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12 Things I Like About Aging and Disability Services

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Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) have existed everywhere in the United States since 1972. In King County, our AAA is the Aging and Disability Services division of the Seattle Human Services Department. As chair of the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services, I have the honor of learning about the work of this agency from the inside.

I want to share 12 things I like about our Area Agency on Aging. Some of these things may be done elsewhere—after all, we’re part of a nationwide network—and some are unique. And without a doubt, when this article goes to print, I’ll probably think of 12 more things I like!

  1. Racial equity is a priority: Aging and Disability Services leads with race. Its overarching goal is to eliminate disparities related to race. Staff are building relational culture that supports diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our Advisory Council is involved in this work as well.
  2. Advocacy network: We are not in this alone! Aging and Disability Services and the other 12 AAAs in Washington state belong to the Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging, which is affiliated with the nationwide USAging. In addition, we participate in the Washington State Senior Lobby. As most people know, older people vote, and our voices are heard in legislative chambers across the country.
  3. Countywide service: It can get confusing at times, but Aging and Disability Services (sometimes called Aging King County), a division of a City of Seattle department, provides the same high-quality services to older people, adults with disabilities, and caregivers throughout King County.
  4. Easy access: Who do you call when you don’t know who to call? When it comes to aging, disabilities, and caregiving, call Community Living Connections (toll-free 844-348-5464). You will get connected with a local professional advocate who can provide information and referrals. Your calls are confidential and always free of charge.
  5. Bilingual staff: Did you read the recent Seattle Times article that says 30 percent of Washington residents are immigrants or have a parent who is an immigrant? Aging and Disability Services recruits bilingual case managers, social service aides, assistant counselors, and nurse consultants to serve case management clients who speak their language (currently including Russian, Ukrainian, Somali, Spanish, Punjabi, Hindi, and Turkish). In total, the agency has more than 70 bilingual staff who are approved to provide interpretation, translation and/or in-language support.
  6. Elder abuse prevention and support: Two Aging and Disability Services social workers provide support for older people who are experiencing elder abuse or are at particularly high risk of experiencing abuse, neglect and/or exploitation. They work closely with medics, firefighters, police, and the county prosecuting attorney’s office to improve health outcomes for vulnerable adults. They save lives. Read more here.
  7. Health One: Perhaps you’ve seen Health One in the newspaper or on TV. It’s the most visible part of a very successful partnership between Seattle Fire and Aging and Disability Services. In fact, there are now three rigs in operation, each staffed by two firefighters and an Aging and Disability Services social worker. It’s part of the larger Mobile Integrated Health Program, and it’s making a difference, not only in how they serve residents in crisis but in relieving firefighting units from having to respond to some of the 911 calls that are urgent but not life-threatening.
  8. Nurses: You may know about Aging and Disability Services’ Case Management Programs, which serve upwards of 15,000 people every year who qualify for in-home services due to low income and certain activities of daily living that they cannot perform without help. But did you know that every case management team has a nurse on board? Their consultations improve quality of care and can result in more effective medical intervention when needed.
  9. PEARLS for Veterans: PEARLS stands for Program to Encourage Active Rewarding Lives. The agency is fortunate to receive PEARLS funding from the King County Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy. It allows a dedicated case manager to provide counseling and coaching to older veterans, veterans’ spouses, and spouse survivors. PEARLS does not take the place of other counseling; rather, this evidence-based program helps clients set and implement incremental objectives toward larger goals.
  10. SHA Team: Through a long-standing partnership with Seattle Housing Authority (SHA), Aging and Disability Services has a team of case managers assigned to its buildings. This team did a remarkable job of setting up COVID testing and vaccination sites last year. On an ongoing basis, they help ensure that SHA residents get the information and support they require to live with ease.
  11. Serving tens of thousands: Sometimes it comes as a surprise to hear that Aging and Disability Services now serves more than 51,000 people per year, including many who are served through multiple programs.
  12. Advisory Council staff support: Anyone who has served on a board, commission, or committee knows how important it is to receive that support—it makes it easy to get involved and it is a pleasure to serve. In particular, coordinator Sariga Santhosh is awesome—she provides complete information in a timely manner, checks in regularly between meetings, facilitates conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion that some might find difficult, but we enjoy, and is an all-around wonderful person.

Interested in joining the Advisory Council? Visit https://www.agingkingcounty.org/advisory-council for more information. To apply, click “Join Us” on that page. We would be happy to know of your interest.


Joe HaileyContributor Joe Hailey chairs the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services. He welcomes input from readers via e-mail (advisorychair@agewisekingcounty.org). For more information, visit www.agingkingcounty.org/advisory-council.


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