Private Social Programs for Older Adults

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  • 0:02 Beyond Government Programs
  • 1:13 Senior Centers
  • 2:30 Faith Communities
  • 3:39 Nonprofits
  • 5:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christine Serva

Christine has an M.A. in American Studies. She is an instructional designer, educator, and writer with a particular interest in the social sciences and American studies.

This lesson highlights key private social programs available to older adults, such as senior centers, religious communities, and nonprofit organizations. We'll look at the benefits and purpose of these programs, which go beyond government assistance.

Beyond Government Programs

Stella is lonely. Stella and her husband used to enjoy activities together and relish life. But ever since her husband died of Alzheimer's disease, life has been different than it used to be. Last year, when Stella retired from the police force and her closest friend moved away, her world seemed to stop.

Stella is financially stable due in part to a pension and support from public, governmental programs such as Social Security. Medicare helps pay for her to see a mental health professional to help her cope with the grief and for medical services.

But now she is looking for other programs in her community that can help her stay active, involved, and vibrant. Stella remembers a time when she interacted with other people many times a day and felt like she was keeping her mind and body moving. She's ready to experience this again.

This lesson explores the purpose of private social programs, services not owned or operated by the government, which play a role in supporting older individuals to live well. We will look specifically at senior centers, faith communities, and nonprofit organizations.

Senior Centers

Although she spent much of her career in police work, Stella has always wanted to work in television. She's in luck! In Iowa City, where she lives, her local senior center offers the opportunity to participate in programming, such as lectures, events, and productions, produced by their own television studio.

A senior center is a community focal point designed to enhance the quality of life for older adults, typically those age 50 and over. Many people think of senior centers as a place where the activities relate to the interests of those from an earlier time period. However, modern-day senior centers, such as Iowa City's television studio, aim to provide a range of opportunities, appealing to varied interest and needs.

Senior centers are sometimes known by other names, since the designation of a senior citizen is not always the language preferred by those who are labeled in this way. Even though she doesn't like being defined as a senior, Stella attends the senior center because she loves the activities and people. During a day at her local center, Stella gets her blood pressure screened, identifies part-time job opportunities, joins in a yoga class, and books herself on a trip to go hiking with other members of the center.

Faith Communities

Religious and spiritual communities, such as mosques, synagogues, and churches, are also part of the public sector. Stella hasn't attended services for a long time, but it used to be important to her. She decides to venture back and revisit her faith.

Over time, Stella starts to benefit from the connection with the social and spiritual aspects of regular services. She also learns more about the programs offered through her church, such as a day program that plans activities and trips. Stella takes note that volunteers in the congregation can provide transportation and help with medical appointments. A food pantry is also available to those who do not have enough to eat.

In addition, as Stella attends religious services and meets the people there, she starts to learn about other services, outside of the church, that are available to older adults. In this way, religious communities can serve as an access point to other formal services. For instance, Stella asked if her church had a grief support group; the answer was no, but the pastor gave her the name of a support group in her community.

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