A pressing and over-arching issue facing older people in Seattle, King County, and throughout the country is affordability. No one can afford to live here on Social Security alone, and far too many people have no significant savings or pension. It’s no secret that income, or lack thereof, impacts where and how we live, our health, our social connections, and much more. The impacts are much greater on older adults who are no longer working and on older adults who continue to work because they cannot afford any other option.
The nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute’s 2023 Retirement Confidence Survey found that working Americans “experienced the largest one-year drop in confidence in having enough money to live comfortably throughout retirement since 2008.” A large percentage of workers and retirees alike have not prepared for retirement.
Compounding the national problem, the cost of living in our area is very high. See “Seattle has 9th-highest cost of living in U.S., study finds” (Axios, 11/16/2023). If you are still working, you can get specific information about the cost of living where you live using the Self Sufficiency Calculator, a free online tool created by the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County. The Calculator considers not only the standard cost of living for the county in which you live (in Washington state) but personal choices and can be used for budgeting and planning. If you are retired or looking at the cost of living in retirement, be sure to explore the ElderIndex, which estimates cost of living on the county level (nationwide), based on your household size and your health status.
You’ll find ways to save money in several articles in this issue of AgeWise. Over the next few months, I plan to provide more information about programs that can help older people save money. I invite you to share the information with family, friends, and neighbors who may benefit.
Age-Friendly Discount Program
I became aware of the City of Seattle’s Gold Card for Healthy Aging quite a few years ago. At the time, I worked in human services at the City of Bellevue. It was fun to let older Bellevue residents know that, by carrying one of these cards, they could get a significant discount at Woodland Park Zoo and free admission to the Seattle Aquarium.
Recently, through my service on the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services, I learned that the Age Friendly Seattle rebranded the Gold Cards (and a similar FLASH Card for younger people who have a disability). Their online Discount Directory was updated recently to include geographic mapping, so you can easily see what’s discounted near you or search by zip code or by the type of item or activity you’re looking for. More importantly, there are many discounts beyond the Aquarium and Zoo.
The Age-Friendly Discount Program can help you save money on bigger ticket items, if your preferred vendor participates. More discounts are welcome—let businesses you frequent know they can Submit a Discount online. It’s easy and there is no charge to participate. Businesses have the opportunity to grow their customer base by showing their support for older people and adults with disabilities.
I want to reiterate that we are able to recommend the Gold Card to Bellevue residents, and beyond. Even though the discount program is administered by the City of Seattle, anyone aged 60+ can request a Gold Card (even visitors with family or grandkids in the area). Anyone aged 18–59 with a qualifying disability can request a FLASH Card. Apply online or find various physical locations in your neighborhood (like your local Seattle Public Library branch) at seattle.gov/AgeFriendlyDiscounts.
The Age-Friendly Discount Program is just one of many discounts provided by the City of Seattle. If you submit an online Gold or FLASH card application, you’ll receive prompts to consider applying for other participating Affordable Seattle programs that you may be qualified to receive. Essentially, you can access multiple programs in one fell swoop.
Recently the City of Seattle created Affordable Seattle, an “affordability portal” on which you get a personalized list of available discounts based on your household size, monthly household income, and zip code. I encourage you to check this out, whether you have a little money or a lot.
Sometimes I’m surprised how many “freebies” are available to people at all income levels. It’s important for people who are stretching every dollar to know, though, that some of the discount programs listed there can save a qualified household well over a thousand dollars a year. Add several of those together and that’s real money.
A final comment about free and discounted services available through the City of Seattle—people known as “digital navigators” can help with your applications by phone and in different languages. For more information, click here.
Aging and Disability Services staff frequently share the adage “Keep moving, stay connected,” recognizing the importance of physical activity and social connections for healthy aging. Let’s add one more: “Save more.” That will provide you with more options later in life. Stay tuned for more tips in the months to come.
Contributor Alex O’Reilly was elected chair of the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services in January, replacing Joe Hailey, who served multiple terms as chair and remains on the council. Alex welcomes input from readers via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
To read previous AgeWise articles about financial concerns, click here.
Mark Your Calendars
Following are upcoming events in which ADS Advisory Council members will participate:
- Black History Month: February—ADS honors the contributions and celebrates the achievements of people of African descent. To learn more, visit Black History Month at Blackpast.org.
- Community Living Connections RFQ Pre-Release Feedback Opportunity: Wednesday, January 31 (10–11:30 a.m.); online. Follow the link for more information.
- ADS Advisory Council: Friday, February 9 (12–2 p.m.); online. The agenda includes a Community Living Connections Request for Qualifications (RFQ) presentation and an opportunity to give feedback. To receive the meeting link, e-mail Michael.Adusah@seattle.gov in advance.
- NW Universal Design Council: Tuesday, February 13 (3–4 p.m.); online. To receive the meeting link, e-mail Dinah.Stephens@seattle.gov in advance.
- Mayor’s Council on African American Elders: Friday, February 16 (2:00–3:30 p.m.). The MCAAE will hold a special event in recognition of Black History Month. The event will take place at Grace United Methodist Church, 722 30th Ave. S., Seattle, 98144. For information, e-mail Karen.Winston@seattle.gov.
- Holiday Closure: Monday, February 19, is President’s Day, a national holiday. Aging and Disability Services offices will be closed on this day.
- Age Friendly Seattle Civic Coffee: Friday, February 23 (1–2 p.m.) at Ballard NW Senior Center (5429 32nd Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107). This month’s event will focus on digital navigation. Unable to attend in person? You have an option to join online.