$20 million putting extra spring in the step of senior centers

$20 million putting extra spring in the step of senior centers

King County is putting big money into senior centers and other programs for older adults, and County Councilman Rod Dembowski is one of the biggest cheerleaders for the ideas behind the effort.

Dembowski, who joined other council members in authorizing $20.6 million in voter-approved funding to be allocated for senior services, said he has seen “firsthand” in his own family the value in public investments in older adults.

“My 90-year-old dad is a regular visitor for meals and dances at his local senior centers,” Dembowski said. “These investments help ensure that our seniors have access to the services they have earned by their lifetime of contributions to our community and nation.”

County officials say the spending on senior centers and communities – from Enumclaw to Burien and in between — will offer resources for older adults and their caregivers, expand outreach to isolated seniors, and create and enhance services reflecting the diversity of the county’s older residents. 

The money comes from the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy, approved by voters in 2017. The levy includes funding dedicated to older adults and caregivers.

Twenty-eight senior centers successfully competed for portions of $19.4 million that will be allocated over the next four years. They will form “hubs” for targeted senior services around the region, officials said.

Additionally, 13 senior centers will receive $90,000 each in one-time funding to provide services or make minor capital or equipment purchases to better serve older adults.

The goal, said County Executive Dow Constantine, is to “improve the quality of life for our local seniors and their families. Thanks to voters, we are making healthy aging a priority, and the support we’re providing for these senior centers will significantly increase access to services.”

The county’s Department of Community and Human Services encouraged regional senior centers and other community groups to form collaborations, or hubs, to better reach specific demographics, a defined geographic area or a cultural group. For example, three centers will provide support and social engagement for Native American elders and isolated and homebound seniors from diverse cultural groups.

Hub locations and financial commitments to help them serve as resource centers on aging services and offer support, outreach, connection, and social engagement seniors in their areas include:

  • Kent Senior Activity Center, $1.4 million.
  • Enumclaw Senior Center, $885,010.
  • South King County, $1.5 million. Hub partners include Auburn Senior Activity Center, Federal Way Senior Center and Pacific Senior Center.
  • African Diaspora nub, $1.5 million. For elders of the African Diaspora in Central Seattle and south King County. Partners include Central Area Senior Center and Des Moines Senior Activity Center.

Money also is earmarked for El Centro de La Raza Senior Hub, Hub for Asian-American Pacific Islander Seniors, GenPRIDE Center, North Seattle Hub, Northshore Senior Center, India Association of Western Washington Senior Services Hub, Pike Market Senior Center, and Southeast Seattle Senior Hub.

Burien is among 13 cities and community organizations receiving $90,000 apiece in one-year funding to increase opportunities for senior centers to serve diverse populations of elders.

Significant health risks accompany social isolation, according to officials. They said remaining socially engaged in a community leads to better physical, mental and cognitive health, resistance to illness and disease, and a sense of purpose, control and longevity.

Many seniors in King County experience or are at risk of social isolation because of few social supports, lack of nearby family, and mobility issues that cause them to be homebound, officials noted. At particular risk are individuals in an immigrant community, Native American elders, non-English speakers, LGBTQ individuals, or seniors in rural areas.