LinkAge: Connecting Senior Citizens to Today’s Generation

LinkAge is a student-led organization founded by Keerthana Pilla and Suhani Arora, two seniors at Tesla STEM High School, that aims to work with senior communities in the Seattle area and connect them to teenagers.

In the 21st century, the generational gap is larger than ever before, and they believe that this gap can be reduced simply through communication. With seniors’ experience-filled stories, along with this generation’s young and creative minds, they are confident that they can knit the two communities closer together and create strong bonds.

Statistically, more than 40% of senior citizens older than 60 regularly experience loneliness and isolation. This feeling of separation and disconnection from others may predict serious health problems and even death. Social isolation in seniors can cause emotional issues like depression and loneliness, as well as physical fallouts such as heart disease and immunodeficiencies. LinkAge believes that they can make a change by reducing these feelings of isolation and improving senior health.

LinkAge envisions working with senior citizens and centers by launching different activities/programs over time.

At the time of this article, everything is planned virtually because of COVID-19, but they would love to expand and hold in-person activities after the pandemic. For their first program, they plan to launch a pen pal program, where teens and seniors would write emails or handwritten letters to each other. For their second program, they plan to launch virtual meetings over Zoom or phone calls, where both the seniors and teens can talk and get to know each other better.

Overall, how the seniors and teenagers want to communicate is up to them and the ultimate goal is to create long lasting relationships!

In addition to the pen pal program, LinkAge hopes to involve younger children as well by getting them to make handmade wellness cards, which will have a small inspirational or positive message and illustration. All the cards will be mailed to a senior center or retirement community, so they can be distributed among the seniors!

How To Get Involved

LinkAge logo

If you are a senior or teen who is interested in the pen pal program, please apply today! Both seniors and teens can apply through the LinkAge website, which can also be found in the contact section below. The application asks for some personal information and a short paragraph about themselves, to match participants based on their interests.

If you are a senior center or retirement community/facility looking for a new activity or program to engage your seniors in, please contact LinkAge through email or social media. LinkAge will work with you to find a process that is open and flexible, accommodating individual comfort and preferences. They are open to new ideas and activities, so don’t be afraid to share what works best for you.

Contact LinkAge

Contact the LinkAge team at linkagewa@gmail.com or view their website, application form, and social media here.


Article by LinkAge

The Senior Center of West Seattle, Now and in the Future

the senior center of west seattle building, seen from street view

Located in the heart of the West Seattle Junction lies the Senior Center of West Seattle. Members are longing for the day when the senior center returns to normal, but with COVID-19 health and safety regulations in place, that day may have to wait.

Just four days after the appointment of the senior center’s new Executive Director, Amy Lee Derenthal, the team at the Senior Center of West Seattle made the difficult decision to close the facility on March 5th, for the sake of the health of its members. On June 29th, the senior center had their modified reopening, and they are currently providing limited programming, while monitoring that the few individuals that do come are wearing masks and are temperature checked. The majority of members are continuing to stay at home and for those that need it, meals, prescription delivery, and social worker support or available.

Despite early challenges, the senior center continues to pivot their services to best serve their community members. It takes a well-oiled team to coordinate deliveries, manage people, and communicate updates. Derenthal continues to state, “We pivoted immediately to providing essential services to seniors in their homes and had to figure things out pretty quickly…. it was [about] making adjustments and changes, while not being sure how long we would be closed…. Now, we’re in our ‘new normal’ and everyone is comfortable with their roles… “

One of those roles in the “new normal” is making sure that the senior center is thoroughly clean and sanitized. For Community Dining Chef, Francisco Briseno, this means limiting the number of helping hands in the kitchen and deep cleaning and disinfecting cooking utensils and surfaces before meal prep work begins. Briseno states, “…having a crew of four everyday to having one volunteer a day… big changes.”

stop'n shop thrift store volunteer at the register inside the senior center of west seattle

Stop ‘N Shop Thrift Store Manager, Aylene Kandappu, echoes these changes stating, “I modified the layout of the store, did a thorough cleaning and set up a new system in accordance with governmental regulations…. We also have shorter hours [and] make sure that we are able to work far apart and we have adequate cleaning stations.”

As for the senior center’s limited programming, Derenthal states, “Now that we’re open, I can say the people who are comfortable coming to our programming are really happy to be back. Many of them live alone and the opportunity to come to a safe place, to see friends and have community is very much appreciated. Also, with the libraries closed, the people who needed internet access and a computer lab are also very happy. Of course, there are more programs people want to have us start up again that just aren’t safe and that includes dancing, exercising and card playing in particular.”

While we wait for clearer skies and a vaccine ahead, the Senior Center of West Seattle isn’t sitting back. They’re spinning this situation into an opportunity to revamp their programming and give the senior center a new, fresh interior that optimizes the space they have for the community they serve. Derenthal envisions the senior center becoming a place for all generations to come together to create lasting friendships and positive change.

Contact the Senior Center of West Seattle

Do you want to get in contact with the Senior Center of West Seattle? Visit their website or call the senior center at (206) 932-4044.

Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Senior Center Staying Safe & Healthy

Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Senior Center serves the aging community in northern King County. Home to more than 56,000 residents, with at least 15% counting toward the “senior” population, Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Senior Center has its work cut out for it.

“Our current challenge is a matter of people resourcing… As people are called back to work or need to stay home with kids for distance learning, we needed to find new people and train them up on how to best reach an already isolated client base, ” states Jarrod Wright, Administrative Coordinator for the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Senior Center.The staff continue to work together to find safe and effective ways to best serve the individuals that depend on services offered by the senior center.

Safety is their number one priority, for staff and limited visitors alike. The senior center has reinforced this by providing disinfecting stations throughout the senior center, having visitors temperature checked and logged for contact tracing, and providing a digital space for virtual activity participation.

Wright continues to say, “We speak with members daily, regarding lunch status, class registrations, tutorials on using Zoom and what services we are offering while the facility is locked. They all miss seeing each other and want to get back as soon as possible, but also understand how our facility could become a vector.”

In the meantime, members are doing their best to stay connected over the phone or in video calls. Members recognize the efforts put forth by senior center staff and have been sending pictures and notes praising the to-go meals’ chef, Donnie, and the virtual exercise instructors, Toshiko and CeCe.

Ultimately, Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Senior Center is opting to host most activities and programs online, aside from in-house foot care, which still requires masks among other COVID regulations. “Essentially, we are being flexible to the shifting regulations and keeping our community safe while they are staying connected.”

Contact Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Senior Center

If you would like to get in touch with Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Senior Center staff, you can visit their website for current virtual activities or call them at (206) 365-1536.

Staying Connected with the Sno-Valley Senior Center

The Sno-Valley Senior Center, which has been faithfully serving the Sno-Valley and Carnation area since 1975, is a leading with care and safety in mind.

card games at the Sno-Valley Senior Center

The staff and volunteers at the senior center had to make quick changes to ensure the safety of their members. “If a staff person leaves their office, they are wearing a mask. All of the staff and volunteers who work on the lunch program are wearing masks and gloves. We have also started contact tracing for those who come into the center…” according to Kira Avery, Program Coordinator for the Sno-Valley Senior Center.

In a recent feedback survey sent out to Sno-Valley Senior Center members, one issue stood out above food or transportation- human connection. Maintaining social relationships has never been more important. It can be difficult to feel connected in a world where you can’t remember the last time you saw friends and family in person.

The Sno-Valley Senior Center is doing the most it can to bring that connection to its members, while maintaining distance. Some no-contact activities that the senior center has started doing is FanFest Trivia nights over Zoom and social worker check-in calls. Avery continues to state, “The community understands that we are doing our best with virtual programming and one-on-one appointments, while trying to keep them, our volunteers, and staff safe.” While this doesn’t solve the isolation problem entirely, it’s a step in the right direction.

The Sno-Valley Senior Center is using the Safe Start Washington plan as a guide for when the senior center will reopen. In the meantime, they are providing weekly virtual programming, which can be found on their website’s event calendar.

Get In Touch with the Sno-Valley Senior Center

If you or someone you know is feeling lonely or isolated, call the staff at the Sno-Valley Senior Center at 425.333.4152 and they will periodically call you and provide social support.

Lake City Seniors Creating Virtual Connections and Communities

group of Lake City SeniorsThe Lake City-Northgate Senior Center Project (LCNSCP) has been working on outdoor and virtual programming to keep older adults active and engaged during COVID-19.

Currently, they send out weekly newsletter packets about updates from staff, calendar info, virtual classes, and other fun goodies. These packets are helping older adults remain connected to their senior center and gives them an avenue to reach out for assistance or to pass along some kind comments. Emily Billow, the Program and Volunteer Coordinator, shares members’ sentiments. “I have participants tell me that the best part of their week is being able to hear other participants’ voices on the phone while playing bingo and how much they love the opportunity to check in with one another.”

In addition, Vedrana Durakovic, Program Manager, has this to say:

“We have been in touch with many or most of our members. Quite a few are feeling lonely or isolated, and some are ready to come back to the center. Others have expressed that they would not be ready to come back before a vaccine. But everyone has been appreciative of the activities, support, social work, calls, and resources we are still offering.”

For the foreseeable future of the LCNSCP, its staff, volunteers, and members are continuing to bring life to the virtual center through regular virtual social interactions, support, and delivery of vital services. Until Washington enters Phase 4, most programs will remain temporarily on hold. As for the potentional for limited indoor programming, which usually operated out of the Lake City Community Center, we shall see what the future brings soon enough. 

To stay up to date with the Lake City Seniors at the Lake City-Northgate Senior Center Project, we recommend following their Facebook page.

4 Ways to Celebrate the 4th of July

4 Ways to celebrate the fourth of july image

July 4 celebrate America’s Independence Day. While this year’s fireworks may be postponed until next year, there’s still many ways to get festive!

1. Bake some festive treats!

From berry tarts to patriotic pies and other goodies, baking is a great way to let out your inner artist while enjoying something sweet. There’s a plethora of delicious themed goodies just waiting to get from the oven and into your mouth!

Get some recipes here: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/photos/our-best-red-white-and-blue-treats

2. Stream last year’s fireworks!

While 2020 sparks will have to wait till next year, the internet is a great place to watch last year’s fireworks from the comfort of your couch. If you really want to get into the spirit, you can bring the fireworks to your backyard with some sparklers!

We’ve linked video from YouTube that you can watch anytime, anywhere!

3. Take a virtual tour of America’s historical landmarks!

While travel may be restricted, you can see the majesty of Yosemite National Park or The Statue of Liberty with a virtual tour. It’s a great activity to learn about our country and maybe explore a place you’ve never been before!

Links to virtual tours: https://www.rd.com/list/virtual-tours-of-americas-greatest-landmarks/

4. Get crafty!

Create red, white, and blue themed decorations and nifty projects with some 4th of July DIYs. There’s something for every age, and who knows! You might get inspired by what other’s have done.

Get started on your DIYs here: https://www.countryliving.com/diy-crafts/g2439/4th-of-july-crafts/ and if you make any of these, we’d love to see it!

We hope you have a wonderful and safe July 4th!

american flag

What does elder abuse look like for LGBTQ+ seniors?

Introduction

Older adults in the LGBTQ+ community face unique problems and prejudices that their cisgendered and heterosexual peers may be unaware of. According to the American Psychological Association, an estimated 2.4 million people in the U.S. 65 years or older identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

Problems LGBTQ+ Older Adults Face

  • Homophobia in the form of hate, ignorance, and prejudice.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Fear of loss of friendships or other relationships.
  • Social isolation.
  • Lack of familial support network.
  • Trying to “blend in” against their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Denial of access to services based on inability to “prove” their orientation or identity.
  • Denial of economic opportunities or health services because of discrimmination.

LGBTQ+ victims of elder abuse may fail to seek help, because they fear revealing their sexual orientation or identity. This fear exists, especially if there is a risk of this information being used against them to hurt their reputation, relationships, or livelihoods.

What You Can Do

two older senior men with rainbow coloring

Ally and Advocate

Keep the conversation alive! Local, state, and federal advocates help move forward policies that protect the rights of LGBTQ+ older adults. By calling your representive and speaking up about their needs and concerns, your presence and voice keeps ignorance away.

Does your local senior center have an ally group or LGBTQ+ support group? If not, that’s an untapped opportunity to create a supportive and caring group of individuals that care about the needs and rights of those facing discrimmination.

There’s strength in numbers, and by becoming an ally, it can bring others who were once unaware or unwilling to light of these issues and acceptance and understanding. We encourage you to spread awareness and invite your friends and family to support the needs of LGBTQ+ older adults. Every voice matters and the voice of many reaches far!

Educate

Sometimes, discrimmination happens when people lack understanding or information. By educating others on the problems LGBTQ+ older adults face, you are helping to fix the problem.

The National Council on Aging suggests 5 Ways for Senior Centers to Improve Outreach to LGBT Older Adults that remain relevant today, from organization trainings to providing inclusion, awareness, and acceptance programs.

Seattle Parks and Recreation keeps a list of community events supporting LGBTQ+ communities. You can register to attend an event and use this opportunity to invite others to join you.

Sources

Cook-Daniels L. Lesbian, gay male, bisexual and transgendered elders: elder abuse and neglect issues. 2002. http://forge-forward.org/wp-content/docs/LGBT-Elder-abuse.pdf.