptions of Senior Centers
Sixty-seven individuals (29%) reported enjoying group activities and 68%
(n=153) indicated they would use a senior center. Respondent’s primary
perception of senior centers is a place to engage socially and, second, as a
place for activities. Learning about family caregiving was a specific area of
interest indicated by slightly over 30% of the respondents, some of whom
were providing care for their parents or noting that parent care was in their
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Boomers’ Needs for Services 125
futures. Almost 45% indicated that they would come to the senior center to
learn about family caregiving if the need for such information manifested.
In this study, boomers were asked to describe their specific ideas about
retirement and their anticipated involvement in senior services. These
respondents expected continuity in family involvement, and they intended
to increase their travel, work, education, and civic engagement. Their con-
cerns for late life included managing their health and physical problems,
maintaining a healthy life style, becoming a caregiver, and meeting their
needs as they age in their current home.
The decline in numbers of participants in senior services may not be
a reflection of declining interest or negative attitudes toward senior ser-
vices; alternately, people may be age eligible but not in need of services
(Crimmens et al., 2009). They are not becoming service users at the same
rate as older frailer people are exiting from services. These findings, like
those of Freedman (2007) and Fries (2004) suggest that, for boomers, needs
for services may emerge later in life than they did for older cohorts.
The findings from this study provide a glimpse of what boomers expect
in retirement. First, family involvement was highly valued. These respon-
dents intended to maintain strong family ties, in part, because they prefer
to spend their time with people of varied ages, including children. Yet, the
age configuration of the families represented by this sample suggests that
the proximity of both parents and young adult children has the potential
to strain the middle generation’s resources. Overall, this sample appeared
to be well nested within family and intended to maintain family ties above
everything else that was discussed.
The preference for heterogeneous groups and continuity suggests that
service providers rethink age-segregated programs for elders and promote
community centers rather than senior centers. The findings are consistent
with the specification of a senior center as a multipurpose center, which
delivers a broad spectrum of services. The Foster Grandparent Program is
an example of a decentralized and age-integrated program with appeal to
current older adults and potentially to boomers as they age. However, it
has minimum age standards; senior services that are supported by local
mil levies, foundations, and private philanthropies are not limited to a 60+
clientele. Age and community integration may enhance the attractiveness
of senior centers and services if they are increasingly age- and community-
This sample also appeared to have given thought to continued learning
in their retirement years, but they did not plan to turn to senior services for
courses or learning opportunities. Respondents were relatively well educated
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126 E. E. MaloneBeach and K. L. Langeland
and almost all (94%) indicated that they like to learn new things. Yet, fewer
than half viewed senior centers as a place to learn and they preferred to
guide their own learning. They may be uninformed about the educational
offerings of senior centers, or they preferred to learn different things than
what is currently offered. Senior centers will be challenged to offer education
that will attract a critical mass of elders. Well-educated boomers might be
asked to take the lead on this, proposing classes and teaching others in their
areas of expertise.
Conversely, this sample did seek learning regarding specific health chal-
lenges that they had encountered. For example, they wanted more and easy
access to information regarding stroke, thrombosis, and heart attack because
someone in their family had recently experienced such a health crisis. This
emphasizes the value of locating education materials at the point of crisis
(medical specialist’s office, emergency room, nutrition sites) as well as at
senior service centers.
These boomers were also concerned with aging well, maintaining or
establishing a healthy life style, affording retirement, and remaining in their
own homes. These concerns may reflect successful educational outreach
regarding healthy lifestyles, the costs of retirement, and the adaptations
made to buildings, both public and private. These will be key areas for
service and outreach continuity when targeting boomers, and might be
addressed without jeopardizing services to needy older adults.
The expectation that caregiving may be in one’s future is part of the
reinventing required of boomers (Dychtwald, 2009; Dychtwald & Kadlec,
2009). In spite of widespread family caregiving, only half of the respondents
in this study were concerned about it. First, the respondents inferred that
the question about caregiving referred to parent care; they did not think of
caregiving in terms of being a recipient of care. However, Martin et al. (2009)
reported that healthy life expectancy of boomers has not been improving
compared to that of earlier cohorts. Further, boomers may underestimate the
demands of family caregiving. The respondents in this study were unlikely
to consider the possibility that they might be involved in parent care while
living with a chronic condition of their own. Overall, the boomer’s seemed
overly optimistic in applying the public information about caregiving to their
personal lives.
Of those who were currently involved in or anticipating parent care,
less than one-third, looked to senior centers for guidance on this issue, even
in the wake of national and local initiatives on family caregiving. Perhaps
because the need for these services seems distant, efforts at outreach fall on
deaf ears. More outreach and public information may yet be needed.
One of the benefits of retirement appears to be increased civic engage-
ment. Senior services depend on sizable numbers of volunteers. Thirty
percent of boomers are currently involved in volunteering and AARP pre-
dicts that this will increase to 56% as the boomers retire (Gordon et al.,
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Boomers’ Needs for Services 127
2006). These data indicate that boomers will continue to contribute to the
causes in which they are already involved. If continuity is the pattern in
civic engagement, recruitment of younger and preretirement volunteers can
address the future needs of senior services for volunteer workers, as well as
increase services to the neediest of older adults today. Yet, the recruitment
of older adults who have not been volunteers can be successful through
organizational practices such as recognition, choice among activities, and
remuneration for costs incurred while volunteering (Morrow-Howell et al.,
2009; Tang, Morrow-Howell, & Hong, 2009).
Further, integration with other philanthropic organizations will encour-
age those who are already involved to coordinate efforts across agencies to
meet the needs of older adults, as well as other population groups. Managers
and staff of senior services may be encouraged by these data to lend their
expertise in service delivery, community outreach, volunteer recruitment,
and needs assessment to community groups, community centers, doctors’
offices, recreational centers, and universities, and to coordinate activities
with them to target younger volunteers to meet current, continuing, and
future needs for civic engagement.
Finally, these boomers intend to travel more. In addition, they want to
spend time with their families, and they prefer age-heterogeneous compan-
ions. These preferences have implications for travel and tourism industries,
and for the excursions planned by senior services. Intergenerational family
packages may be preferred in the future.
Although these findings are based on a sizeable sample, some lim-
itations need to be considered. First, persons who are not voters were
excluded because of drawing participants from the county voter registra-
tion list. Second, the study was located in a rural underserved area that
also includes an industrial town, which hires well-educated people to con-
duct research and development. Income levels may be bimodal, but no
direct assessment of incomes was included because of concern that it would
inhibit participation. Third, the response rate was just below 30%. This indi-
cates that fully two-thirds of the recipients of the survey did not respond to
it; their intentions for retirement remain unknown at this time.
AARP reported that the boomers can be expected to reinvent retirement
(Gordon et al., 2004). Others have also argued for alternatives to retirement
in general and to aging services in particular (Dychtwald, 2009; Dychtwald
& Kadlec, 2009; Haber, 2009). Overall, these findings suggest that boomers
are anticipating retirement as a time of continuity with recalibration. They
are not seeking or opposed to new social roles but they do wish to spend
more time and energy in certain domains (such as increased engagement in
a specific volunteer setting or philanthropy) and to limit attention to others.
Barnes and Parry (2004) found that individuals who achieved some continu-
ity in activities or relationships before and after retirement achieved higher
levels of quality of life. Additionally, retirement can be an opportunity to
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128 E. E. MaloneBeach and K. L. Langeland
acquire new social roles. If senior services are to remain relevant, their ser-
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... Similarly, Torres and Cao (2019) found that some older adults did not want to socialize in age-segregated spaces. This stigma discourages participation and contributes to age creep at many senior centers (MaloneBeach & Langeland, 2011). Service providers are aware of the role that senior centers can play at disrupting age stereotypes (Colagrossi, 2018). ...
... This speaks directly to older adults' striving for meaning and purpose in life. This qualitative finding is consistent with a survey of adults in their 50s that found that the majority planned to increase civic engagement during retirement (MaloneBeach & Langeland, 2011), and with research that indicates high levels of intrinsic altruism among older adults (Mayr & Freund, 2020), and that giving to others enhances feelings of mattering (Piliavin & Siegl, 2007). ...
Senior centers must re-envision their programs to appeal to today's increasingly older and more diverse older adults. Using a purposeful aging framework, this study aims to inform senior center programming by capturing diverse older adults' perspectives on future goals, perceptions of aging, attitudes about senior centers, and experience with technology. Participants age 70 and older (N = 64) joined one of eight focus groups organized by race/ethnicity and preferred spoken language. Transcripts were coded using a grounded theory approach to identify perspectives in each domain. Across groups, shared perspectives included aspirations to make a difference, maintain health and independence, continue learning, and embrace positive perceptions of aging. However, both positive and negative attitudes about participating in senior centers and the effects of technology were presented. We discuss how to redesign senior center programming to meet members' proactive approach to aging and future goals, and facilitate more confidence with new technology.
... Regular participants of traditional senior centers average 75 years of age, are female, tend to be widowed, have medium to low income, present minimal disabilities, live alone, and are English speaking (Bangera et al., 2010). Consideration of age is an essential factor because baby Boomers are less likely to participate in traditional senior centers (Chambré & Netting, 2018;Einolf, 2009;Fitzpatrick & McCabe, 2008;Malonebeach & Langeland, 2011;Zedlewski, 2007). ...
... Participation in senior center programming is also a function of gender (Marhankova, 2014), race and ethnicity (Davidson et al., 2003), and education and income (Malonebeach & Langeland, 2011). Schneider et al. (2014 found that Englishspeaking Hispanics had a higher rate of attendance at senior centers than Spanish-speaking-only Hispanic and Chinese Americans. ...
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Purpose: A better understanding of service utilization patterns at senior service centers can improve program development and constituent usage. Theory: This research examines whether participation in senior center activities is a function of senior socialization that reinforces and supports existing social ties by selecting specific activities in senior centers. Methods: A total of 924 participants of senior centers in a municipality in the Southwest were surveyed. Results: We find that having closer friends influences participation in certain senior center services. We also find that gender, race, ethnicity, and income also explain different usage rates beyond age. Conclusion: Opportunities to foster social interaction to grow and reduce barriers to participation and market to a broader range of current and potential participants are discussed.
... In addition, this new generation of elderly is predicted to be different in many respects from the elderly who have been traditionally served by the aging system, and they are entering the system at a later time in their lives compared to past generations (MaloneBeach and Langeland, 2011, p 125). MaloneBeach et al. (2011) note that the baby boom generation of emerging seniors, in general, have higher educational levels and incomes, and just as they "shook up" the conceptualization of adolescence, they are predicted to also alter the conceptualization of aging. Pardasani (2010) noted that while the population of elderly continues to increase, it has not translated into "an increased SCC participation" (p. ...
... The need for volunteerism is evident in this new group of seniors, as is the desire to stay close to family of all ages. Thus, the segregation of children in day care and seniors in SCCs may need to be reconsidered (MaloneBeach and Langeland, 2011). Indeed, the concept of community centers that do not discriminate or make older adults suddenly separate from the community in which they have been a part for many years, may be a more attractive alternative. ...
... Two common reasons given for the lack of involvement of nonmembers and former members were "being too busy" and "lack of interest" (Krout, 1998;Pardasani, 2004b;Pardasani & Sackman, 2014;Turner, 2004). Other reasons given were lack of need and the perception that senior centers were primarily for "older" individuals (MaloneBeach & Langeland, 2011;Markwood, 2013;Pardasani, 2018). ...
Purpose: Senior centers are focal points of services and programs. Study aims were to describe the frequency of and benefits of attending senior centers and nonmembers’ reasons for nonattendance. Methods: A total of 597 senior center members and 298 community-residing nonmembers in New York City were interviewed. Males and age of 75+ years members were oversampled. Results: Mean days attended weekly = 3.00 days/week ( SD = 1.71). Latinx seniors attended 1 day > White non-Latinx seniors. Seniors in poor/bad health attended .67 fewer days than seniors in excellent health. Almost all members (96.3%) reported benefiting from attendance. The most common benefits were socialization/making friends, educational programs, something to do, being with people like them, meals, and improved mental and physical health. Reasons nonmembers gave for nonattendance were too busy with social/leisure activities or work, not interested or do not need programs/services, do not want/need socialization, and members were older or more disabled than them. Conclusion: Implications for recruiting underserved and isolated seniors are discussed.
... Senior centers serve as a major policy intervention to help elders remain socially active and avoid isolation. However, the number of senior center attendees has declined nationwide (MaloneBeach & Langeland, 2011). Stigma associated with aging and internalized ageism among elders has contributed to this decline. ...
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Background and Objectives Despite advantages of urban areas (such as walkability, public transportation, nearby shopping, and health care services), challenges remain for elders aging in place to access care. The changing demographics of older adults, with higher rates of divorce, singlehood, and childlessness, often living alone and far from family, necessitate new strategies to support health and well-being. Research Design and Methods Drawing on 5 years of ethnographic fieldwork and 25 interviews with elders in New York City, this study presents empirical insights into older adults’ use of “third places” close to home, in conjunction with more formal settings. Results This article identifies external and internalized ageism and complicated age-based identity as important reasons why older adults preferred “third places” to age-separated spaces such as senior centers and formal settings such as health care settings. We find that neighborhood “third places” offer important physical venues for older adults to process negative or hurried interactions in other formal and age-separated places. Discussion and Implications This article makes policy suggestions for increasing access and usage of essential services, including developing attractive and appealing intergenerational spaces in which older community members can obtain services and dispatching caseworkers to public spaces where elders congregate. Furthermore, this article recommends improving exchanges between health care providers and older adults so that they feel recognized, respected, and cared for, which can improve health care outcomes.
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Background Remaining in one's own home and community is a priority for many older adults as they age. Decision-making and planning is critical to ensure successful aging-in-place (AIP), especially when individuals experience age-related changes such as cognitive decline. Objectives: We are testing how decision-making and planning for AIP is impacted by changes in older adults' cognition and function, chronic conditions, social influences, environmental factors and identifying the mediating/moderating interactions between factors. We will also assess whether decision-making and planning for AIP translates into timely adoption of plans and goal concordance between older adults and their surrogate/caregiver decision makers. Methods We will conduct a longitudinal single-group interventional clinical trial of community-dwelling older adults who are enrolled in LitCog, (R01AG03611) and expose them to an online intervention,, which facilitates decision-making and planning for AIP. Enrolled participants (n = 398) will complete interviews at baseline, one month, and every six months up to 42 months in conjunction with the LitCog study, where cognitive, social, functional, and health literacy data is collected. Additionally, we will collect data on decision-making, resource use, communication of plans, timing of plan implementation, and goal concordance. Projected outcomes Findings from this study may generate evidence on how age-related changes in older adults may affect decision-making and implementation in relation to AIP as well as the impact of social relationships and support. Ultimately these findings may help shape the design of programs and practices that may improve the lives of older adults and the capacity of institutions to adapt to societal aging and AIP.
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Cities are gentrifying, yet we know little about the experience of older adults aging in gentrifying areas. Most research has focused on a shortage of affordable housing and threat of eviction for low-income residents but has paid less attention to age. This trend neglects a fuller understanding of place’s heightened significance for older people and how commercial gentrification threatens their possibilities to connect in non-institutional, intergenerational spaces. Drawing on five years of ethnographic fieldwork among older adults in a gentrified New York City neighborhood, this paper examines the significance of “third places” for longtime residents. I find that features of establishments such as proximity (distance from study participants’ residences), cost, physical design and layout, and surveillance shaped how different neighborhood places facilitated face-to-face interaction and a sense of ownership that supported participants’ independence as they aged in place. This paper contributes to limited scholarly knowledge about older people’s experiences of gentrification and neighborhood change, an understudied area of growing concern as population aging converges with the increasing desirability and cost of living in urban areas.
Fostering ways for older residents to be civically engaged is one dimension of an age-friendly community. While research on civic engagement among older adults often focuses on volunteering, this study focuses on advocacy and political involvement as another important form. The Age-Friendly Boston Initiative developed the Senior Civic Academy (SCA) program as a self-advocacy course that simultaneously educates older residents about policy-making processes and engages them in advocacy training to incorporate their voices in local policy and planning. This study details the formative evaluation of the SCA, and utilizes mixed methods to evaluate the program’s impact on the participants ( N = 49). Lessons learned from the SCA serve as a guide for other communities to develop programs that encourage civic engagement and advocacy among older adults.
Senior Centers have served as community focal points for older adults in the US since 1943. They serve a critical role on the aging continuum of care. However, attendance rates among seniors have been dropping nationally, especially among “younger” older adults. This study, which was conducted in a suburban community in Connecticut, utilized a cross-sectional, mixed methods design to understand this phenomenon. Nearly 800 older adults were surveyed to identify their needs, interests and reservations about senior centers. The study findings are relevant for the continued sustainability and relevance of senior centers nationwide. The results provide the framework for recommendations to senior centers with respect to both policy and practice.
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The nature of the international health burden, its changes, its problems, and even its solutions over the next quarter century are surprisingly apparent at this time and are more positive than often supposed. The average period of lessened physical status is likely to shorten, and the need for and cost of hospitalization in the later life of the individual is likely to decrease. The period of infirm physical status will become increasingly compressed between the increasing age at onset of infirmity and the genetically determined lifespan of the individual. Illness at the end of life will come relatively suddenly, be multi-factorial in cause, will be highly resistant to further medical intervention, and will be characterized by increasing inevitability. Implications for retirement age, availability of useful work for older individuals, and programmes designed to stimulate rather than support are discussed.
This study explores the diversity of programs and services offered by senior centers in New York State, and identifies factors that may impact on the levels of participation among the elderly. Two hundred nineteen (n = 219) senior centers, recreation clubs, nutrition sites, and local Area Agencies of Aging in New York State were surveyed and comprise the study population. The diversity of programs and services offered, characteristics of participants, models of service utilized, varied types of senior centers, and the hurdles to participation are identified. The study found that senior centers provide a vast array of recreational and socialization opportunities, in addition to essential social services, playing a significant role in the aging continuum of care. Although the study was limited to New York State, the implications are relevant to senior centers nationwide.
Two hundred seventy-five non-institutionalized senior citizen volunteers participated in this study that evaluated the impact of rural senior service centers on emotional and practical issues affecting elder consumers. Responses of participating seniors were compared to a similar group of seniors who did not participate. The findings indicated that there were significant differences between the two groups on issues of loneliness, nutrition, and overall quality of life. Findings have strong implications for activity specialists in the field of gerontology.
Two hundred seventy-five non-institutionalized senior citizen volunteers participated in this study that evaluated the impact of rural senior service centers on emotional and practical issues affecting elder consumers. Responses of participating seniors were compared to a similar group of seniors who did not participate. The findings indicated that there were significant differences between the two groups on issues of loneliness, nutrition, and overall quality of life. Findings have strong implications for activity specialists in the field of gerontology.
Despite the maturation of welfare states, family solidarity continues to be strong and a growing body of research has shown that substantial financial transfers are passed from older to younger generations within the family. At the same time, family solidarity in terms of instrumental and social support is found to be mutual. This study examines eventual reciprocity in time-for-money exchanges, by combining two large-scale Swedish representative longitudinal studies. It analyzes how earlier social contacts (time) are related to financial transfers (money) and to what extent social class and gender differentials are visible. The findings indicate that parents provide economic transfers if they have more frequent social contact with any of their children, and that these time investments pay off for children who were of higher social class origins. In contrast, no support for gender-specific patterns is found. In conclusion, family solidarity seems to have different bases in different social strata.
As older adults volunteer in greater numbers, concerns are being expressed about the exclusion of older adults who have historically been marginalized from volunteering. This study identifies the importance of institutional facilitation of older adults in volunteer programs, especially for those of lower socioeconomic status. A questionnaire assessing the importance of institutional facilitation in volunteering was completed by 374 volunteers aged 60 years and older from a national sample. Institutional facilitation was measured by multidimensional items capturing role flexibility, compensation, recognition, and accommodation. Flexibility-especially, choice of activities and ability to set own schedule was perceived as most important to volunteers. Low-income and non-White volunteers gave more importance to institutional facilitators of engagement. This study suggests that voluntary organizations can facilitate the inclusion of older adults from diverse backgrounds through increasing flexibility, compensation, and recognition.