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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Member participation : encouraging and discouraging factors in senior centre planning Foster, John

Abstract

A Senior Centre serves as a community focal point on aging where older adults, either individually or in groups, come together forf various services and activities. Most early Senior Centres were initiated, planned, and administered by bodies such as Recreation Departments or welfare agencies as a means of meeting the identified needs of a community's older citizens. In recent years, however, older people have become increasingly vocal in identifying their own needs and have come to play a more active role in the planning and administration of their Senior Centres. The literature provides little information for those interested in the changes that have taken place in the planning and administration of Senior Centres. It focuses mainly on what is planned (programs) rather than how planning is conducted (process) or who participates in the process. This thesis is exploratory in nature, seeking both to make an initial attempt at filling the gap that exists in the literature and to provide assistance to those engaged in planning at Senior Centres. The thesis begins with a background chapter, which provides an overview of the history and present situations of the Senior Centre movements in the United States and Canada. It then briefly reviews the relevant literature in an effort to answer three questions: 1) What is involved in the planning process at Senior Centres? 2) Why should a Senior Centre's members have the opportunity to become involved in the process? 3) In what planning areas should members be involved? On the assumption that Centre members should have the opportunity to become involved in their Centre's planning process, the main body of the thesis seeks to discover what opportunities exist for their involvement and to determine the factors that encourage members to become involved. The research is "based upon case studies of three Senior Centres in the Greater Vancouver areas Silver Harbour Centre in North Vancouver, 411 Centre in Vancouver, and Murdoch Centre in Richmond. The data for the case studies is provided by Centre documents, personal observations, casual conversations, and open-ended interviews. The interviews were conducted with three groups involved in or affected by, planning at the Senior Centres: Executive Directors, Board members, and general members. Chapter 4 provides background on the three Centres. It reveals the distinct histories, programs, physical environments and administrative structures of the Centres and underscores the fact that no one planning model would be appropriate for all three Centres. Chapter 5 analyses the "structural" opportunities that each Centre provides for its members to become involved in planning. Two distinct planning models emerge from the analysist the predominantly member-planned (autonomous) model, as represented by the Silver Harbour and 411 Centres, and the mainly agencjsp-planned (semi-autonomous) model found at Murdoch. The "autonomous" Centres provide the greatest opportunities, as their members exercise control over policy, budget, program, staffing, and building matters. Members of the semi-autonomous Centre exercise less control, as they act only in an advisory capacity. In Chapter 6, the factors which potentially encourage or discourage members' involvement in planning are identified. Their identification emerges from a post facto analysis of the case study data. The factors are separated into four categories for analysis: l) administrative structures, 2) characteristics of planning members (Board and Committee members), 3) characteristics of Centre Directors and staff, and 4) buildings. The most encouraging factors for members' involvement in planning appeared to be a relatively autonomous administrative structure, skilled and experienced Board and Committee members, Directors, and staff, a building owned by members and designed for use as a Centre, and an adequate level of junding and staffing. The conclusions of the research which are presented in Chapter 7, stem from the analysis of factors which encourage or discourage members' involvement in a Senior Centre's planning. The main conclusion is that, generally speaking, if the factors identified in Chapter 6 are in place, a Senior Centre should be more successful in encouraging members to become involved in its planning. However, three problematic aspects of establishing an "encouraging" planning framework were identified and explored. The first two were some planning members' apparent lack of understanding of the planning process and a possible lack of continuity in the planning network (i.e. high staff turnover and difficulties in recruiting new members to assume planning roles). The conclusion drawn was that the provision of training sessions, which focus on aspects of the planning process and on "human" skills, such as,communications, leadership, and how to motivate others, could result in staff and members becoming more adept at planning and encouraging other members to become involved in the process. The third problematic aspect identified related to the somewhat surprising finding that an optimum level of resources (funding and staffing) appears to exist, "below or above which factors discouraging to members' involvement in planning set in. The thesis concluded that If this optimum level could be ascertained, it would result in signigicant benefits to the members, staff, and administrative and funding bodies of Senior Centres. An ascertainable optimum level would provide a basis for governments and other funding bodies to determine a more equitable allocation of resources amongst Centres. And if acted upon, it would encourage the maximum involvement of members in their Centre's planning process. In closing the thesis, the implications that the research has for other planning groups and for society as a whole are discussed and a number of questions which might be pursued by other researchers are presented.

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