TOWSON — The Baltimore County Department of Aging is pleased to announce its plans to increase programming within its Division of Senior Centers and Community Services to meet the rising membership and community needs.
“The new County administration led by County Executive John A. Olszewski, Jr. understands the increased need in the community and committed the funds necessary to expand services for our older adult population,” stated Department of Aging Director Laura Riley. She further added, “We are fortunate to have leadership that appreciates the importance of having equitable opportunities for socialization and wellness activities for older adults everywhere across the county.”
The need for the increased programming became apparent when all members of Baltimore County’s 20 senior centers were asked to complete an Adult Well-Being Assessment to assess their perceived quality of life. The Adult Well-Being Assessment tool (AWA) was developed by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) as part of the 100Million Healthier Lives Project, a global community of change makers across hundreds of communities who are transforming the way we think and act to improve health, wellbeing, and equity. Baltimore County was proud to be the first county in the country partnering with NCOA to use the AWA to assess the impact of senior centers on older adults’ quality of life.
“The outcome of this assessment demonstrated the impact of fewer hours of fitness and educational programming being provided at the Lansdowne-Baltimore Highlands and Fleming Senior Centers. Members at both senior centers scored lower on key quality of life measures compared to members at other centers,” explained Jill Hall, Chief of the Senior Center and Community Services Division. “The Department of Aging is anxious to build the classes and opportunities at both of these centers to enhance the lives of our membership, and these communities as a whole.”
Thus, there will be a change in the hours of operation for two of its twenty senior centers: Lansdowne-Baltimore Highlands Senior Center and Fleming Senior Center. New hours for Lansdowne-Baltimore Highlands will be 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. beginning October 7 and for Fleming will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. beginning October 15. Returning to full time hours will allow staff the opportunity to schedule more programs that will address some of the health and financial issues facing older adults, including programming related to job training, opioid awareness, health screenings, diabetes prevention, exercise, nutrition, grandparents raising grandchildren, caregiving and intergenerational programming. Programming will be a collaboration with other County agencies and partners in these communities.
This announcement has been met with great anticipation and excitement by the two locations as members from both senior centers have been lobbying for expanded hours since they were decreased in 2013 for fiscal reasons. During this time, membership has continued to grow in each site. For example, Fleming had an annual average attendance of 5,600 in 2013 and now has an attendance of over 18,000 visits a year. Similarly, Lansdowne’s participation has increased by six percent over the last year.
Related to the plan to reinstate hours, the county recognizes the importance of engaging more residents in programs and activities during the day to help build more sustainable communities. Three target areas where there is limited daytime adult programming were identified to pilot lowering the age of senior center registration to individuals age 50 plus. The three sites are: Fleming, Hereford and Lansdowne-Baltimore Highlands.
Senior centers offer an accessible, and welcoming location to attract individuals age 50-59 so they can participate in educational, vocational, social, nutritional and health related programming which will improve their overall wellness, as well as that of their communities. This new policy will allow individuals 50-59 years of age to now join the 60-plus members at the three pilot locations effective Oct. 1, 2019. Oct. 1 is the beginning of the senior center registration period so the data to assess impact and outcomes would be in line with established reporting periods.
Similar to membership requirements for those 60 and older, there will be no membership fee for the 50-59 year old members. However, in some cases (such as for Eating Together meals and evidence-based programming) the younger members will be required to pay the full cost of the meal and/or program while the 60 and older members would continue to be asked for an anonymous donation per federal funding requirements of the Older Americans Act. The 50-59 year old members would only be allowed to participate at the center which they have joined during the pilot period. Also, only individuals 50 and older would be allowed to join. If they have a younger spouse this benefit would not be available to the spouse.
For further details on activities, you may visit the senior center page of the Baltimore County Department of Aging’s website at www.baltimorecountymd.gov/seniorcenters.