Neighbors Helping Neighbors: Aging Well at Home
Northwest Neighbors Network (NNN) is one of eight communities funded by the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy to create or enhance a Senior Village. Recently, NNN was honored by the North Urban Human Services Alliance at their 2021 Human Services Awards. NNN received an Outstanding Human Services Program award for demonstrating a significant contribution to the health and welfare of the North King County community. The network has supported and advocated for a strong and accessible health and human services system and strengthened the community through their initiative and leadership.
NNN and other award winners were honored virtually at an awards celebration on December 1, 2021. King County Executive Dow Constantine shared congratulatory remarks at the celebration. Learn more about the celebration.
Northwest Neighbors Network is a community of neighbors in North King County and South Snohomish County committed to working together and helping one another age in their own homes. While not a specific physical location, NNN is a network, powered by its participants—both members and volunteers. When in need of support, NNN members can call, email, or text to be connected to an available volunteer to assist with their needs.
Volunteers help members with transportation, home repair, technology support, social activities, health and wellness programs, and more. They provide support that helps older people continue to live at home as they age. Members are often also volunteers, contributing back what they can to their community (leading walks, book groups, and more). Levy investment has supported NNN in reducing the cost of membership, helping to increase accessibility to their community network for more older people in North King County.
Through 70 volunteers, grown from 31 volunteers in 2020, NNN provides opportunities to build relationships and community connections, and meet direct needs of their members. NNN holds a variety of virtual and in-person opportunities for learning and social connection. Weekly walk and talk groups in different neighborhoods, book club, lunch meet ups, Zoom chats, and special events such as visits to museums and an ice cream social that took place this fall, help to engage older people, and build community resilience.
NNN also created a partnership with the UW Bothell School of Nursing to bring intergenerational programs to their older members. Students connect with elders to share information and expertise with each other. An upcoming virtual program provides a space for students and older adults to discuss ways technology scammers target older people and what they can do to protect themselves from falling for schemes.
In 2020, NNN fulfilled 527 service requests, with 1,270 volunteer hours fulfilling those requests, and held 120 social events. In 2021, NNN has already provided over 1,500 services.
An increasing number of older adults are seeking ways to stay connected to their community and to get support in navigating the transitions of getting older without losing their independence. That’s where virtual Senior Villages come in. The Senior Village concept has emerged over the last several years as a community-based approach to aging in place that recognizes and relies on the concepts of community, belonging, and interdependence and seeks to build not only personal resilience but community resilience as well.
The village model that NNN applies to their network brings together neighbors and members of a community to form a network of support for older adults, offering opportunities for social engagement and connection to help older people remain in their communities of choice. As members of a Senior Village, people who want to stay in their own homes as they age can take part in a variety of services, or just join to be involved in social activities. Many members are also volunteers, contributing their time to help other members in a pool in order to access a neighbor-based system of support. Members access numerous resources, such as transportation, health and wellness programs, basic home repairs and community engagement activities, and support fulfilling basic needs around their homes.
The Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy’s Senior Village strategy offers one of few examples of formal funding across the nation for this community-led model of aging-in-place.
An earlier version of this article appeared in Cultivating Connections (King County Department of Community & Human Services) on December 1, 2021.
Photo (top of page): NNN members and volunteers participated in an ice cream social at a park to share time together and build community.