Philadelphia Parks & Recreation operates six older adult centers (OAC) throughout the city.
These centers help Philadelphia’s older adults to:
- Socialize with peers.
- Maintain good mental and emotional health.
- Feel included in the larger community.
- Age gracefully within the communities in which they live and are familiar with
Older adults sometimes get overlooked at traditional recreation centers. Having a specialized center for them to go to provides a space for people who share a common bond and interests to socialize.
OACs offer many programs and services. Some of the programs include:
- Arts and crafts.
- Painting Classes
- Line Dancing
- Various forms of Exercise Classes
- Social Worker on site, who can help with navigating social services.
- Hot meals.
- Medical and legal help .
- Individual and supportive Counseling.
The centers embrace cultural diversity in a variety of ways. Centers will offer different programming to best meet community needs. For example:
- Juniata Park OAC serves a large Asian population. Leaders work with Members and nonprofits to provide traditional holiday meals.
- Mann OAC has a large population of Spanish speakers, and reflects this in its programming.
- South Philadelphia OAC has an Italian Culture Club and outdoor Bocce Court. These activities are very popular with the Membership.
The older adults plan and organize the programming when possible. OAC Members often give their input on programming, volunteer their services, teach classes, and serve on Advisory Councils. At Juniata Park OAC, a 96-year-old Member teaches line dancing classes. The Advisory Council at each of the 6 OAC’s is made up of at least 10-15 Members. These Members along with OAC staff collaborate on Center programming and other Center related matters. A member at South Philadelphia OAC teaches life improvement workshops.
Some of the centers take part in an initiative called inter-generational programming. That is when an OAC interacts with children at nearby recreation centers. Center users at Mann OAC share a community garden with the children at Rivera Rec Center. At Northeast OAC, older adults work with Pelbano Recreation Center on a reading program.
“OACs give life and purpose to older adults” said Barbara Gillette, Director of Older Adult Services.
To some, older adult centers are more than just recreation spaces. “They see them as their extended living room,” says Brenda Collazo, a former director of Mann Older Adult Center in North Philadelphia. “It’s kind of like a family.”
Parks & Rec Older Adult Centers are made possible through partial funding from Philadelphia Corporation for Aging and Mayor’s office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity.