Tools for the Senior Center Certification Process
Senior centers have great potential for serving older adults. They can be convenient locations in the community for older adults to gather; participate in recreational, educational, and health-promoting activities; and obtain information about other community programs and services.
Because the senior centers in North Carolina are in various stages of development, and because many communities do not yet have centers, in fall 1998, the Division of Aging and Adult Services assembled a task force for senior center development, composed of senior center directors, representatives from Area Agencies on Aging, older adults, the division, the NC Institute on Aging, and the Center for Aging Research and Educational Services. Its charge was to develop a standard for best practice in senior center operations.
The task force identified a model for high-quality senior centers with two tiers--the Center of Merit and the Center of Excellence. They identified best practices for five major operational areas:
- outreach and access to services
- programs and activities
- planning, evaluation, and input from older adults
- operations and physical plant.
They established a process by which centers could complete a self-evaluation, ask to be reviewed by independent site visitors, and receive certification at the level of Merit or Excellence from the Division of Aging and Adult Services based on the recommendation of the site review team. The also negotiated minimum standards for each level of certification. Centers of Merit meet all the requirements of the Home and Community Care Block Grant and are providers of very high-quality services. Centers of Excellence provide exemplary services and opportunities to their communities and serve as mentors and models to developing centers.
State certification is a voluntary process that senior centers can use to be recognized in their communities and across the state. The purpose of the process is to strengthen the capacity of senior centers by providing a set of measurable indicators of best practice. The self-evaluation tool also provides a framework centers can use to plan their development and seek resources from the community, the state, and other sources.
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March 14, 2012