Senior centers in Auburn, Federal Way, Enumclaw and Des Moines are among 38 organizations serving older adults in King County that will share about $3.5 million in new, voter-authorized funding from the county.
The one-time investments will help senior centers and community centers expand programs to reach more seniors, make their facilities safer and more accessible, and buy equipment and appliances for them, according to County Executive Dow Constantine.
The senior-specific funding is the first round of new money provided through the countywide Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy, which was renewed by voters in 2017.
â€œThe people of King County trusted us to invest in programs and services that will improve the quality of life for seniors, and that is exactly what we are doing,â€ Constantine said in an announcement of the funding in September. â€œSenior centers do more than connect people with resources â€“ they keep people connected to one another. Thatâ€™s why our first major investment by the levy will help nearly 40 senior centers throughout our region.â€
By 2040, more than a quarter of King Countyâ€™s population will be seniors. Healthy lifestyles and social engagement are keys to living long and well, officials said.
Senior-oriented organizations countywide applied for money for one-time facility improvements or repairs, training, equipment, digital infrastructure, renovations of buildings to help the disabled, and enhancements of current programs.
The locations of centers whose requests were accepted range from Seattle to Pacific and virtually everywhere in between. In south King County alone, the centers, their projects and the amount of money allocated include:
- Auburn: $105,000 for a hearing loop system (a sound system that provides a magnetic, wireless signal that is picked up by hearing aid through a special setting), a new power chair to increase accessibility, senior social work, a new floor, and fitness programs.
- Des Moines-Normandy Park: $37,000 for a hearing loop system, facility repairs, and improvements to a senior resource library.
- Enumclaw: $84,000 for more outreach, language classes, a new sound system, an update to the centerâ€™s policies and procedures, and a new dishwasher.
- Federal Way: $130,000 for additional outreach and partnership with Latinos, new kitchen equipment, other facility repairs, including fixing the floor.
- Pacific: $65,000 for ADA-compliant bathrooms, new IT systems, a hearing loop system, and staffing.
County officials said the funding will help stabilize and build senior services and increase access and inclusion. Among the key improvements, they said, are hearing loops, which help seniors participate in activities. Efforts to increase attendance at senior centers and minor capital projects and repairs also are particular focuses for the funding. Another goal is access to services and reduced isolation for seniors who speak little or no English.
â€œSome of the most vulnerable in our community are often our most overlooked,â€ said County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer. â€œIn past years, services for our seniors have too often been pushed aside. However, with the implementation of the levy, our seniors will finally receive priority.â€
Pat Jenkins is the editor of Senior Scene and the
program director for Senior Media Services.