First Advisor

Sy Adler

Date of Publication

Spring 5-21-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies and Planning


Urban Studies and Planning




Older people -- Services for -- Oregon -- Portland Metropolitan Area, Senior centers -- Oregon -- Portland Metropolitan Area -- Planning, Senior centers -- Oregon -- Portland Metropolitan Area -- Finance



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 256 pages)


A growing body of research emphasizes the development of an understanding of the relationship between older adults and their physical and social environments (Wahl & Weisman, 2003). Researchers, planners, policymakers, and community residents have been increasingly interested in shaping urban environments as places that foster active aging and independence among older adults. Senior centers have served a critical role in their communities as focal points for older adults, as individuals or in groups, to participate in services and activities that support their independence and encourage their involvement in and with the community (NCOA, 1979). The aging of the population and influx of baby boomers into the older demographic, along with declines in participation rates and funding, are challenging senior center staff to be innovative and adaptive in order to demonstrate senior centers’ relevance to future older adults while maintaining the programming and services for their current participants. This research is a multiple-case study of five unique senior centers located throughout the Portland metropolitan area in Oregon. Different types and models of senior centers are represented by the selected cases, as they operate under different governance structures and vary in aspects such as administration, funding, participant characteristics, community partnerships, transportation options, physical environments, and range of services and programs offered. This study aims to better understand challenges, strengths, and future directions for different types of senior centers serving a metropolitan area. Data collection at each site included interviews with staff as well as focus groups with senior center participants. Interviews with key informants enriched the findings and provided outside perspectives of senior center experiences. Data analysis revealed challenges and strengths that were common across and unique to the different senior centers in this study. This research contributes to the literature in urban studies, community development, and gerontology by exploring potential opportunities for urban senior centers to adapt and continue to serve older adults. Recommendations were developed for how senior centers might capitalize on these opportunities and for how their communities might provide mechanisms of support to facilitate the continuation and contributions of senior centers in metropolitan areas.


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