Older men are homebodies, I was told shortly after joining the board of my towns council on aging and senior center a few months ago. They tend not to go to the senior center.
Then, I learn, that the biggest threat facing middle-aged men isnt smoking or obesity, but loneliness.
So the biggest threat middle-age men face is loneliness yet they wont leave their homes when theyre older to be in the company of others! That got me thinking: What can senior centers do to get men to become more involved and engaged? Heres what experts had to say.
Senior centers tend to focus on women
Part of the problem is that senior center programming tends to center on women. Traditionally recreational programs offered at senior centers are more likely to meet the interests of women, said Manoj Pardasani, a senior associate dean at Fordham University and a research scholar at the Ravazzin Center on Aging. Its somewhat cyclical more women than men attend senior centers so most programs offered are designed for them or suggested by them this in turn limits mens participation and their input.
Others agree that its a problem. Getting men involved, its difficult said Maureen Gallagher, the program coordinator at the Heritage Center in Murray, Utah.
The takeaway: No activities and programs that interest men equal no men.
Here's what it's like to be a VIP sports fan(2:04)
The global sports industry is worth roughly $150 billion in revenue, but the competition for consumers' time and money is fierce. So sports organizations are offering new exclusive experiences that can add up to thousands of dollars per ticket.
But thats changing
The good news, however, is that senior centers across the country are working hard to attract men to their programs, according to Pardasani, Gallagher and others.
And heres what they say senior centers are doing and can do to attract more men:
1. Focus on offering co-ed activities that men also like such as billiards, ping pong, health education, duplicate bridge tournaments, and the like. Thats what Gallagher said works at the Heritage Center. One big draw at our center is golf six months out of the year, she said.
In addition, she said the Heritage Centers social dance is also another big draw. Older men enjoy dancing and showing offon the dance floor, she said. Tango, is also a dance form that several younger men and women enjoy. And exercise, yoga, tai chi, nia, strength conditioning, stretch and tone and Zumba also bring men in.
Pickleball, a racket sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis, also seems to draw men. We just built two new pickleball courts on our property and have one court inside, said Gallagher. Many men show their skills off playing pickleball.
Im told my senior center gets good attendance for its social and competitive cribbage games, as well as the poker league. Plus, in the summer, men can and do play bocce, an Italian game similar to lawn bowling.
2. Offer some activities just for men such as sports, team games or current events – where men feel welcome and comfortable. The Heritage Center, for instance, feature a car show once a year that Gallagher said is usually a men-dominated activity.
The Heritage Center also offers a cooking class, which tends to appeal to older men. We cook from scratch four days a week and meals bring the older men in, said Gallagher.
And, once a year the Heritage Center invites veterans to meet with high school students and share their military stories. These stories are written up by the high school students, then presented to veterans at a later date, said Gallagher. This program, among other things, has been dominated by men and, even more noteworthy, was awarded best Education Program of 2015 by National Institute of Senior Centers (NISIC) Program of Excellence. In my town, elementary school students interview seniors about their experiences going to elementary school, and write up reports about those experiences.
On her bucket list, Gallagher wants to create a support group just for men.
My local senior center also has a monthly mens club meeting, which features speakers and field trips. Im told attendance at the mens club is waning and theres a need to find more speakers and schedule more field trips. In other words, the mens club needs some folks (hello, men?) who will lead the charge to schedule speakers and trips be it going to the local high school football game or scheduling a listening session with elected officials at the state or federal level.
3. Offer continuing education programs that attract both men and women. I may be a newbie who doesnt know yet all the ins and outs of at my local senior center, but there appears to be plenty of continuing education programs being offered. For instance, a group of high school students are running a computer class, and students also offer one-on-one cellphone tutorials.
Organizers, take note: Men prefer programs and activities that are scheduled in the mornings, according to Pardasani.