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The New Neighborhood Senior Center

The New Neighborhood Senior Center: Redefining Social and Service Roles for the Baby Boom Generation

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 238
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  • Book Info
    The New Neighborhood Senior Center
    Book Description:

    In 2011, seven thousand American "baby boomers" (those born between 1946 and 1964) turned sixty-five daily. As this largest U.S. generation ages, cities, municipalities, and governments at every level must grapple with the allocation of resources and funding for maintaining the quality of life, health, and standard of living for an aging population.

    InThe New Neighborhood Senior Center, Joyce Weil uses in-depth ethnographic methods to examine a working-class senior center in Queens, New York. She explores the ways in which social structure directly affects the lives of older Americans and traces the role of political, social, and economic institutions and neighborhood processes in the decision to close such centers throughout the city of New York.

    Many policy makers and gerontologists advocate a concept of "aging in place," whereby the communities in which these older residents live provide access to resources that foster and maintain their independence. But all "aging in place" is not equal and the success of such efforts depends heavily upon the social class and availability of resources in any given community. Senior centers, expanded in part by funding from federal programs in the 1970s, were designed as focal points in the provision of community-based services. However, for the first wave of "boomers," the role of these centers has come to be questioned.

    Declining government support has led to the closings of many centers, even as the remaining centers are beginning to "rebrand" to attract the boomer generation. However,The New Neighborhood Senior Centerdemonstrates the need to balance what the boomers' want from centers with the needs of frailer or more vulnerable elders who rely on the services of senior centers on a daily basis. Weil challenges readers to consider what changes in social policies are needed to support or supplement senior centers and the functions they serve.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6296-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Introduction: Shuttered
    (pp. 1-24)

    It’s a typical hot summer in 2010 in Queens, New York, in a working-class neighborhood. This is a place where people sit out on the stoops of their brick row houses, and neighbors know each other well. It is a true “community” made up of many immigrant groups where Spanish, Italian, Polish, Romanian, and other assorted Eastern European languages can be overheard in what seems like a simultaneous conversation. Children play “on the block” on tree-lined streets, while city buses, baby carriages, strollers, and shopping carts noisily roll by. People are heading “down the Avenue” to shop for everything from...

  7. 1 The History of Senior Centers: The Rise of the Center Movement and How Centers Form Spatial Identity
    (pp. 25-42)

    Senior centers mean different things to different people. Some were formed to supplement social services, some for pure socialization, and some to meet the need for a variety of services. The first center, the William Hodson Center, was founded in the Bronx, New York, in 1943 by a group of individuals concerned for the needs of older persons they encountered in their work in the public sector.¹ In 1949, a center in Menlo Park, California, was created, though this one was more geared toward social activities and recreation for a more affluent group of older persons. Between that time and...

  8. 2 The Case of the Center before Shuttering: The Daily Life of the Center
    (pp. 43-60)

    Enter the center, circa 2008.

    The senior center is one of five in the community district.¹ It is on a block easily accessible to transportation and shopping. There is a city bus stop on one side of the building and access to a grocery store and drugstore chains down the other side of the street. It is an older commercial brick building, the tallest building in the immediate area, with a few benches outside and main access at street level. A sign on the brick front announces meal program times and contact information. An American flag hangs outside the building....

  9. 3 Reconstructing Shuttering in a Larger Social Context: Political and Media Accounts
    (pp. 61-80)

    Nothing remains static. Changes to senior centers in New York City at the center level happen within a broader historical, regional, and legislative context. Because the city’s senior centers operate as nonprofits with 501(c)(3) status, both organizations and official legislation and policies are key players in the center change process. The NYC Department for the Aging (DFTA), the NYC Mayor’s Office, and the Older Americans Act both create and influence official policy and legislation. Funding changes in larger institutions—such as DFTA; the Mayor’s Office; and the City Council, in its discretionary funds—directly affect centers. Major nonprofit organizations both...

  10. 4 The Case of the Center as It Is Shuttered: Larger Changes Hit the Center
    (pp. 81-100)

    Sometimes you can understand events only after they have happened, which allows you to put them in context. I began contact with the initial center director during my study in early 2008. After sending some general questions to the center’s director about what I thought (at the time) would be a summer project, I was sent a formal letter of permission in May 2008 to “interview women 65 and older at the center” and was “thanked for my interest.” What I didn’t fully grasp at the time were the then-director’s remarks about the tremendous difficulties in “finding funding” and her...

  11. 5 The Organizational Embeddedness of Capital: Being Saved and Being Sunk
    (pp. 101-118)

    Much has been written and disputed about the way individuals in “disadvantaged groups” can or cannot generate social capital. We generally discuss how social capital is generated and maintained by an individual through his or her personal social networks. We tend to think of this capital at the individual level—that is, social networks that are made up of ties with other individuals, typically friends and neighbors. Sociologically,social capitalrefers to the sum of resources linked to a network of friendships or repeated social contacts (Bourdieu 1986). However, we must expand the scope of social capital and ties to...

  12. 6 Poor Centers: The Politics of Age and Class in the Neighborhood Context
    (pp. 119-130)

    Not only do networks matter, but location and specific neighborhood characteristics influence which centers remain open and which close. Several theories about the role of neighborhood and place, spatial dynamics, gentrification and displacement, elder empowerment, and social movements suggest that we must address the social conditions of the neighborhood and people where the now closed center was housed. Some theorists even argue that the combination, or intersection, of these characteristics (age, race, ethnicity, immigration groups, socioeconomic status, and location) can make aging in place more of a “stuck in place” model (Torres-Gil and Lam 2010). Physical space and the built...

  13. 7 Reconceptualizing Centers: The Baby Boomers and Their Perceived Needs
    (pp. 131-151)

    We live in a time when many institutions designed for older persons are undergoing great change in this country. Nursing homes, once the untoward offspring of “hospitals and poor houses” because of their clinical and hospital-like nature, now offer a more homelike environment.¹ Transformations in the culture of long-term care have incorporated such concepts as the Eden principles, which encourage elders to interact with persons of all ages and with plants and animals.² As such, the Eden principles have given rise to newer Green Houses, where residents live in smaller home settings, and staff and residents work together communally as...

  14. 8 Beyond Rebranding: Building a Sustainable Core
    (pp. 152-164)

    As I write this, although we are past the sequester that began March 1, 2013, the Older Americans Act of 2011 has not been reauthorized. Despite the OAA’s “expiration” in the 2011 fiscal year, Congress has allocated 19.2 percent, or $367 million, for the 2012–2013 fiscal year to Title III, supportive services—which covers senior centers. Forty-three percent, or $816.3 million, of Title III funding would go to nutrition services. About 8 percent, or $153.6 million, of Title III funding would go to the National Family Caregiver Support Program, and 1.1 percent, or $15 million, would go to disease...

  15. Appendix A: Self-Reflection: My Experience in the Field
    (pp. 165-168)
  16. Appendix B: Methods
    (pp. 169-174)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 175-182)
  18. References
    (pp. 183-202)
  19. Index
    (pp. 203-218)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 219-220)