Senior Services, Inc. of Wichita’s history began in 1968, when ministers from various downtown churches gathered to discuss the needs of older people living in the downtown core area and to develop strategies to meet those needs. They opened the Senior Activities Center at 115 East First Street as a drop-in site where people could meet, plan activities, and exchange information about employment and volunteer opportunities.
The group quickly determined that one of the greatest issues facing adults age 60 years and better was a lack of adequate nutrition. Appropriately, then, it began a Meals on Wheels program, which, on January 13, 1969, delivered hot lunches to seventeen people. The Meals on Wheels program has never stopped since, having passed the 5,000,000 meal mark in 1999. The program currently serves nutritious noon meals to approximately 900 clients in the Wichita area every weekday, and serves weekend meals to approximately 50 clients considered to be the most at risk for institutionalization.
Close behind Meals on Wheels was another nutrition program: Roving Pantry. Because many people age 60 years and better had no way to pick up surplus food commodities at the Sedgwick County Courthouse, Senior Services began home food delivery in June of 1969. The Roving Pantry grocery shopping and delivery service has since become an essential component of the agency’s effort to ensure adequate nutrition among the area’s elderly.
Senior Services determined that after nutrition, the most pressing issue was employment. Starting with a simple jobs bulletin board in 1968, the Senior Employment Program has now grown to be an effective source of job referrals, job search training, and employment counseling tailored specifically to the needs of mature people. In 2005, SEP helped find employment for 545 adults age 60 years and better.
In 1982 Senior Services, Inc. moved to new quarters at 335 West Lewis, a site that served as the Downtown Senior Center and the Meals on Wheels kitchen. By this time, the agency had become recognized as an effective clearing house of information, assistance and advocacy for those age 55 and better and their families.
In January 1985, Senior Services, Inc. of Wichita was proud to become affiliated with United Way of the Plains. This relationship quickly bore fruit with the development in 1988 of In-Home Respite Care. An innovative idea at the time, it was a pilot program of the United Way to provide relief to primary caregivers of elderly dependents. Similar programs now exist around the country, helping caregivers to maintain their physical and emotional health while they care for their loved ones.
In December 1991, Senior Services, Inc. moved to its present headquarters at 200 S. Walnut, occupying what was originally St. George’s Orthodox Cathedral. The site now serves as the administrative center for the agency, the Meals on Wheels kitchen and the Downtown Senior Center.
Throughout its history, Senior Services has recognized the importance of senior centers. The agency currently operates four senior centers that respond to the changing needs and desires of the community by providing a rich mix of educational, recreational, health-related and physical fitness activities. The agency ensures that there is something for everyone at the centers, from informational programs on investments and legal issues to yoga, aerobics and dance classes; from foot care services to computer classes; and from bridge clubs to weight-loss programs. These centers have become focal points for residents, and Senior Services, Inc. of Wichita is proud of their reputation for developing programs and services that help mature adults live rich, active lives.