Senior center leaders have an eye on state’s top rating

Apr. 16, 2013 @ 03:40 PM

At the Vance County Senior Center on any given day, an average of 111 seniors are served through basic activities.

With in home aid and the center’s Meals on Wheels program, close to 500 are served.

Juan Jefferson, senior center manager, and he and the rest of his staff have been working rigorously to assure those seniors are served at the highest standard of practices in senior center operations.

“There are three tiers of achievement within senior centers in the state,” said Jefferson. “We are seeking the ultimate goal, which is a senior center of excellence.”

Currently Vance County is ranked as a Center of Merit.

Because senior centers in North Carolina are in various stages of development, and because many communities do not yet have them, in the fall of 1998, the Division of Aging and Adult Services assembled a task force for senior center development.

Its charge was to develop a standard for best practice in senior operations.

“To provide a comprehensive program of services and activities for the community is what happens when you reach the center of excellence level,” said Susan Tucker, administrative assistant at the Vance County Senior Center.

Tucker explained a comprehensive plan for what needs to be done to achieve certification as a Center of Excellence has been outlined by the Division of Aging and Adult Services.

The process entails compiling an 80-page certification document covering everything from how the center executes programs to how they train their staff to the activities provided. The documentation is due for completion by April 25, and a site visit will occur at the end of May.

“That will determine whether or not we reach our goal,” Tucker said. “We’re doing everything we can do to get there, pulling out all the stops.”

While activities at the senior center occur daily, a recent focus for health and wellness has been seen as seniors are being encouraged to participate in things like the Henderson-Vance Litter Sweep, or a group walk.

“We listen to what the seniors are requesting, and try to comply, but we really want to lean toward seniors living a more active lifestyle,” Jefferson said.

In partnership with the focus on health and wellness, Vance County participates in the N.C. Senior Games, a year-round health promotion and education program for North Carolinians 55 years of age and better.

Today, there are over 60,000 participants in 53 local games programs that serve all 100 counties across the state.

Vance County rotates hosting the games with Franklin, Warren, Person and Granville counties.

“That program receives very little funding, and as a fundraiser for that, there’s a spirit link competition,” Tucker said.

For the second year in a row Vance County won the spirit link competition with 1,220 seniors and community members contributing to the cause by purchasing a golden link.

“When you’re certified as a Center of Excellence the community can be assured you are optimizing your resources, that you are serving the community as a focal point for activities and services, and it is kind of a prestigious designation for the center,” Tucker said.

The Vance County Senior Center also will benefit from the esteemed certification with additional funding.

Currently, annual allocation from the Home and Community Care Block Grant is about $342,000. That figure stands to increase by $8,000.

“A county is supposed to do a 10 percent match, but Vance County does a great job exceeding that match,” Jefferson said. “They have continuously, consistently exceeded 10 percent in trying to support the center.”

In terms of supporting seniors, the increased funding allocation could help the center serve an additional two seniors through in-house services.

“It’s very expensive to serve one person through Meals on Wheels in one year,” Jefferson said.

Certification is a voluntary process that senior centers can use to be recognized in their communities and across the state.

For those served through the Vance County Senior Center, recognition of exemplary services and opportunities is seen daily through high attendance levels.

A survey given to 79 seniors between March 20 and March 22, revealed 100 percent of participants rated programs and services as either good or excellent.

“We do get feedback from the seniors on their wants and desires,” Jefferson said. “We try to make sure our agenda is aligned with their agenda.”

 

Contact the writer at abentley@hendersondispatch.com.