December 20, 2023

New Name for Senior Resource Center Reflects Changing Attitudes About Aging

By Anne Levin

The Princeton Senior Resource Center (PSRC) has a new name. As of January 1, the 49-year-old organization that serves four generations of people, aged 55 to 105, will be doing business as the Center for Modern Aging in Princeton.

The new name reflects changes in the way older adults see themselves, and are seen by those around them.

“It’s a conversation that began several years ago, before I came on board,” said Chief Executive Officer Drew Dyson. “It’s about the language used for older adults in the community. Many don’t identify themselves as seniors. That terminology just doesn’t reflect who older adults consider themselves to be at this point. So we had to think, ‘How do we see ourselves and the people we serve?’ We went through some extensive research to find out.”

Surveys, focus groups and stakeholder conversations were held. As part of the process, they engaged with nearly 1,000 older adults — some already involved with PSRC programs, others not. They considered a preferred language guide issued by the Centers for Disease Control for the way certain groups perceive themselves.

“Older adults were among those groups,” said Dyson. “We are moving away from the terms ‘senior’ and ‘elderly.’ Also, the concept of a senior center is fairly dated in people’s minds. When you think about the term ‘senior center,’ it’s about crafts and games and maybe a hot lunch. But we are about learning, exercise, programs like the Evergreen Forum and Community Without Walls, and so much more.”

In New Jersey, 99 percent of the senior centers are funded by the municipalities in which they are located. Princeton’s situation is different.

“We want to avoid the confusion,” Dyson said. “People think that because it’s been called the senior center, that it is a municipal agency, but we are not funded 100 percent by the municipality. We have a great relationship [with the municipality], but that’s about 15 percent of our whole budget. The rest of it comes from individual donors, foundations, grants, and community and corporate sponsors. So we really are a nonprofit, and we have to raise 85 percent on our own. The new name helps with that.”

The organization, inspired by the vision of Jocelyn Helm, was created in 1974 as Tenant Services. The initial programs supported the residents of Spruce Circle and the wider community. Incorporation as the community nonprofit, the PSRC, came in 1978.

“Then, in 2014, because of the awareness than of the challenges with the word ‘senior’ and the phrase ‘senior center,’ we began ‘doing business as’ (DBA) PSRC,” reads a press release. “Now, with ever-growing programs, a full social services department, and a modern new building, we stand at the threshold of our next great chapter.”

Programs at the nonprofit’s two locations will continue as they have been — exercise, dance, and art classes at the Suzanne Patterson Center; and things like lifelong learning and technology at the newer facility on Poor Farm Road.

“We’ll still offer great programs and resources,” said Dyson. “We’re just excited about these new developments, and what the future holds for us. Some 5,500 older adults are served by us each year. That’s a big range to attempt to reach. Aging is a process and something to be embraced, rather than feared.”