In 2021, Age Friendly Live is back with a full slate of virtual programming that aims to improve access to information about community resources and encourage civic participation among older adults and their caregivers. To better illustrate what we have planned for this year, here is a look back at how it all began.
In January 2020, Age Friendly Seattle and The Seattle Public Library (SPL) forged a new partnership to produce 11 coffee hours at the Central Library, with in-person interpretation and a virtual component. Even before Zoom became a household name, we planned to livestream presentations so that, instead of traveling to downtown Seattle, our audience could watch from wherever they were. Even more ambitious was the idea of forming partnerships with community and senior centers to organize screenings that folk could attend with friends and neighbors. We did exactly one such “combo” event, in February 2020, about the US Census (YouTube link).
And then … COVID-19 happened. Due to COVID restrictions, SPL closed its branches and we had to cancel our March Civic Coffee Hour. Ironically, that event was supposed to feature the Chief Librarian. Transitioning to a virtual format seemed logical, but not before answering a few questions:
- What topics would we cover other than the pandemic, which had taken over our lives?
- How could we continue providing interpretation?
- What about folk who didn’t have Internet access?
- Would once a month be enough in what seemed like a programming vacuum?
Inspired by the first question, the virtual coffee hour in April featured a speaker from Public Health—Seattle & King County and the topic was COVID-19 (YouTube link).
Despite Zoom’s sudden popularity, we decided to use Microsoft Teams Live Events. Unlike all other streaming platforms, it offered real-time captioning in English as well as six other languages (out of a list of over 50). At event time, our audience could join online or by phone (see below).
With the help of students from the University of Washington Information School, we set up a virtual events “hub” at bit.ly/AgeFriendlyLive. Using the same URL for every event, our audience could:
- Join the livestream
- Get detailed instructions
- Learn about upcoming speakers
- Read program descriptions and watch previous episodes
What about the last question? After some deliberation, Age Friendly Seattle decided to supplement the monthly Civic Coffee Hour with a new weekly program. Based on the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” guidance, I came up with the name “Close to Home: Stories of Health, Tech and Resilience.” The idea was to make it less than an hour and open up to guest presenters from the community (e.g., nonprofit organizations, academia).
Occasionally, we also hosted special events, such as virtual discussion panels and a special coffee hour with Mayor Jenny Durkan (Seattle Channel link).
By December 2020, after only eight months, we produced a total of 37 virtual events that featured more than 80 guests from the greater Seattle community. Our programs garnered over 6,500 views, a combined total of live participation and YouTube viewership. The most popular event was the Close to Home program called “Seattle’s African Descent Population Partnerships” (YouTube link), which has a combined view count of almost 700!
All of this would not be possible without our audience. We hope that you will consider joining us again in 2021. Currently, we are planning 22 virtual events, each of which will now last a full hour. Both the Civic Coffee Hour and Close to Home will be produced in partnership with The Seattle Public Library, allowing us to continue improving language access and digital equity.
We invite you, your family, and friends to subscribe to the Aging King County YouTube channel, where we post all the recordings, or to tune in live on the first and third Thursday of the month, at 10:30 AM Pacific Time. Visit https://bit.ly/AgeFriendlyLive and click the blue “Join” button.
At event time, you can also call 206-686-8357 from any phone (entering Conference ID 224 689 164).
Our lineup for the first two months of 2021 includes:
- January 21: Civic Coffee Hour with Jonna Ward, CEO of The Seattle Public Library Foundation
- February 4: Close to Home with Omari Salisbury, co-founder of Converge Media
- February 18: Civic Coffee Hour with Mariko Lockhart, director of Seattle Office of Civil Rights
On behalf of Age Friendly Seattle and Aging and Disability Services, I wish you only the best in 2021. Please be well, stay safe, and stay connected in your community!
Contributor Lenny Orlov coordinates Age Friendly Live events for Age Friendly Seattle. You can e-mail him at Lenny.Orlov@seattle.gov.