Spice It Up For Seniors

The senior population of every village, town, and city in America is increasing daily. With baby boomers retiring, and nearly a quarter of the American population being at least 55 years old, this number is only expected to rise over the next 40 years.

The city of Chandler, Ariz., has more than 41,000 seniors, or 17.4 percent of all residents. In the 27 years since the ChandlerSeniorCenter and Recreation Division opened its doors, the staff has learned a few things.

Know The Audience, Meet The Needs

The senior center serves between 90 and 125 active adults every day, offering 24 weekly activities, including quilting, cards, exercise,

Photos courtesy of  the city of Chandler.

Photos courtesy of the city of Chandler.

bingo, and crafts. In addition, basic medical screenings, day excursions, and monthly trips to area casinos also are offered. At times it is challenging to know what programs residents will respond to and embrace. The center is fortunate to work with the ChandlerChristianCommunity Center, which sponsors a Senior Site Council the third Monday of each month. The 21-member council, comprised of senior-center regulars, has the opportunity to voice their opinions on what happens at the center. Senior-center staff members attend these meetings to listen to the needs of their patrons. As a result, the center has been able to transform the seniors’ ideas into programs, activities, and special events.

Chandler has a vibrant senior population year-round, but between the months of November and April it is even busier. Several hundred “snowbirds” make the city their winter home.

Here is some advice for other senior centers: set aside time each week for an open dialogue to gain insights into what seniors are looking for, and take their concerns seriously.  At the end of a class, ask them to complete a customer-satisfaction survey.   

Partner With Other Communities And Facilities

For smaller towns and even large cities, partnerships can be a great way to help seniors get to know other active adults in the area. For 20 years, Chandler’s senior center has partnered with the town of Gilbert’s senior center to host an annual ”Spice of Life” variety show in the spring. This has become a sellout show that attendees look forward to every year. The show is 2 hours long, with one 15-minute intermission, and features nearly 30 acts.

When the variety show first began, staff members from both municipalities ran the entire production. Anyone older than 55 and

PRB0813_Peterson_Seniors2

interested in sharing their talents could participate, and only one matinee performance was held. The program has since evolved to meet the growing number of participants and attendees.

In 1996, city officials contracted a director to facilitate all aspects of the performance(s). This has made a tremendous difference, allowing performers to feel like they’re part of a professional show, while freeing up full-time staff members to work on other projects.

In 2001, the ”Spice of Life” director implemented an audition process with a panel of six judges to vet performers. Once selections were made, each act must have committed to three rehearsals to ensure the quality of the show.

Due to popular demand this year, additional performances have been added. There are now two matinee and two evening performances held at the Chandler Center for the Arts, which seats 350.

———————————–Sidebar——————————–Host A Successful Variety Show

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