While you don’t necessarily need a special degree to get a job as director of a senior citizen center, you do need to have a thorough understanding of what makes seniors tick. A varied background in geriatrics, recreation and marketing will serve you well in the position. You also might need some basic medical skills like CPR and first aid, as well as supervisory experience to handle the workload.
You’re the boss at the center and as such, you hire a staff, which could include a receptionist and recreation workers, as directed. Additionally, you will recruit and supervise a group of volunteers. Very often, volunteers play a vital role in the center's operation because many senior centers are city-run and lack extensive budgets. In your role, you’ll also be given a budget under which you have to run the center, purchase equipment and maintain your facility. As the boss, you will have reports and paperwork constantly needing your attention as well.
With your team, it’s up to you to plan and then oversee the activities you offer at the center. While you may have a staff to work directly with the seniors during activities and meals, the director usually participates in the day-to-day work as well. You’ll coordinate day trips, including the transportation, and make sure there’s adequate supervision at all times. It’s up to you to plan for special occasions and oversee decorating the center for holidays. After you get your programs running, you then must evaluate their usefulness and find out how they’ve been received by the seniors. You need to get regular feedback from your constituency to give them the kinds of activities they need and want offered at the center.
As a city or county employee, you’ll have plenty of meetings to attend. Even if you work in a private senior center, you’ll have to report to a board of directors or corporate committee. You’ll be the spokesperson for the center and need to make and maintain media contacts for publicity that’s going to be useful in your fundraising efforts. When the press calls for any reason, you’re the one they talk to. You’ll also decide how involved your center gets in other community affairs and may partner with other agencies and community groups to bring services and activities to your own seniors.
Fundraising to supplement your budget might be within your realm of responsibilities too. You may apply for grants to put on special programs or just keep up your day-to-day activities. You’ll fill out the paperwork to apply to state and federal agencies to get your center certified. The recognition puts you in a better position to get other grants and certifies that your center complies with federal standards of excellence. Federal funding often is linked to the certification as well. Additionally, most senior center directors create fundraising events to augment limited resources and promote the facility to the community.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."