The Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy (VSHSL) is up for renewed voter consideration in King County this August and our aging neighbors need our support more than ever right now. If the Levy is not approved, it will expire in December 2023. The Levy has funded a wide range of programs that support veterans, expand accessibility for older adults, and strengthen communities while building resilience through connections to senior centers, behavioral health treatment, and other services.
Here are just a few examples of how Levy funds have allowed us to impact, nourish, and care for the well-being of our aging neighbors in King County:
“Meals on Wheels has been a lifesaver to me. It gives me a house full of meals and has helped to give me a sense of safety in my life. Thank you.”
“My counselor helped me plan what I can do to head off anxiety. Taking better care of myself is key to dealing with my chronic pain & anxiety. I can now do things to better help myself every day.”
“I wouldn’t know all that I do now without Caregiver Support’s help and knowledge. Thank you for helping me even when I wasn’t sure what I needed before my mom’s condition turned worse.”
According to a survey conducted by AARP in 2022, more than 80% of older lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals expressed concerns about not having enough social support systems as they age. Across all subsegments of the LGBTQ community, people report being more isolated, less financially secure, and often without the same level of familial support as others who are not part of the queer community may have.
Navigating healthcare looks different in the LGBTQ community, often due to affordability concerns. Many reported rationing medication doses, delaying getting a refill on a needed prescription, or forgoing a visit to a specialist they needed, all due to cost. When it comes to caregiving or receiving care, they also face challenges in being less likely to have the option of being cared for by adult children.
Caregivers across the board often sacrifice their own health and quality of life for the sake of their loved ones. Most LGBTQ caregivers report feeling they had no choice in taking on their caregiver role, often with the person needing their care not accepting their identity, which creates additional strain on the caregiver’s wellbeing.
Despite all the obstacles, the LGBTQ community remains resilient, and many still report leading satisfying lives, especially when they have a support network to lean on. Stable and supportive relationships among partners, friends, and chosen family not only make people happy overall, but contribute to one’s general wellbeing. And the state in which an LGBTQ person lives matters—it impacts how safe and protected they feel in their communities. Washington state is currently among the states where LGBTQ people report feeling most supported, but there is more work to be done in fighting for equality, elevating voices, and creating safe spaces for people to share their experiences.
If you are part of a company, organization, or community group looking for ways to elevate and amplify your LGBTQ support, here are some suggestions made by AARP in their research conclusion:
Listen to LGBTQ communities. Make an effort to listen to their stories, understand their experiences, and validate their concerns.
Commit to DEI. Conduct ongoing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging training opportunities within workplaces or community groups.
Talk about it! Share the concerns of the LGBTQ community openly on social media and other outlets.
Be a corporate partner! Sponsor an LGBTQ community event.
Join the PRIDE celebrations with our partner Senior Centers!
On Thursday, June 15th, from 4-5:30 pm, the Senior Center of West Seattle is welcoming Mitchell C. Hunter of GenPride for a special “Celebrating the History of PRIDE Month” presentation, using personal storytelling to illustrate the diversity of LGBTQIA+ people and their experiences. You’ll learn the historical context of discrimination they have faced and the milestones and achievements they have celebrated. There will be a Q&A session following the presentation. Entry fee: $10. Advance RSVP requested; please call 206-932-4044.
It’s Older Americans Month, and this year’s theme is “Aging Unbound.” Every May, Older Americans Month gives us an opportunity to celebrate diverse aging experiences and challenge the stereotypical narratives around what aging is “supposed” to look like. Sound Generations is proud to uphold our commitment to fostering communities that engage and support older adults in aging vibrantly in their own unique ways.
Partnering with other organizations and community centers that cater to the range of cultural groups and populations in King County is one way that Sound Generations upholds our values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our food security services have been working in partnership with institutions like the Kawabe Memorial House to ensure that aging adults of all ethnicities and cultural backgrounds have access to meals that meet their unique nutritional needs. The Kawabe Memorial House is a senior living facility and community center in the Central District, offering a suite of programs and services catered to local Koran and Japanese individuals. Community Dining chefs at Kawabe serve a menu of traditional cuisines for the center residents and visitors to enjoy.
Gordon Sata has participated in the Community Dining program at Kawabe for several years and frequently enjoys many traditional Japanese dishes that he had growing up. Among his favorite dishes that the chefs prepare are saba, barazushi, and fried oysters. In speaking about these dishes, Gordon reminisces about times growing up when he would help his mother prepare these traditional meals.
“There is so much chopping of vegetables and things. They were really yummy to eat, but always a lot of work.”
The responses of participants like Gordon reflect the effort to connect with diverse aging communities through cultural cuisine. Creating opportunities to engage and foster familiar experiences that make people feel at home is just one small way to have a big impact on the lives of older adults. We are committed to embracing all ways of aging and aim to act in partnership with communities by providing accessible and inclusive services as they age.
When older adults are engaged and supported, the whole community benefits. That is why we are committed to reframing the narrative of aging, and you can help! Donate to any of our supportive programs or join us at our next event in June! The Inspire Positive Aging Awards luncheon is a time to recognize older adults who continue to make an impact in their communities across categories in Advocacy & Activism, Community Service, Defining Inspiration, Health & Wellness, Intergenerational Impact, and Lifelong Learning.
Community partnerships like the Kawabe Memorial House allow Sound Generations to expand and strengthen our network of support for older adults seeking opportunities to create positive human connections. When aging communities are supported, everyone benefits. You can help us continue to serve our mission of empowering older adults to age their way. Make a gift today and embrace aging unbound with us!
Kelly Lake has been a volunteer driver for Sound Generations’ Volunteer Transportation program since 2018.
“I moved to Washington from Northern California, where my family lives. My dad had developed dementia, and because my sister still lived in California where he is, a lot of his caretaking fell to her. She often had to drive him to medical appointments and getting him was a challenge because she had to go well out of her way to pick him up and had to take time away from work to do so. I started looking into ride programs in California and learning about those, to see if there was help available to support my sister in alleviating some of the burden of caring for my dad.”
Kelly wondered if there was some way she could help others in Washington facing a similar situation. If she couldn’t be there to help her sister in caring for their dad, maybe she could help those in Washington who needed a ride. That’s how she found Volunteer Transportation.
“I love to drive, I love meet people, and I was in a position where I had the time to volunteer.”
After being a volunteer driver for over a year, Kelly was assigned a ride that hit very close to home when the contact person for the ride turned out to be the daughter of the participant, and it was the first time her dad would be using the service.
“She was cautious and nervous about the safety of her dad. I called and we talked a little bit, and it turned out she was in the same situation as my sister had been in with my own dad. I was able to reassure her because of my own experience. That was a direct connection between my own story and the program, and the impact it has on other people.”
Kelly is highly regarded among the Volunteer Transportation staff for her commitment to helping support the service and the aging community. She loves the flexibility of being able to set her own volunteer hours, and to decide what parts of the city and surrounding areas she feels most familiar and comfortable driving in.
“Hearing the stories from the senior participants is was keeps me motivated to continue volunteering. They are always so grateful and humbled to have this service. It is a joyful opportunity that I feel privileged to do.”
Sound Generations offers many opportunities to volunteer across our pillars of service and support positive aging in communities across King County.
Spending time with others through cooking and shared meals is a universal way that we foster community and connection with each other, no matter who we are or where we come from.
In honor of March being Women’s History Month as well as Nutrition Month, we wanted to recognize the women chefs and cooks who support the dining programs that foster health and connection among older adults in their communities.
Hayla Thompson has been working at Margie’s Café for the last year, serving healthy and delicious food to patrons of the Senior Center of West Seattle. Hayla is a self-taught cook and has utilized a lot of creativity to develop healthy and flavorful meals around multiple dietary restrictions.
“I cook a lot of vegan things, and I make sure there are vegetarian and vegan options every day. I want people to come in knowing they can eat a meal that fits their needs and doesn’t feel like an afterthought. I want people who are vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-intolerant to know that there is food there for them.”
Before working in the café, Hayla was a volunteer with Community Dining and is continuously inspired by the creativity of food and by ingredients from different cultural cuisines.
While she hasn’t had a lot of experience working in commercial kitchens, Hayla is aware of the gender disparity that exists for women chefs and is grateful that er own experience has been overwhelmingly positive at the Senior Center of West Seattle. “They are great about fostering a safe environment, and there is no room for bad attitudes. Everyone is respectful.”
Hayla’s goal for the future is to become a Community Dining chef and to continue carrying out the positive culture and goal of putting out good meals every day with a lot of love and kindness.
Hayla shared this recipe for Kimchi Fried Rice, one of her favorite things to make at home. This recipe serves one but can be multiplied to serve as many as you like!
1 cup cooked rice 2 tsp oil ¾ cup kimchi 2oz diced spam or vegan sausage 1 tbsp soy sauce 8 sheets seaweed snack, torn 1 tsp sesame oil
Optional: 1 pat butter 1 egg
Heat oil on medium high heat in a wok or your favorite frying pan. Add diced sausage or spam and cook stirring often until lightly browned. Add Kimchi and stir until combined. Add rice and soy sauce and stir until heated through, then add torn seaweed and stir to incorporate. Remove from heat and add sesame oil and butter (if desired). Top with egg if using, and serve hot.
Last year, Celia Austria won the Advocacy & Activism Inspire Positive Aging Award for her continued dedication to advocacy of expanding mental health support for aging communities. Celia has spent her whole life working toward equality in every community she is in: her Filipino community, her local assisted living community, and the general community of aging adults who could benefit from additional mental health support. Celia is the President of the Park Place Resident Resource Group and has a background in psychology. She has offered free counseling sessions to her peers and hosts monthly Resident Resource Group meetings to raise awareness and advocate for more robust mental health services. Celia has gone well beyond her living community, lobbying for more funding for assisted living communities at the state level. She is a hard-working, kind-hearted, and spirited individual who values family and service to others above all else. She stresses the importance of remaining understanding and kind, even to those who may disagree or have differing opinions.
IPAA Nominations are open NOW through March 15th! The categories include:
Advocacy & Activism
Health & Wellness
If you know someone like Celia who is continuing to inspire positive change in the community as an older adult, show your appreciation and nominate them for the Inspire Positive Aging Awards!