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Age Friendly Focus on Health, Economic Security, and Social Connections

photograph of multigenerational and multicultural group of friends sitting on the couch

Age Friendly is heading into 2024 strong—we’ve got Civic Coffees scheduled out, our public-facing anti-ageism training is in production, and we’re kicking off a new Social Connectivity Learning Network for community leaders, government staff, academics, and others seeking to improve older adults’ social connectedness. But before we speed too far into the new year, we pause to reflect on the work done in 2023. This was a year when we hosted more interns than ever, and we held our first-ever Age Friendly Seattle Candidate Forums (video recordings available here).

Our new Strategic Framework orients our work toward creating a city where older adults can maintain three key resources: health and wellbeing, economic security, and social connections. These things are interrelated, and many of our activities have an impact in more than one sphere. We continue to do all our work in collaboration with government or community partners. We are proud to contribute to cross-sector efforts to make Seattle a great place to age.

Social connectivity

One thing that cuts across the economic, health, and social wellbeing of all people—especially older adults—is ageism. In 2023, we tackled this by creating and launching an anti-ageism training for City of Seattle staff. See “We ❤ Aging—Anti-Ageism Training Coming Soon …” (AgeWise, August 2023). Already, over 200 employees, representing 13 different city departments, have engaged in the training. We’ve spent the early months of 2024 soliciting input from community members about how we might best adapt the training for a wider audience, and we plan to produce a public-facing version by May 2024. In addition to these trainings, we ramped up our ageism education efforts more broadly, including presentations to audiences that included a third-grade class, UW nursing students, the King County’s Women’s Advisory Board, and other local networks on aging.

Our Civic Coffee events hit a record high in 2023, with nearly 400 older adults attending a live event and more than 3,000 people catching the YouTube recordings later. These are monthly opportunities for older adults to connect and hear about local resources and plans from government and community leaders. Last year, we made these events more inclusive than ever before: discussions were held in partnership with community and senior centers, hosted in neighborhoods throughout Seattle, with live interpretation available in multiple languages. Each community hosting us selected a topic of their choice, and we provided the panelists. (Read Civic Coffees recap articles in AgeWise here.)

Economic security

Age Friendly Seattle administers the Gold/FLASH Card Discount Program, offering older adults and adults with disabilities opportunities to save on goods and services throughout the city. Last year alone, older adults used their Gold Cards more than 10,000 times at the Aquarium, Woodland Park Zoo, and Seattle Animal Shelter—and these are just the places we track! In early 2023, we learned that this program doesn’t just provide economic benefits: when we surveyed users, 87 percent told us this program supports their sense of belonging and social connectivity. This motivated us to grow the program even further. We recruited 20 new businesses, distributed over 6,500 Gold and FLASH cards to new users, and improved our online directory interface with the help of UW capstone students so that users can more easily search for discounts by type and neighborhood. See “Affordability: Large or Small, Savings Help” (AgeWise, February 2024).

A full-scale model bathroom showcased accessibility features at the 2023 Seattle Design Festival Block Party.

A full-scale model bathroom showcased accessibility features at the 2023 Seattle Design Festival Block Party.

Aging in place is a goal for many people, and it’s important to have homes that are designed to meet accessibility needs. In 2023, Age Friendly Seattle teamed up several times with the Northwest Universal Design Council (NWUDC) and other partners to advance this priority. One successful effort was a demonstration held at the Seattle Design Festival. We collaborated with Jensen Hughes to construct and showcase a full-scale model bathroom with accessible features.

We also supported a multi-sector convening on accessibility and city code that was co-led by NWUDC and the City of Redmond. Conversations begun at our 2022 Age Friendly Housing Forum (which were video recorded by the Seattle Channel) have continued to blossom, including connections that have led to increased efforts to implement an innovative approach to home-care service delivery.

Health and wellbeing

Age Friendly Seattle, ADS, and DCHS assembled and distributed more than 350 emergency kits to SHA and KCHA residents aged 85 and older.

Age Friendly Seattle, ADS, and DCHS assembled and distributed more than 350 emergency kits to SHA and KCHA residents aged 85 and older.

A partnership with the Aging and Disability Services (the Area Agency on Aging) and the King County Department of Human and Community Services to enhance emergency readiness for older adults began in 2022 and culminated last year with assembly and distribution of more than 350 emergency kits to adults age 85+ who live in Seattle Housing Authority and King County Housing Authority units. Older adults are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of extreme heat and cold caused by climate change, and this was part of an initiative that also sought to better understand emergency response capabilities of senior centers.

One fun project we supported was a joint effort between Seattle’s Departments of Transportation, Neighborhoods, and Police to offer snow shovels and ice melt to nearly 500 Neighborhood Block Watch captains and other enthusiastic volunteers. Our hope was that this would empower neighbors to support folks in their community during inclement weather—especially older adults and people with disabilities who may be especially vulnerable to falling. We loved hearing reports of kids using the new equipment to shovel the driveways of older neighbors during a cold snap. See the photo below!

With an action-packed 2023 behind us, the Age Friendly Seattle team is looking forward to an exciting and impactful 2024!

Dinah StephensContributor Dinah Stephens manages the Age Friendly Seattle initiative. She can be reached at