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Developing a Statewide Network for Senior Center Specialists

Building a Foundation for Communities of Practice

Communities of practices are essential for catalyzing social change. Senior centers are a bedrock for service provision and social connections for many older adults. From 2023-2024, the Hub for Aging Collaboration worked with Silver Livings at Old Bridge and New Jersey Advocates for Aging Well (NJAAW) to strengthen the foundation for a more intentional and comprehensive network of senior center professionals to spur innovation, best practices, and collaboration among senior centers and related community-based programs.

Our Project At-A-Glance

Check out the current status of our collaborative effort to bring together senior center professionals across New Jersey, including our outreach efforts and a statewide virtual event on "Breaking the Mold" to bring together leaders of senior centers and age-friendly community initiatives.

Senior Center Professionals Contacted To-Date in Outreach Efforts
Attendees at "Breaking the Mold"
Counties in New Jersey Represented at "Breaking the Mold"

What Are Senior Centers?

Senior centers and related older adult programming can take on various forms. According to the National Council on Aging, senior centers can be places, spaces, and programs supporting older adult community involvement and overall wellness, providing physical/social activities, social interaction, and other important aging-related services and resources, based on the needs of the community and other environmental factors. 

Senior centers differ in organizational structure and even physical structure. They can span independent organizations, departments within municipal governments, private nonprofits, grassroots/community-led groups or programs – and more! While this diversity can pose challenges for creating a statewide network, this local-level flexibility allows these efforts to be responsive to available resources within communities.

Breaking the Mold: Synergies Across Older Adult Programming, Senior Centers, and Age-Friendly Community Initiatives in New Jersey

This virtual event, held February 2024, featured cross-sectoral perspectives on fostering strong and deliberate partnerships between older adult programs/senior centers and age-friendly community initiatives in New Jersey. This event was designed, in part, to spur planning for a network to connect senior center professionals across New Jersey. It also aimed to showcase how age-friendly community initiatives are poised to amplify the social impact of existing community assets, like senior centers. This event was organized by the Rutgers Hub for Aging Collaboration, NJAAW, Silver Linings at Old Bridge, and The Henry and Marylin Taub Foundation

Building Community One Connection at a Time

We used the combined capacity and resources of Silver Livings at Old Bridge, NJAAW, and the Hub to begin developing a more intentional and comprehensive statewide network of senior center and older adult programming professionals in New Jersey. Illustrating that community building can be an incremental process based on one-on-one interactions, the Hub has connected with over 70 senior centers throughout the state and continues work toward building and supporting a data infrastructure toward a sustainable community of practice.

In addition to intentional connections throughout the state, the Hub has developed strategic connections with senior centers located in South Jersey in efforts to strengthen relationships and partnerships with aging services professionals across Gloucester, Ocean, Camden, Sussex, Warren, and Cumberland Counties. Learning from our experience of building partnership networks with age-friendly community initiatives in northern New Jersey, the Hub is working to extend this framework into other regions of the state.  

Creating a statewide community of practice for senior center professionals holds the potential to leverage and mobilize shared, albeit often strained, resources to support and strengthen senior centers and older adult programming across the state. In our outreach, we have been humbled and inspired by the commitment and passion that senior center professionals hold for their work and the continuous enhancement of vital community spaces for older adults to advance an ever-brighter future for aging in New Jersey.  

Image of pins making a network out of string with one pin extended to the right