Social programs for seniors get a home base in south Pierce

Lutheran Community Services Northwest (LCSNW) now has a presence in Graham and southeast Pierce County.

The Lutheran Church of St. Paul in Graham is hosting a satellite office for the agency on Mondays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Programs represented at the office include Home Care, Meals on Wheels, Senior Friends, RSVP and Senior Companions. LCSNW staff members will be available to introduce services to the community, recruit volunteers and workers, learn ways the non-profit social services agency can meet the needs of the area.

According to Lynda Stelzer, a community relations representative for St. Paul, the two biggest needs in the area are access to transportation and medical services.

Pierce Transit bus and shuttle service doesn’t extend to Graham. Pierce County Community Services offers a limited van service to connect residents in Graham with the bus system (“Beyond the Borders”), but the resulting rides are ong and there are eligibility restrictions. Other paid transportation services such as Uber, when available, can be expensive – from $13 to $25 one way in the surrounding area. Additionally, there are few sidewalks or ADA-accessible pathways on the main thoroughfares.  

Medical care is another challenge for the residents of Graham. The closest medical clinics are in Eatonville and South Hill. The Pierce County office for Aging and Disability Services is working to improve the situation through a program which provides phone consultation with a nurse practitioner. But physical access to a physician remains limited.

The Graham area can also be described as a food desert, with one grocery in the community. There are two food banks in the area, but for seniors who no longer drive, access to food is another hardship.  There is no senior center or meal site for the community of over 23,000, 27 percent of whom are 50 and older.

Lutheran Community Services Northwest is seeking to meet this need through the expansion of Meals on Wheels to include southeast Pierce County. The program supplies balanced, nutritious meals at a cost of under $5 per meal. The variety of meals meet dietary guidelines and restrictions, along with many preferences for eligible clients. 

Lonely and isolated elders might benefit from Senior Companions or Senior Friends, two LCSNW programs pairing volunteers with seniors for friendship and some assistance with transportation needs:

  • Senior Companions provides low-income volunteers, aged 55-plus, who can help at least 15 hours a week. There is a small stipend to offset the expenses involved in volunteering.
  • Individuals interested in helping their neighbors who don’t meet age, income or time requirements may qualify as Senior Friends.

Non-medical home care services through LCSNW can help seniors remain independent at home.  The Home Care program is looking for compassionate, competent workers to help meet the needs of elders. 

The Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) is also recruiting volunteers interested in helping at local food banks or other locations.

More information about LCSNW services in Graham is available at Lutheran Church of St. Paul office at 22419 108th Ave E. between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Mondays, or from LCSNW’s South Puget office at 253-272-8433 and



Lutheran Community Services Northwest (LCSNW), in partnership with the Lutheran Church of St. Paul in Graham, is hosting a new Memory Cafe beginning June 13 from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the church, located at 22419 108th Ave. E. 

Memory Cafes are social events for those living with dementia and their care partners.  Participants meet regularly for coffee and conversation in a supportive setting to enjoy the moment together.  After its debut this month, the Graham group will meet monthly on the second Wednesday of each month.  Folks with memory loss at any stage, along with their care partners, friends and family, “are invited to join us to share stories, snacks, laughter and music with others in the same situation,” and also to find out about available resources, said Deb Dennison of LCSNW’s Caregiver Support program.

Memory cafes, sometimes called Alzheimer’s cafes, began in Europe 20 years ago and have since become an integral part of dementia-friendly communities.  LCSNW-hosted Memory Cafes in Tacoma, Gig Harbor and Puyallup, along with Alzheimer’s cafes throughout King County, have helped families feel normal again through contact with each other, Dennison said.

Social isolation, more common in rural communities like Graham, has been shown to have an impact on cognitive decline among an aging population, according to LCSNW. Research has shown that individuals, particularly those living alone, are at an increased risk of developing dementia when they aren’t interacting with other people.  A memory cafe, along with support groups, faith communities, service and social clubs, and neighborhood gatherings can help decrease that risk.

Additional information is available from Dennison at and 253-722-5682.

LCSNW is a non-profit social services agency. Other programs based at its South Puget Sound office in Tacoma that are specifically for caregivers and those with memory loss include Homecare respite services, Support U: Fostering Caregiver Wellness (classes on caregiving), the Early Stage Memory Loss Zoo Walk (in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association), Senior Friends and Senior Companions.



The Lutheran Church of St. Paul will host a satellite office in Graham for Lutheran Community Services Northwest programs for seniors.