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Making Seattle a Great Place to Grow Up AND Grow Old

It’s been quite a year for Age Friendly Seattle! We launched last March, with passage of a joint resolution from the Mayor and Seattle City Council. An Age Friendly Task Force, which formed in 2016, met monthly. Departments put forth new age-friendly projects. AARP Livable Communities provided excellent guidance.

Amid this whirlwind of activity were these accomplishments, which helped to shape the Age Friendly Seattle Action Plan:

  • Almost 1,500 people gave input on development of an Age Friendly Seattle Action Plan. This occurred through a variety of presentations (with question-and-answer), interviews, listening sessions, and several large events.
  • Age Friendly Seattle collaborated with Generations Aging with Pride and numerous community-based organizations to present Aging the LGBTQ Way: A Forum on Equity, Respect & Inclusion at Seattle City Hall. The all-day forum was attended by 130 community members.
  • Seattle IT presented Age Friendly Seattle’s A City for All civic technology hackathon in a three-day event at Seattle City Hall, attracting 78 people, including nine project teams that presented projects to a panel of judges from the City of Seattle, AARP, Impact Hub Seattle, Microsoft, Socrata, and Tableau. Thanks to an AARP Livable Communities Community Challenge grant, three teams won cash awards for their efforts.
  • Age Friendly Seattle and a community-based planning team presented Engaging Aging, a City Hall forum focused on women and optimal aging in Seattle, attended by 200 people of all ages, mostly women.
  • AARP conducted an extensive survey of Seattle residents age 45 and up.

Departments got into the act in a big way:

  • Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Lifelong Recreation and Sound Steps programs continued to provide outstanding opportunities for adults age 50+ to be active and socially involved—classes, activities, tours, and more. In addition, Lifelong Recreation partnered with Generations Aging with Pride to develop Rainbow Recreation programs and activities specifically for LGBTQ adults 50+ and their friends.
  • Dementia Friendly Recreation and Momentia Seattle responded to the growing number of Seattleites who live with memory loss by adding new programs and opportunities to stay active and give back to the community.
  • The Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) created an Innovation Fund to make small, nimble awards to community organizations that can test new ideas for service delivery that focus on results and racial equity. To support the Age Friendly Seattle initiative, HSD designated $125,000 of the total Innovation Fund to support seven projects that advance healthy aging and align with age-friendly goals.
  • The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is improving the pedestrian environment by assessing sidewalks with the involvement of seniors, implementing walkability audits, promoting transportation options for older adults, and incorporating age-friendly criteria into the Pedestrian Master Plan for 2018–2022 (i.e., first- and last-mile connections for older adults in areas with higher concentrations of residents age 64+ and projects within one quarter-mile of senior centers, congregate meals sites, and health care facilities). Interns assessed 2,300 miles of Seattle sidewalks, identifying 92,000 uplifts, 38,000 surface conditions, 20,000 obstructions, and 3,600 isolated cross slope issues. SDOT will use this information to develop condition scoring, prioritize repairs, and engage with abutting property owners on responsibility.

AARP’s survey identifies areas where Seattle excels in age-friendliness as well as a lot of work that still needs to be done. Click above to locate survey results.

Many departments have established age-friendly goals for 2018 and beyond, supporting The 8 Domains of Livability:

  • Transportation: Community mobility is essential to optimal aging. Age Friendly Seattle supports safe, reliable, and easy-to-use travel options—including accessible and affordable public transit, rideshare, walking, and biking—to get people of all ages where they need to go.
  • Housing: Older adults want to age in place—stay in their homes and communities for as long as possible—and benefit from living in affordable, age-friendly housing. Age Friendly Seattle supports diverse housing options that allow older adults of all incomes to live in clean, safe, comfortable, and well-maintained housing; design that encourages visitability for all ages and abilities; and availability of a strong network of home-based services in age-friendly neighborhoods.
  • Outdoor Spaces and Buildings: People need public places to gather—indoors and out. Age Friendly Seattle supports parks and other green spaces, safe streets, sidewalks, outdoor seating, and accessible buildings that can be used and enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities.
  • Social Participation: Social participation and physical activity are essential for both quality of life and longevity. Age Friendly Seattle supports learning, fitness, social, cultural, and spiritual activities for older adults, as well as intergenerational activities that are accessible, affordable, safe, and fun.
  • Respect and Social Inclusion: Everyone wants to feel valued. Age Friendly Seattle celebrates and draws upon the wisdom and experience of older adults, encourages intergenerational and multicultural understanding, and works to eliminate ageism and ensure consistent levels of high-quality service for all ages.
  • Civic Participation and Employment: Whether working for pay or volunteering time and talent, many older adults find value in contributing to their communities. Age Friendly Seattle supports services for mature jobseekers who need or want to work, promotes age-friendly business practices, and encourages older adults to share their skills to address community needs.
  • Community and Health Services: All people should have access to affordable health care and community services that help them live comfortably and with dignity. Age Friendly Seattle supports coordination and promotion of services to help meet the needs of older adults and caregivers.
  • Communication and Information: Older adults receive information in a variety of ways, and no one way reaches every person. Age Friendly Seattle promotes accessible print and digital communications, and community partnerships that increase access to information that older adults need for optimal aging.

Learn more about Age Friendly Seattle 2017 accomplishments here. To review the current draft of the Age Friendly Seattle Action Plan for 2018–2021, click here. Look for great things to come!

Contributor Irene Stewart was named Age Friendly Seattle project manager in March 2017. She is a frequent writer and former editor of AgeWise King County.