Every May, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) leads the nation’s observance of Older Americans Month (OAM). In 2022, ACL is focusing on aging in place – how older adults can plan to stay in their homes and live independently in their communities for as long as possible. The 2022 theme is Age My Way, an opportunity for all of us to explore the many ways older adults can remain in and be involved with their communities.
Many older adults value the ability to remain in their own homes or communities as they age and the opportunity to stay connected to people and organizations they have known for a lifetime. But many do not have this choice. Individuals who cannot afford to maintain their homes or who are unable to secure affordable, accessible housing in their own neighborhoods are increasingly being displaced. When older generations move away, communities lose the strength that comes from age diversity, and people are more susceptible to isolation and its harmful effects on health.
Here in King County the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy (VSHSL) invests in strategies and programs to support older adults in aging in place with dignity, providing the economic, environmental and service system supports that enable seniors to remain in, contribute to, and benefit from the households, communities and social connections they have helped build.
The Senior Village concept is one way that seniors and their neighbors and communities collaborate to support older adults to remain in their communities of choice. Based on values of interdependence and cooperative support, the senior village model allows seniors to age well in their communities. By encouraging neighbor-to-neighbor volunteer support, creating opportunities for social connections, and helping those neighbors navigate resources, a Senior Village reinforces each member’s place in the community. The VSHSL funds eight organizations to bring the Senior Village model to their communities: Eritrean Association of Greater Seattle, Filipino Community of Seattle, Iraqi Community Center of WA, Khmer Community of Seattle King County, Northwest Neighbors Network, Somali Family Safety Task Force, Ukrainian Community Center of Washington, and Vashon-Maury Senior Center
The funded villages offer rich cultural programming that celebrates and preserves the traditions and customs held by the participating seniors while connecting those seniors to the culture of their adopted country. VSHSL villages provide wellness and outreach programs; deliver ethnically appropriate food to isolated village members; and help village members to stay connected to other similarly situated community members. Through these and other actions, the villages bring hope and a sense of safety for the participating members, strengthening each members place in the community.
Family members often do the essential and difficult work of providing unpaid care for a loved one with personal care needs. Acknowledging the unique and long-term needs of veterans, seniors and persons with disabilities and their caregivers, VSHSL funds two strategies, Caregiver Community Building and Caregiver Respite, to increase the number of caregivers who can sustain health and community while providing unpaid care.
The strategies include respite services that offers primary, unpaid caregivers a break from caregiving; support groups and activities; access to resources and behavioral health support; education and training about caregiving; and access to resources through referrals and case coordination. Supporting caregivers of veterans, seniors, and persons with disabilities in turn helps caregivers provide care for longer, keeping the individuals receiving care at home in their community.
Senior Home Repair and Age-in-Place Modifications
The King County Housing Repair Program assists low to moderate income senior and veteran homeowners with loans and grants to complete necessary home repairs to maintain a home’s habitability. The funding provides for services such as replacing your roof, installing a new septic system, repairs addressing emergency conditions, health and safety repairs, addressing accessibility or mobility barriers such as installing grab bars and ramps, and major building preservation issues.
Older Americans Month
King County Executive Dow Constantine issued a proclamation acknowledging the important role older adults play in our community and the responsibility we have to ensure older adults can age in place with dignity. Executive Constantine proclaimed the month of May 2022 to be Older Americans Month.