Community support: helping seniors stay safe at home during COVID-19

The growing senior population in King County has been facing unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19.

Our Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy (VSHSL) funded senior centers have prioritized keeping their community of seniors safe while adapting typical service delivery and developing new ways to meet clients’ needs.

Below, we feature three VSHSL-funded senior centers that have found creative ways to serve seniors during this challenging time.

Auburn Senior Activity Center

Auburn Senior Activity Center is part of the South King County Senior Centers and Resources Senior Hub. Hub partners also include: Federal Way Senior Center and Pacific Senior Center.

To offer critical services to the broader Auburn senior community, senior center staff decided to proactively reach out to seniors living in senior housing complexes in Auburn. Using VSHSL senior hub funds, the Auburn Senior Activity Center expanded their meal program to provide delivery and to-go meals and groceries to seniors to support them in staying home. Their new outreach was successful; only 15 out of 300 seniors served by the expanded meal program had previously been to the senior center, expanding the number of seniors that are now connected to the breadth of the center’s supports.

“What a better way to keep people at home…providing them with groceries and food so maybe they can go to the grocery store a little less often.” -Radine Lozier, Manager of the Auburn Senior Activity Center

Auburn Senior Activity Center is also providing opportunities for engagement through a Stay Home, Stay Connected Newsletter. And, to rally around a spirit of solidarity, the center held a parade for the seniors in their community.

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A City of Auburn update video highlights Auburn Senior Activity Center’s expanded meal program.

Black Diamond Community Center

Black Diamond Community Center made changes to their programming to respond to needs during COVID-19.  A new program, “Groceries to Go,” provides twice-a-week groceries to seniors through a partnership with the Black Diamond Community Center food bank; these are coupled with a book, puzzle or game for entertainment. On alternating days, Black Diamond Community Center, adjusted their in-person hot lunch program to ensure seniors can continue to rely on a hot and nutritious meal through  to-go meals or delivery, for those seniors who are homebound. Over 50 hot lunches are served on every program day. While activities and group companionship are not available right now, staff have at times opted to dress up in costumes to greet seniors picking up to-go meals!

Community center staff are also conducting weekly outreach to seniors to help alleviate the increased social isolation many seniors are feeling at this time. Check-in calls help connect seniors to services such as one-on-one foot care for seniors with diabetes, social workers from Enumclaw Plateau Outreach or bill paying assistance.

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Healthy Generations Center-Aging with Pride (Healthy Gen Center)

Healthy Gen Center is part of the GenPRIDE Center Senior Hub. Hub partners also include: Generations with Pride.

Technology has been a key tool for the Healthy Gen Center in promoting opportunities HGfor social engagement and combating isolation during COVID-19. Healthy Gen Center has worked to increase both access to technology for seniors and training on how to use that technology.

To support providers seeking to use technology with seniors they serve, Healthy Gen Center’s provider training covers different technology options, the benefits and barriers of using technology for senior programming and how to support seniors in using technology. This, and a training for senior tech users, will support Legacy Letters, a program that connects seniors with persons in another generation through the sharing of the senior-penned life legacy letter.

Pivoting from the original design, the program will now be delivered exclusively virtually and will, along with ongoing technology trainings, be available to senior centers throughout King County.