Isolation among seniors has always been a critical risk factor to poor health, but the pandemic has exacerbated the level of health risk and harm to this population. That’s why our outreach to community members includes having someone to talk to and checking in on the wellbeing of our neighbors.
The Senior Center Connects Virtually With The Community
One important aspect missing for the Senior Center this year is their vibrant social scene, frequently a source of joy and unity among members. Having to close their doors for all but essential services, they’ve adapted programs to maintain social connections while encouraging members to stay safe in the pandemic. This work is crucial to ensuring the social well-being of the neighborhood – especially for the senior residents and individuals experiencing homelessness who come to the Senior Center for connection.
“Basically any one in this population is resilient to begin with,” explains Mason Lowe, Deputy Director at the Pike Market Senior Center, “But their life before this was tough – and COVID is a brand new stressor that tests their strength.”
The Senior Center now broadcasts its fitness and social activities online and on television through a partnership with Seattle Channel called AgeWise TV. So far the Senior Center has offered 145 hours of online exercise programming for seniors including yoga, tai chi, and more classes directed to helping senior mobility. This has been crucial for seniors in the Market neighborhood and beyond who have come to depend on these classes for maintaining their physical health. Senior Center staff are also dedicated to writing a weekly community newsletter helping their nearly 1,000 member base feel a sense of community and connection while staying at home.
They’ve also maintained their case management work for their members, easing the dramatic changes brought about from the pandemic. It was key to The Senior Center that case managers remained accessible, via phone, email, or as safely as possible in-person. As Mason points out, “Our main population are typically senior residents on fixed incomes or are experiencing homelessness, and many of them don’t have phone access.”
Heritage House Keeps Its Seniors Safe and Social
Another agency taking care of our seniors is our assisted living facility Heritage House, where they’re continuing to engage their residents while they safely shelter in place. Because of their attentive upkeep of COVID-19 safety standards, seniors can gather in small groups to play games and converse. Staff have also provided each senior with an iPad to join in on online activities and group calls. With all of this combined, Heritage House has provided online and safe in-person activity to keep spirits up as the seniors remain indoors and carefully distanced from others.
Connecting with the Community From Afar
The Market Commons is used to being a place where social connections are fostered in-person through community programming and activities. When The Market Commons closed their doors for the safety of the community in March, they made the effort to reach out to residents at risk for social isolation. They set up weekly check-in phone calls for 30 community members and residents who used to stop by The Commons for socialization.
“In 23 years of living here, I’ve never had such a feeling of being so connected to my community,” said one community member whom The Commons chats weekly with, “It’s a really big deal for me, especially during the pandemic which can be really isolating.”
This social connection is also closely integrated into their resource navigation work. They take the time to check in with community members when they call to see how they’re doing, even when they’re calling for a separate need.
Pike Place Market may mean a lot of different things to people around the world, but for neighbors throughout downtown and our region, this place is simply home.