Photo Above: My Independent Octogenarian Dad front & center having fun this past December.
February is National Senior Independence Month, giving us an opportunity to share some tips for helping the older adults in our lives maintain their independence while calling out the great work our local senior centers and retirement organizations are doing.
Get your older adult loved ones involved with a local senior center! Research shows that compared with their peers, senior center participants have higher levels of health, social interaction, and life satisfaction.
Senior centers provide age-positive programming to enrich and prolong the lives of older adults – allowing them more independence.
Of course, living a self-sufficient and healthy lifestyle is important no matter the age, so anyone can take these tips to heart!
Ways to support seniors’ independence
Everything is better with a friend!
Preventing social isolation is vital to older adults’ mental and physical well-being, and central to most senior centers’ mission of holistic wellness. Researchers have long known about the health benefits of “social capital”—the ties that build trust, connection, and participation. These ties are especially important for older adults, because health and existing social capital generally declines with age. Volunteering is a fabulous way that seniors can maintain social capital while supporting a favorite cause or organization. Many seniors are involved in advocacy work through their senior center, as well.
For some seniors, engaging with technology can be intimidating. If you have a loved one who is uncertain about technology, help them out! There are many free programs available at senior centers intended to demystify technology.
Finally, call and visit as often as you can. If they no longer drive, make sure to offer transportation for needed trips and activities. Many senior centers offer transportation to and from the center, medical appointments, grocery stores, and other necessary trips for free or for a small fee.
Would you like to play a game?
To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, many senior centers have been forced to close their doors. However, at centers across the country, Zoom classes are filling the void left by in-person enrichment opportunities like exercise and dance, card and table games, classes in art, music and film, and educational seminars.
If you are able to see your senior loved ones in person now that vaccines are rolling out, encourage and engage with them in activities like playing cards or board games, doing crosswords or completing puzzles, or doing arts and crafts.
Many centers are offering virtual caregiver support classes, targeted support programs for those suffering from dementia, and information and referral services related to the pandemic and available resources.
Get a move on!
Staying active is a significant factor in maintaining independence for older adults. Exercise has been shown to prevent disease, reduce the risk of falls, improve cognitive function, and support positive well-being in seniors, according to a CDC report. Family and community members can take steps to support seniors in this endeavor by providing encouragement, education, and companionship – for example, during walks together.
Senior centers are a great place to get active and make new friends! In addition to many of the typical offerings, such as Tai Chi, yoga, aerobics and Zumba, many centers now partner with programs like Silver Sneakers and Active Older Adults (AOA) that are scientifically proven to make older adults healthier.
Other Ways to Help
Additionally, with the help of volunteers and through financial contributions, many senior centers are offering pop-up food pantries and food-delivery services to the most vulnerable seniors in their service areas.
Have a skill? Volunteer your time virtually by teaching it at your local senior center! However, senior centers and organizations rely on donor support to keep their programs running. Consider volunteering at or setting up payroll deduction through the UWCFD for one of our member organizations:
Sound Generations Established in 1967, Sound Generations is a comprehensive non-profit organization that serves older adults and adults with disabilities in King County, supporting almost 54,000 people annually. Our organization is Washington State’s largest provider of comprehensive services for aging adults and their loved ones located in King County. University of Washington Retirement Association (UWRA) Charity Code: 1481553 (part of the UW Foundation) The UWRA informs, connects and advocates for UW retirees and pre-retirees. The UWRA encourages continued engagement with the UW and fosters a purposeful retirement through educational and social programs. Homage Senior Services Charity Code: 0337214 Largest provider of critical services for seniors and people with disabilities in Snohomish County. Through 28 programs in food and nutrition, health and wellness, social services, home repair, and transportation, 28,000 people are served annually. Pike Place Market Foundation Charity Code: 0316443 Raises funds to purchase food, childcare, medical care and housing services for the low-income and elderly people of the Pike Place Market neighborhood. Senior Services of Island County Programs serve elderly, disabled and low-income citizens. Services include congregate and home-delivered meals, transportation, housing, adult daycare, information and assistance, employment and senior activities. Wallingford Community Senior Center Charity Code: 0316445 WCSC fosters healthy, secure, positive aging, while building community across generations. Varied programs promote healthy active living, social connection transition support, technology access and literacy, lifelong learning, and civic involvement. Northshore Senior Center Northshore Senior Center promotes healthy living and well-being in our community through programs, services, resources and civic engagement. We serve the Northshore region of north King County and south Snohomish County, including the communities of Bothell, Juanita, Kenmore, Kirkland, Mill Creek and Woodinville. Crista Senior Community Charity Code 0316401 Providing retirement living in Shoreline and Silverdale, in a continuum of care with dignity and purpose for over 750 senior residents and their families. Counties Served: King and Kitsap. Ballard NW Senior Center Ballard NW Senior Center is where friends meet friends. Serving the Ballard, Magnolia, and Queen Anne communities for the past 41 years, you’ll always find something new and fun at Ballard NW Senior Center. Lake City-Northgate Senior Project Lake City-Northgate Senior Project is a “virtual” senior center that is truly “a center without walls.” They connect older adults to the many activities and services available in Lake City and Northgate, as well as bring free and low-cost programs to their neighborhoods. Shoreline/Lake Forest Park Senior Center Shoreline/Lake Forest Park Senior Center serves the North End communities of Shoreline and Lake Forest Park. The senior center offers a wide range of classes, activities, and services of interest to aging adults 50+. Sno-Valley Senior Center Sno-Valley Senior Center has been serving the Sno-Valley area and its families since 1975. The senior center inspires, supports, and empowers older adults to lead healthy, enriched lives. Senior Center of West Seattle The Senior Center of West Seattle is the “Jewel of the Junction.” It is a multi-purpose center, where older adults may come together to fulfill many of their social, physical, and intellectual needs. The senior center is a bridge – a broad, two-way bridge – linking the loose knit senior community at large.
Information above from University of Washington.
Senior Centers in the West Sound Region: