Services & Resources

WCSC meal program a critical senior resource

(Written by Kaitlin Zinsli)

Oftentimes, it can be small-scale community efforts that make all the difference in someone’s life. That is the case when it comes to Wallingford Community Senior Center’s meal program. The lunches are not just a convenient lunch stop for people in the older population but a collective effort to address real problems of hunger and isolation in the senior community. The uniquely designed program combats these issues by encouraging active and regular attendance of meals in a friendly, social setting.

The meal program offers lunch three days a week for a suggested donation of $4 (although no one has been turned away if they can’t afford this fee). In addition to providing food and social interaction, the meal program also naturally exposes participants to the wealth of other activities offered at the Center, including exercise classes, game and movie nights, and pancake breakfasts. It provides seniors a safe place to enjoy meals, be an active part of a community, see familiar faces, and make connections.

Meal program Popular

Despite recent funding cuts, WCSC’s meal program is thriving. Volunteers and staff have seen a marked increase in attendance since revamping the program to account for decreased government funds.

The successful meal program has been around for several years and has recently gone through some difficult, but ultimately positive, changes. Earlier this year, the federal government cut its yearly funding for the program, leading to concerns that WCSC would have to start turning people away and potentially shut down the program completely. WCSC employees and volunteers refused to go down without a fight.

“We took the opportunity to grow and expand, instead of shrinking back and saying, ‘We can’t do this,’” said WCSC Program and Operations Manager Victoria Dzenis.

Instead of giving up, WCSC is moving to transform the meal program into a self-sustaining program. They altered meals by providing more options and were able to rely on volunteers, the community, and donors to keep the program not only afloat, but more successful than ever. Today there are more lunch attendees than before the funding cuts.

Ashley Larson, WCSC’s Communications and Operations Coordinator, says the changes the meal program has gone through have “definitely been positive, and people enjoy [coming] more.” Continue reading

Spotlight on Michael Green

(Written by Megan Wiebelhaus)

Michael Green looks like a tall, comfortable professor. Maybe a minister—he has so much to say about religion and philosophy. He has a contemplative, idea-sorting mind that enjoys getting to the bottom of big ideas.

“What I do is less interesting than what is going on in my mind.”

This thoughtful man volunteers as a computer mentor at WCSC, teaching Computer Basic and Computer Basic Plus classes of all sizes.

Michael Green

WCSC computer teacher Michael Green has a long history with the machines. He first began teaching computer courses in the early 1980s.

As a computer mentor, Michael helps with member projects, including memoirs: Eleanor DeVito Owen won a local writer’s award for her memoir of her large Italian family (she had 12 siblings) coming to New York in 1921. Michael helped her with Microsoft Word formatting and says she’s had “a very interesting and tough life and a wonderful attitude.”

Michael and his wife, Carol, have managed a modern miracle: a marriage between Macs and PCs. Carol is the Apple mentor at WCSC, proving that bitter brand animosity can’t keep love apart. Even their relationship had a tech-savvy beginning: they met on and were married two-and-a-half years ago. Continue reading

Transportation issues plague seniors

As the baby boomer generation rapidly approaches and reaches retirement age, so grows the need for transportation services. While many seniors have access to cars, there is also a growing number who don’t have immediate access to personal transportation and instead rely on public and group transportation.

According to their website, King County Metro offers “accessible services” for seniors and those with disabilities, but the future of these services is uncertain due to continuing cuts to Metro.

Hanna Binder is a master’s student leading a focus group on senior transportation issues.

“There’s a perception with older riders that it [Metro], takes forever to use,” she said. “You have no idea when they’re going to pick you up. It’s really problematic for people who might be older, have less energy, or have a mobility impairment if it takes them three hours to get where they’re going.” Continue reading

City supports social-work programs

Less than a year after former Mayor Mike McGinn announced an increase in resources for city-funded senior centers, Wallingford Community Senior Center launched its first social worker program.

From connecting seniors to assistance programs, to fostering communication with families, to leading tailored support groups and instructional workshops, WCSC Social Worker Sarah Frey and her colleagues throughout the Seattle area provide essential support to a rapidly growing elderly population.

But it wasn’t until WCSC received the $20,000 subsidy in 2013 that it was able to provide its members with what some now view as an invaluable service.

“Having a social worker in general has changed our entire outlook. We’ve moved our outreach toward being about relationships, rather than just being reactive,” said Lara Okoloko, the Community Engagement Strategist for WCSC. Continue reading

New thinking for positive aging

For organizations serving seniors, overcoming the belief that aging is a period of decline requires a different philosophy as well as programs and services that allow seniors to overcome the challenges of aging and have meaningful and engaging opportunities.

Eden Alternative is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to creating quality of life for seniors and their caregivers. The organization wants to combat what it calls the three plagues of aging that they say are at the core of suffering for seniors: loneliness, helplessness, and boredom.

“We don’t call it a program; we call it a philosophy,” said Denise Hyde, a spokesperson for Eden Alternative. “We don’t do things that help sustain seniors; we do things to help them to grow and be stronger.” Continue reading