Young at Heart

Exploring the Future of Senior Centers in Milwaukee County

April 2019


Our latest research finds that the five Milwaukee County-owned senior centers face substantial repair and replacement needs, which poses a particular challenge given the county’s overall backlog of needed infrastructure projects. At the same time, these facility needs offer an opportunity for Milwaukee County officials and the broader community to re-assess the role of senior centers.

After examining older adult programming in five peer counties and national guidance established by the federal Older Americans Ac, we suggest that the current senior center model may not constitute the best use of the limited resources available to promote older adult independence. In contemplating a different model, policymakers and citizens should address the following questions:

  • Should Milwaukee County own and pay for programming in large facilities that are exclusively devoted to older adult services?
  • Should Milwaukee County consider, instead, the use of multi-generational community centers in the hope of expanding the benefits of such facilities to the broader community?
  • If county leaders deem it impractical or unaffordable to own senior or multi-generational facilities, should Milwaukee County focus on funding outside agencies to provide senior center-type programming in their own facilities?
  • Alternatively, should the county allow senior centers to be the exclusive domain of municipal and community-based partners, and instead use county resources for expanded services in areas like transportation and an expanded call center?