Senior Services: Keeping America’s Seniors Happy & Healthy

As the percentage of older Americans increases, senior services are growing in response to the particular needs of seniors. Both the public and private sectors have responded and continue to evolve.

Most services are available to seniors living in their homes as well as residing in a variety of senior living communities. Here is a brief list of the most popular senior services in the country:

Senior Centers

The National Council on Aging describes senior centers as “places that offer a rich and engaging array of opportunities to help older adults age successfully. Nearly 11,000 Senior Centers serve 10 million older adults every day.”

Demographics show that 70% of senior center participants are women whose ages range from 55-93. Senior centers offer activities, classes, social opportunities, travel and connections to other senior services.

Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsmen

Seniors today are on the forefront of housing options and other senior services, making choices difficult and sometimes overwhelming. Ombudsmen are trained advocates for residents of nursing homes, independent living and assisted living facilities. They can help seniors with information about how to find a facility and quality care. Ombudsmen can assist with complaints and resolve problems that may arise, while keeping personal matters confidential.

The Ombudsmen Program falls under the Administration of Aging and relies on 8,700 certified volunteers and more than 1,300 paid staff. Nationally, in 2008, the Ombudsmen Program investigated over 271,000 complaints and provided information on long-term care to over 300,000 people. Ombudsmen address concerns such as violation of residents’ rights, abuse, poor quality of care and other concerns about quality of life.  

Meals on Wheels

The Meals on Wheels Association of America is the oldest and largest national organization representing senior nutrition programs in all 50 states. There are 5,000 local programs across the country, which provide over one million meals to seniors who need them each day.

Some meals are served at senior centers and some are delivered to seniors in their homes. The 1.2 million volunteers who make this program work are considered to be the largest volunteer army in the nation.

Senior Transportation

As one ages, driving can become a challenge, but maintaining independence to meet daily needs is crucial for seniors. The National Council on Senior Transportation works to increase transportation options for older adults and to enhance their ability to live independently within their communities.

There are government-supported programs available for seniors who qualify. The Independent Transportation Network (ITNAmerica) is an innovative nationwide program that allows seniors to trade their own cars to pay for rides, and enables volunteer drivers to store transportation credits for their own future transportation needs. Although the program is nationwide, it is not yet available in all parts of the country.

Many independent and assisted living communities include shared shuttle services to local grocery stores and to medical appointments. It is clear that transportation as a senior service is becoming available, but is not meeting current needs.

Written by senior housing writer Marky Olson.