Illinois Senior Centers: Not Just for Aged


Some Illinois senior centers aren’t just focusing on the 65+ demographic but are beginning to include people aged 50+. The U.S. Census indicates the population aged 45 and older accounts for 42% of the total population, up from 27% in 1940.Tracey Colagrossi, senior center manager for the Village of Arlington Heights, said the aging population in Illinois is changing and people are looking for more engaging community involvement.

“As people want to age in place, the majority of us will not go into nursing homes,” Colagrossi explained. “It is not the norm to go into communal living. So just as you go to schools when you are younger, there is school for that and then there is work, and then senior center is that third place where people still have that opportunity to gather and learn.”

Some senior centers across the country such as The Village of Arlington Heights in the Chicago area offer free drop-ins. Colagrossi noted people aged 50 and older receive priority registration for programs and special events, while persons younger than age 50 may register at no additional fee, provided space is available at the center. Aging in Illinois can have its perks too. Many older adults can take advantage of discounts and free services offered by the Illinois Department of Aging and also services offered by volunteers at senior centers. Colagrossi pointed out her facility offers many options for older adults to get resources and help in their day-to-day life, but also offers so much to the slightly younger population to be more involved in the community.

“We should be talking about Gen X, frankly,” Colagrossi acknowledged. “That is a population who’s 55 and growing older. That opportunity to give back is appealing for Gen X as well as more active ways like kayaking, hiking, indoor sky diving so more of like adventurous types of things like that, and it breaks the mold of what you think a senior center is.”

The Village of Arlington Heights Senior Center offers ways for individuals to give back to the community. In 2022, more than 1,600 people volunteered a total of more than 14,000 hours.

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