Neighbors helping neighbors: Seniors aging well at home

Congratulations Northwest Neighbors Network!

Northwest Neighbors Network (NNN) is one of eight communities funded by the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy (VSHSL) to create or enhance a Senior Village. NNN is being honored by the North Urban Human Services Alliance at their 2021 Human Services Awards. NNN is receiving an award for Outstanding Human Services Program for demonstrating a significant contribution to the health and welfare of the North King County community and has supported and advocated for a strong and accessible health and human services system, strengthening the community through their initiative and leadership.

NNN and other award winners will be honored virtually at an awards celebration on Wednesday, December 1, 2021 from 5-6:30pm. King County Executive Dow Constantine will be sharing congratulatory remarks at the celebration. Learn more about the celebration.

Volunteer led support

Northwest Neighbors Network is a community of neighbors in North King County and South Snohomish County committed to working together and helping one another age in their own homes. While not a specific physical location, NNN is a network, powered by its participants, both members and volunteers. NNN members, when in need of support, call, email, or text NNN to be connected to an available volunteer to assist with their needs. Volunteers help members with transportation, home repair, technology support, social activities, health and wellness programs and more – providing support that help seniors continue to live at home as they age. Members are often also volunteers, contributing back what they can to their community (leading walks, book groups, and more). VSHSL’s investment has supported NNN in reducing the cost of membership, helping to increase accessibility to their community network for more seniors in North King County.

Through 70 volunteers, grown from 31 volunteers in 2020, NNN provides opportunities to build relationships and community connections, as well as meeting direct needs of their members. NNN holds a variety of virtual and in-person opportunities for learning and social connection. Weekly walk and talk groups in different neighborhoods, book club, lunch meet ups, Zoom chats, and special events such as visits to museums and an ice cream social that took place this fall, help to provide social engagement for seniors while building community resilience.

NNN also created a partnership with the University of Washington Bothell School of Nursing to bring intergenerational programs to their seniors. Students connect with seniors to share information and expertise with each other. An upcoming virtual program provides a space for students and seniors to discuss ways technology scammers target seniors and what they can do to protect themselves from falling for schemes.

In 2020, NNN fulfilled 527 service requests, with 1,270 volunteer hours fulfilling those requests and held 120 social events. In 2021, NNN has already provided over 1,500 services.

NNN members and volunteers participated in an ice cream social at a park to share time together and build community.

Senior Villages

An increasing number of older adults are seeking ways to stay connected to their community and to get support in navigating the transitions of getting older without losing their independence. That’s where Senior Villages come in. The Senior Village concept has emerged over the last several years as a community-based approach to aging in place that recognizes and relies on the concepts of community, belonging, and interdependence and seeks to build not only personal resilience but community resilience as well.

The village model, that NNN applies to their network, brings together neighbors and members of a community to form a network of support for senior members, offering opportunities for social engagement and connection in order to help seniors remain in their communities of choice.  As members of a Senior Village, people who want to stay in their own homes as they age can take part in a variety of services, or just join to be involved in social activities. Many members are also volunteers, contributing their time to help other members in a pool in order to access a neighbor-based system of support. Members access numerous resources —such as transportation, health and wellness programs, basic home repairs, community engagement activities, and support fulfilling basic needs around their homes.

VSHSL’s Senior Virtual Village strategy offers one of few examples of formal funding across the nation for this community-led model of aging-in-place.