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History and Accreditation

On a snowy Valentine’s Day in 1960, the University League (now the Junior League of Charlottesville) first opened the Senior Center’s doors in a small, rented space downtown. From 25 members that first year to almost 2,000 today, the Center has never stopped growing, evolving, and serving our community in myriad ways over 60 years of service.

There have been many milestones along the way, from becoming an independent nonprofit organization in 1963 to the installation of our beautiful rose garden in 1993; from the opening of our own facility at Pepsi Place in 1991—thanks to the generosity of the Jessup family and Frances Jean Robey—to the addition of evening and Sunday hours in 2005; and from our first national accreditation in 2002 to winning both the prestigious 2008 Commonwealth Council on Aging Best Practices Award and the 2009 NuStep Pinnacle of Excellence Award, given to the nation’s premier provider of whole-person wellness programs.

As a role model for centers nationwide, we have earned recognition for the breadth and quality of our programs in fitness & wellness, recreation, lifelong learning, travel, volunteering, and the arts. The Center has thrived since 1960 with no government funding, relying on the generosity of individuals, businesses, and foundations to help thousands of our friends and neighbors stay involved, enriched, and empowered—all key to successful, independent aging.

What's next? The Center at Belvedere: a new home for active aging and community health. 

The Center at Belvedere

The Center at Belvedere is an exciting step in the advancement of The Center's mission of healthy aging for the greater Charlottesville community. Groundbreaking for The Center at Belvedere was held on November 16, 2018. The project is a prime example of community generosity and ambition. Funding for construction came from a mix of philanthropic donations, investment by Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville; and financing from Carter Bank and Trust. 

It takes a village to accomplish a feat of this size, and The Center at Belvedere is coming to fruition thanks to many dedicated project partners. The project is spearheaded by Matthews Development Company, LLC; Bushman Dreyfus Architects, which is responsible for its design; and Barton Malow, which will lead the building process. Lifespan Design Studio plays a crucial role in ensuring the building is accessible to all with "universal" design. 

The Grand Opening of The Center at Belvedere, originally scheduled for April 18, 2020, has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. We will reschedule as soon as possible.

National Accreditation

We were the first accredited senior center in Virginia!

Some context: Of the approximately 12,000 senior centers in America, less than 2% are accredited; a mere handful have attained four accreditations. 

The National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC), a constituent unit of the National Council on Aging (NCOA), offers the nation’s only National Senior Center Accreditation Program.

The program is based on nine standards of excellence for senior center operations: purpose and planning; community connections; governance; administration and human resources; program development and implementation; evaluation; fiscal and asset responsibility; records and reports; and facility and operations. 

Accreditation is a rigorous, months-long process of self-evaluation and a two-day, on-site review by representatives of NISC. Accreditation status is good for five years; we first achieved this milestone in 2002, and were accredited again in 2007, 2013, and 2018.

This official recognition shows that the excellence for which we strive is real—we continue to prove it year after year, both in day-to-day operations and in positioning ourselves for a future of creating opportunities for healthy aging.

Many thanks to members of the Accreditation Committee for their work over the years to help us prove, yet again, that we are one of the best senior centers in the U.S.

Thanks, too, to our accreditation sponsor, The Colonnades, a Sunrise Senior Living Community sponsored by Foundations of the University of Virginia.