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Posted by Shepherd’s Centers on 05/26/2022

Empowered and Engaged: Shepherds Centers keep older adults connected

Empowered and Engaged: Shepherds Centers keep older adults connected

A ride to a medical appointment. An interesting class. A meaningful volunteer opportunity. These might not sound related, but they are all essential elements to happy and healthy aging.  And they are all offered by the Shepherd’s Centers of America Network. 

Shepherd’s Centers of America promotes aging well in the community by providing lifelong learning, volunteer service, healthy living, and community engagement opportunities for older adults. There are currently 55 community-based Shepherd’s Centers in 17 states, including five in Northern Virginia (see sidebar for locations and contact information). 

The national network of centers provides services ranging from free transportation and friendly visits to respite care and learning opportunities to more than 165,000 older adults and their families—all at no cost to the participants. Volunteers are the backbone of the centers—making the mission possible. 

A Rich, 50-Year History

While the centers all provide vital support to older adults, the individual program offerings are as diverse as the populations served. “We’re so proud of the fact that no two Shepherd’s Centers are exactly alike,” said Shepherd’s Centers of America Executive Director Sarah Cheney. “Each center is designed by, with, and for older adults, based on their needs and interests.”

A Methodist minister named Elbert Cole founded the first Shepherd’s Center in 1972 in Kansas City, MO. The concept quickly grew and Cole established Shepherd’s Centers of America in 1974 to further connect more older adults to meaningful and enriching opportunities.  He identified several shared values that still influence the work of Shepherd’s Centers today including wellness, inclusion, and giving back to society. 

“I think our history is important because it highlights the essential principles that still guide us today: empowerment and inclusion,” explained Cheney. “These were pretty radical concepts back in 1974, and they are still pertinent today.”

Shepherd’s Centers are not associated with the Methodist church. They are interfaith or no faith organizations and proselytizing is strictly prohibited. All centers emphasize inclusion and individuals from all religious and cultural backgrounds are welcome and encouraged to participate. 

What is a Shepherd’s Center?

A Shepherd’s Center is a community of older adults who come together for social, educational, and civic activities that promote aging in place. The term “Center” is used to suggest “presence” in the community. In fact, a Shepherd’s Center is often described as a “center without walls.” Shepherd’s Centers create relationships that bind society together and empower individuals to take on new challenges, learn new skills, make new friends, and serve others. 

Shepherd’s Centers are open to all older adults, regardless of income. There is no membership fee. Shepherd’s Centers also frequently partner with other organizations or county provided aging services, such as Meals on Wheels, to better serve low-income older adults. 

It is important to note that Shepherd’s Centers are NOT Villages (a separate set of community-based organizations serving localized older adult populations).  

Local Services 

At the five local Shepherd’s Centers, services vary widely. However, there is an overarching focus on free transportation, socialization, support and engagement. The specific programs evolve over time to best meet the needs of the local community.  

Get Involved

 There are so many ways you can support the mission of creating powerful and meaningful opportunities for older adults today…and tomorrow. Volunteer as a driver, office support, class instructor, or in a variety of other opportunities. Or sign up for a class and meet new people. 

To learn more about Shepherd’s Centers or to get involved, contact the center in your neighborhood or visit shepherdcenters.org.

Shepherd’s Center of Annandale Springfield

  • Serving Annandale and Springfield
  • 703-941-1419
  • shepherdscas@vacoxmail.com

Shepherd’s Center of Fairfax-Burke and South County

  • Serving Fairfax City, Burke and South Fairfax County
  • 703-323-4788
  • office@scfbva.org

Shepherd’s Center of McLean-Arlington-Falls Church

  • Serving McLean, Arlington and Falls Church
  • 703-506-2199
  • info@scmafc.org

Shepherd’s Center of Northern Virginia

  • Serving Vienna, Oakton, Dunn Loring, Reston, Herndon and Great Falls
  • 703-281-0538
  • office@scnova.org

Shepherd’s Center of Western Fairfax County

  • Serving Centreville, Chantilly, Fair Oaks and Clifton
  • 703-246-5920
  • SCWFC.Office@gmail.com

How Shepherd’s Centers are working together to change aging in America!

A network of over 55 affiliate centers across the U.S. Each center offers a continuum of enriching services to over 165,000 individuals every day designed to help older adults remain...

Posted by Positive Aging SourceBook on 02/09/2022


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