In nearly 30 years of working with the older population locally and nationally, Bob Pitman has seen them become more active, more educated and more involved in their communities.
What they’re not becoming is more connected, which concerns the longtime executive director of Columbus’ Mill Race Center, a facility that serves the 50-plus group.
The way Pitman figures it, there could be 55- or 65-year-old folks all over Columbus — and nationally, too — simply sitting at home.
“We want to help senior centers offer programs and activities that appeal to the needs of them,” Pitman said.
Therein lies the reason behind the “Shift for Success” conference from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at the center, 900 Lindsey St. It has attracted nearly 50 senior-population leaders from six states.
Pitman began speaking publicly on a regular basis more than 20 years ago about more effectively reaching seniors, the fastest growing demographic locally, statewide and nationally. He highlighted the issue not only to help seniors but also to help seniors help others, often calling them “among a community’s greatest resource” for everything from the workforce to volunteerism.
Today’s conference will target issues such as leadership, changes in funding and programs, using seniors as key volunteers and marketing solutions.
South Carolina senior center consultant Jill Jackson Ledford has seen marketing goals fall by the wayside at some facilities.
“They get pushed to the back burner, which in the long run hurts the agency,” Ledford said.
Pitman, Ledford and one other key conference presenter, Madison, Wis., senior center director Christine Beatty, boast 88 years of senior-center experience combined. The trio will begin to take this kind of conference nationwide, Pitman said.
“We see a great need for senior centers everywhere to move forward to better attract baby boomers and younger seniors in general,” Pitman said.
All three have served as top leaders of the National Institute on Senior Centers, based in Washington.
Pitman understands the topic of shifting to serve seniors as well as anyone. He faced a range of obstacles over two decades in spearheading a drive to build the $7.8 million, state-of-the-art Mill Race Center, which opened in 2011.
The center signed on 800 new members last year and has brought 300 new seniors on board this year.
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