November 20, 2023 By Carol Britton Meyer
The Hingham Senior Center has a new name — The Center for Active Living — to reflect the vibrancy of the older residents who gather there for various activities and the programs and services provided. The new name comes with the tag line, “Connect. Discover. Grow.”
“It’s more than changing the sign over the front door — it’s about reorganizing and rebranding the functions of our department and the services we provide and how we present ourselves to the community,” Department of Elder Services Director Jennifer Young told the Select Board recently. The board approved the name change at that time. The Council on Aging voted in favor of supporting the name change last February.
Moving forward, the COA marketing subcommittee is working to develop a brand logo to better represent the vibrant members of the community the Center services, hopefully by the end of the year.
In addition, the DES has submitted an application for a Field Demonstration Project Grant through the Massachusetts Association of Councils on Aging, as approved through the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, for the purpose of developing and implementing an outreach and marketing plan.
Educating community about the Center
“The project falls under the subcategory, ‘Becoming the Talk of the Town’ — including educating the community about the Center and the programs and services provided there,” Young told the Hingham Anchor after the meeting. “We expect to hear back about the status of our grant application by Nov. 30.”
Other goals associated with the potential grant include developing partnerships with local businesses and organizations and expanding the volunteer base and roles within the Center and in the overall community.
The DES has completed a substantial amount of work to bring awareness to the dynamic needs of Hingham’s growing population of older adults. “The Department’s goal is to increase the types of volunteer opportunities we have, our active memberships, and community partnerships,” Young told the Hingham Anchor after the meeting. “It’s also about educating the community about the benefits of a modern day senior center facility and to shift existing misperceptions of the programs and services we offer.”
The senior center has been in its current 5,000-square-foot location for 25 years.
“Along with physical constraints and accessibility issues, the DES faces a common misperception by the community about what the Center is and its value to the community as a whole,” Young explained. “With one in four residents over the age of 60, we need to do a better job educating the community on what our programs and services are, and that starts with how we introduce ourselves.”
Expanded or new facility under consideration
In 2020, to address the growing frustrations of Center members, Town Meeting approved a Senior Center Building Committee to oversee the design, engineering, and renovation of an expanded or new facility. That process is still in the works.
To understand the current and future needs of older adult residents, UMass Boston conducted a community needs assessment.
“The final report, ‘Aging in Hingham,’ validated what staff, the Council on Aging, and Center members already knew. The physical space and location does not meet the needs of the range of ages and interests of the older adult population and is far smaller than the spaces of its peers,” Young said. “Awareness and understanding of the Center is uneven among residents under the age of 70.”
Another report, “Expanding the Vibrancy of the Hingham Department of Elder Services: Rebranding Process,” supports the UMass findings and helped identify areas on which to focus.
About 24% of non-users report the reason for not using the Center is because they are not old enough. Others are under the mistaken impression that “it’s like a nursing home” or that it’s for “old people, and boomers don’t see themselves that way.”
Updating Center’s image
Overcoming the obstacles of “unfamiliarity, increasing outreach, adapting programming to meet the broad interests of the older population, and exploring strategies to update the image of the Center may be areas to consider as future goals,” Young explained.
The Center for Active Living supports 35% of the town’s population and their families and is a less expensive alternative to private services, according to Young. “It’s a hub of resources, and the staff are experts on all things age-related,” she said. “Other agencies are connected through the Center, which provides a volunteer base for the town.”