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Creating Connections in a Time of Isolation

Posted March 28, 2021

Part of what makes a community thrive are the social bonds and relationships felt throughout a neighborhood.

The Market is a model for a connected community, seen in the daily greetings, personal interactions, and community programming shared among the Market salespeople, artists, senior residents, and the many others who call this Market their home or place of work.

As one senior resident remarked, “Pike Place Market is like this tiny small town and not just another part of the city.”

Unfortunately in March 2020, all of these social activities came to a sudden halt as our community sheltered-in-place for safety from COVID-19. This has been a difficult year for everyone in the Market, and even more so for senior residents and community members who rely on these social contacts for health and wellness.

Maintaining social connections for seniors at the Market is integral to their mental health. “According to The Journals of Gerontology and The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), about a quarter of Americans ages 65 and older living independently are considered socially isolated, and 43 percent of those over 60 report feeling lonely — and that was before officials mandated that everyone stay home and distanced.”

Looking to reduce the isolation of community members staying safe at home, staff and partners of our social service agencies came up with inventive ways to keep everyone connected.

It was a tough day when The Market Commons had to close its doors for the Market’s safety. Recognizing the impact this would have within the community, The Commons transitioned quickly to engage and maintain social connections for seniors sheltering-in-place. Through weekly phone calls, they take the time to check-in with members of our Market community.

The Commons has opened itself up to anyone in the Market community who is looking for someone to talk to, no matter what the reason may be.

“It feels so good to be acknowledged after feeling ignored by society for the last nine months as a senior,” said one Market senior resident “I appreciated that you said we could call you “just to talk”, I did that and I appreciate it so much.”

In 2020, The Commons made 10,165 interactions to ensure social connectivity and resource navigation services within the Market. Staff will continue to make calls and upkeep these connections until they can roll out their in-person activities again.

Over at the Market Senior Center, the agency has been able to launch exercise programs online for seniors to stay active at home. This is so important for the many seniors who have come to depend on these classes for maintaining their physical health. “We have been finding ways to keep people [active] and communications steady,” said Mason Lowe, Deputy Director at the Pike Market Senior Center & Food Bank, “We aim to create a sense of connection between the Senior Center and people sheltering in place.”

The Senior Center is currently offering two free, weekly Stay Active & Independent for Life classes and yoga sessions. They led a city-wide effort to produce 14 hour-long television programs, called AgeWise TV, for seniors who lack internet access. Staff make outreach calls to check in on isolated members of the community in a variety of languages. “Senior Center members are a diverse bunch and we need to use a diversity of methods to maintain their connection to the Market,” says Mason Lowe.

The senior population at Heritage House in the Market, the Market’s assisted living facility, remains sheltered-in-place, especially with their vulnerability to the COVID-19 virus. Through a donation of tablets sourced from Market Foundation supporters, staff at Heritage House are able to set up and assist seniors with telephone and Facetime calls to loved ones.

Though it’s not the same as the lively BINGO games, monthly potlucks, and neighborhood chatter that we’re all used to, everyone in this Market is staying healthy and connected.

The Market Foundation and the umbrella of social services here will continue to foster this sense of community until it’s safe for all of us to be reunited again.