The next time you find yourself having to entertain out of town guests, how about taking them to a hub that includes over 450 units of low income housing, a dining room that serves over 50,000 free meals a year to seniors and the homeless, and a food bank that welcomes nearly 27,000 visitors each year? That may seem way too urban for vacationers but all of these social services are fully integrated into Seattle’s number one tourist destination—Pike Place Market!
As a member of the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services, I signed up to tour several of our county’s Senior Nutrition Program sites. The first one was the Pike Market Senior Center. Our lunch—cooked on site—included meatloaf, mashed potatoes, salad, and corn on the cob. The staff have created a system to serve 150 people smoothly and with dignity. No long lines. Kitchen volunteers prep and serve two meals a day, seven days a week, under the watchful eye of the kitchen manager.
Pike Market Senior Center is so much more than free food! The week we visited, the center had just started a swimming program. The Downtown YMCA makes the Y pool available to Pike Market Senior Center members one afternoon each week. In addition, the staff was busy making plans for the annual senior center picnic at Green Lake as well as for the upcoming women’s retreat—an annual three-day event held on Vashon Island. Transportation for offsite center events is a bus ride on King County Metro!
The center’s executive director, Jeannie Falls, took us over to the Pike Market Food Bank, a sister agency to the senior center. The Food Bank was in full action, with at least 15 volunteers working and a 5th grade class arriving to volunteer for the afternoon. Many of the food bank’s volunteers are residents of the nearby senior housing units. Some have worked a weekly shift in the food bank since it was founded in the late 1970s—truly a demonstration of seniors helping seniors.
On our way through the market we observed the atrium community kitchen, where the program for the day was learning to make Italian bread salad. Here were Midwestern tourists and foodies from Berkeley working with Asian seniors to create a classic panzanella. We also passed by the community garden, the assisted living center, the Pike Market Medical Clinic, and the Pike Market Child Care and Preschool. All of these services are also described at www.pikeplacemarket.org/social-services.
The number of homeless seniors grows as the city struggles to catch up with the demand for affordable housing and social service agencies compete for dollars. All King County residents can look with pride at this urban village serving as a model to other Seattle neighborhoods and suburbs. Diversity, density, and social services do work and need not be a hindrance to business activity.
Make sure you include some of these sites as you, your family, or out-of-town guests tour Pike Place Market. There is so much more going on than flying fish, peonies, and the gum wall!
Contributor Sue Shaw serves as secretary of the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services. An advocate for elimination of ageism and ableism, Sue wrote “I Am No Less Capable Than Before” in the July 2015 issue of AgeWise King County.
For information about the Senior Nutrition Program site nearest you, contact Community Living Connections, your source for free, confidential information about community resources and service options for older adults, adults with disabilities, caregivers, and family members throughout King County.
Photo credit: “Pike Place Market sign and clock” courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives.
Let Us Know What You Think
The goal of the Senior Nutrition Program is to improve both the health and well-being of older adults through Congregate and Home Delivered meals. If you are an older adult in King County, or someone caring for an older adult, please take a moment to share your thoughts and ideas about these programs, which will inform how we invest in the community: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WPJZQ3B. The survey should take less than 10 minutes to complete.
If you have any questions, please contact Angela Miyamoto, Planner, Aging and Disability Services: Angela.Miyamoto@Seattle.Gov or 206-684-0230.