Senior centers offer friendship and wellness – far more than bingo!

Commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez visits members of a Queens senior center

On a recent day, a group of Hispanic men shared a joke as they played pool at an older adult center in Queens. Across the large, multipurpose room, Asian women participated in an exercise class. In classrooms dotting the perimeter, older adults learned about the value of eating healthy and took English as a second language classes.

This scene wasn’t unique. It is a typical day at one of the Department for the Aging’s network of almost 250 older adult centers spread across the five boroughs. There is something for nearly everyone.

Many centers have art, music and dance classes along with walking clubs and yoga. Among the many offerings are recreational trips to museums and other cultural outings. Some unique offerings also include the falls prevention classes “Stay Active and Independent for Life” and “Tai Chi for Arthritis,” with activities in support of annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day on Sept. 23.

Through technology classes at more than 100 senior centers, older adults learn about computer hardware, software programs such as Word and Excel, and how to safely browse the internet.

Meals are also provided for a nominal suggested donation. For some older New Yorkers living on a limited income, these meals are a primary source of nutrition and ease fears related to financial stress. No one should have to choose between paying for meals or medications.

For older adults suffering with depression, anxiety and other mental health ailments, clinicians provide on-site group and individual counseling sessions at dozens of senior centers in multiple languages. This further expands the network of care in a safe environment for older adults who may not normally seek help.

While September is National Senior Center Month, we shouldn’t wait until September to celebrate these hubs of activity and social connectedness. Senior centers should be celebrated year-round. In fact, senior center members who participated in a survey told us that socialization was a main reason for them joining their local center.

Nearly 30,000 older New Yorkers take advantage of the benefits of older adult centers daily. Membership is free and open to anyone age 60 or older. Immigration status and income are never barriers to entry.

From health and wellness to educational classes and even bingo, go see for yourself what senior centers have to offer. Call 311 to find a location near you.

Lorraine Cortés-Vázquezis commissioner of the New York City Department for the Aging. Prior to joining the de Blasio administration, she served in executive leadership roles with AARP,EmblemHealth and other organizations. She also served as New York’s first Latina Secretary of State.

More from Around New York