Day centres for older adults are an essential part of social care in the UK.

They offer interactive spaces for attendees to access services, participate in activities and meet new people.

This leads to a range of benefits, both physically and psychologically.

So if you or a loved one needs a break or change of scenery, this article will outline your options.

What are day centres for older adults?

Day centres for older adults are communal spaces which provide respite breaks, services and socialising for attendees.

They may be organised by local councils or charities and can include a mixture of professional staff and volunteers.

Most people attend day centres either once or twice a week, depending on their needs.

The venues are an essential resource for a growing UK elderly population, who have come to rely on them to supplement their usual care needs.

In fact, research from 2013-14 shows that they were used by 10% of older people in receipt of local authority or commissioned care.

Such popularity is unsurprising, given their range of beneficial effects. Let’s take a look.

Benefits of day care

According to new evidence, there’s a growing loneliness problem in the UK.

With more older adults suffering from illness, disability and mobility issues, social isolation has ensued.

Much of the care for those needing help is either provided by loved ones or care workers at home, so day centres constitute a vital outlet for those needing assistance while also seeking more interaction with those of a similar age.

Meeting new people and making friends is one of the primary benefits of attending day care.

Improving psychological health

Being able to connect with others is what day care was designed for.

The feeling of camaraderie fostered by spending time in a community environment cannot be underestimated.

Research shows that being part of a compatible group boosts both happiness and wellbeing.

Forming a safety net of friends, who can celebrate the highs but also be there for the lows, is vital.

Improving physical health

Many day centres, in addition to emphasising the social aspects of care, also offer much needed physical activity.

This is essential as we age so as to maintain our strength and mobility.

Day centres routinely deliver services including active games and gentle exercise, facilitated by trained members of staff.

Providing respite care

If we require support from friends and family, it’s essential to schedule regular breaks.

Naturally, the effects of prolonged care can be very noticeable, both for the person delivering that care and for those receiving it.

Even if you have a strong, loving relationship with a carer, reclaiming a day for yourself to recharge is paramount in maintaining a healthy, sustainable care arrangement.

This is where respite care comes in.

Accessing services

For those who need a helping hand, day care can be the perfect place to access important services, without requesting additional help from loved ones.

Such centres often include access to appointments like foot care and hairdressers, all under one roof.

Let’s see what else they offer.

Common day centre services and provision

Tea and coffee – no day centre would be complete without a hot beverage, dunking biscuits and natter with your friends.

Hot lunch – most day centres provide a nutritious hot lunch. Eating healthily is essential as we get older to maintain energy and strength, perfect after a morning of activities.

Games – depending on the day centre, you might have the option of playing games like bingo or bridge, just to add some lighthearted, competitive fun to the mix.

Exercises – we all need to keep our bodies supple and strong, so strength and flexibility sessions cater for a variety of abilities. Even if you or a loved one has mobility issues, chair-based stretches and strengthening might be the perfect option.

Arts and crafts – are you the creative type? Perhaps you enjoy working with your hands, with some good company thrown in. Most centres aim to make your day as interactive as possible, and activities like knitting and card making add to the enjoyment.

Guest speakers and visits – some day centres either attract volunteers or engage the services of speakers to provide entertainment for attendees.

Day trips – although attending a centre is often a day out in itself, some organisations seek to plan trips to local points of interest and attractions.

Music – remember those golden oldies? They’re sure to induce a healthy dose of nostalgia, conversation and perhaps even some karaoke if you’re feeling brave!

Dancing – alright, so the music’s got you moving and shaking. Perhaps you fancy a little quickstep, Strictly Come Dancing style, which may be on the itinerary at some centres.

Chiropody – tired feet after all that dancing? Many day centres provide access to professional services to deal with foot health and nail care.

Bathing – as we get older it can become harder to wash safely and effectively. Assistance with personal care once or twice a week may help.

Medication assistance – staff might sometimes help with administering medication, although this may not always be possible for those with complex needs.

Health checks – some day centres provide access to trained professionals who can administer health checks on site and provide further treatment recommendations or referrals as needed.

Who are day centres for?

Day centres cater for two main types of visitor:

Low needs – due to the nature of services offered and staff available, some day centres may only offer support for those with less intensive care requirements. For those with complex needs, it’s always advisable to check on service provision ahead of time.

Specialist days – some day centres do offer support for specific health conditions. For example, dementia days are relatively common and allow for more tailored attendee support. Special days for those with visual or auditory impairments are also offered.

A typical day centre day out

Every day centre will vary in its schedule, but here’s a broad overview:

  1. You might be picked up by pre-arranged, wheelchair-accessible transport
  2. After settling in with a nice cup of tea, you can catch up with other attendees
  3. Activities may take you up to lunchtime
  4. After lunch you might get your hair done or access any other services you need

How to arrange day care

The first step is to decide whether you want to arrange day care yourself or receive recommendations from the council:

Arranging it yourself

To do this, you can search for day centres near you.

A good place to start is with Age UK, who have centres around the country. They will usually perform an assessment to see how you’re currently managing day-to-day and what help you need.

It might also be possible to organise a taster day at one of their venues.

Receiving recommendations through the council

When going through the council, you and your carer are likely to each need an assessment to gauge how you’re coping.

If a day centre is deemed appropriate, in the case of respite care for example, your council may then recommend a particular centre and contribute towards the cost of attending.

If you are eligible for funding, you may be able to use your Personal Budget to pay for day service.

Day centre prices

The cost of day centres vary and may depend on whether you choose to organise it yourself or have an assessment through the council.

Therefore, it’s advisable to contact the council in the first instance.

If you or a loved one are deemed as needing extra assistance, they will generally perform a financial assessment. In some cases, the council may then contribute towards the cost of day care.

If you choose to organise the day centre yourself, you might have to pay a fee or at least contribute towards the cost of refreshments, lunch and any services you choose to engage.

Day centres will likely cost a minimum of £20 (excluding extras such as transport and lunch) and could be in the region of £50-100 per day, depending on whether you have support from the council.

Final considerations

  • Decide how far you’re willing to travel. If transport is laid on, sometimes it will have to pick up other attendees, which can make it a longer day.
  • Discuss your needs and any special provisions with the centre. For example, if you have certain dietary requirements, clarify these ahead of time.
  • Get recommendations regarding reputable local centres from friends, your social worker or GP.
  • Research local day centres and look at any reviews available online.


Day centres provide an indispensable outlet for huge numbers of older adults around the UK.

Sadly, despite the clear evidence of their benefits, many centres closed between 2010 and 2018.

We can only hope that such vital support continues to be provided within our communities.