COMMENTARY: Let’s grow older together

With a myriad of programs and activites, Vashon Senior Center can use your skills and help.

Happy New Year, Vashon, from everyone here at the Vashon Senior Center!

First, we’d like to say thank you for supporting us in 2021. Serving our community as the primary source of enrichment and service for Vashon’s aging adults is a gift, a challenge, and COVID has tested us in ways we could never have imagined. Still, we hold strong to our mission: to enrich the lives of older adults. So again, thank you for being with us on this wild ride as a donor, volunteer, active member and supportive family member.

Our mission sounds simple enough, but as our guiding principle since 1980, it’s the lens through which we make our decisions and plan our future, and we are clear on its potential. We enrich the lives of older adults on Vashon and Maury Islands, where nearly half of the population is age 55 or older. You’re never too young to be part of the Senior Center, and the increase in engagement, new members, and donors this year says Vashon supports seniors, too. It can be challenging to grow older in a rural community like ours, but no one has to grow old alone.

We are proud of the programs and activities designed to help with the challenges of aging and to keep seniors connected to the community. We are small, but we are dedicated to improving life for our neighbors. And we need you. What better way to help us all grow older together than by getting involved with the Senior Center? Whatever your skills and passion, we’ve got a program for that!

Rides to appointments: Bluebird Medical Transportation program provides door-to-door, round-trip rides to medical appointments in Seattle and Tacoma.

Lunch delivery: this program brings 150 nutritious, hot meals to seniors every week.

Connection: online classes and lectures bring seniors together from the comfort of their homes.

Vashon Villages: our new Vashon Villages program links neighbors with neighbors in small communities across the island.

Coming together: Our building provides a welcoming space for folks to gather.

Fun: it’s not all serious – our Fun Committee is aptly named. Remember bingo? The Pandemic Zoom Party? Paint and Sip? Thank the Fun Committee.

Sounds like we have it all figured out, right? So, how do we do it? We are able to serve our community because we are a vibrant, well-run, healthy organization. Our board of directors is an active, experienced, and involved group. We have scores of volunteers each week giving their time in service to seniors. Our staff is truly devoted and keeps the Center running. Your donations help us maintain our solid financial position. And our vision for the future is supported by an oft-reviewed strategic plan.

People are our priority, but don’t just take our word for it. A senior recently shared this with us: “We are becoming a society with fewer human connections. I call my doctor and end up with a phone visit instead of in person. All the entertainment is online, and I don’t use the computer. Just trying to find a bus schedule is very challenging. Thank goodness for the Senior Center! I can call and talk to a real person who has island contacts to help me. I can come in for a healthy, homemade lunch and visit with other islanders. I feel welcomed every time I come in and the staff are all friendly and helpful. I am so grateful for our Senior Center!”

We’re the de facto island organization focused on serving older adults, and we plan to be here for many, many years to come. Join us. Let’s grow older together.

Footnote: Once again, we have made the difficult decision to close the building to onsite activities until the current COVID infection surge subsides. We’re evaluating the situation in consultation with the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps and we’ll be taking things week by week, but for now, it’s the safe thing to do for the health of our members, volunteers, and our staff.

Catherine Swearingen is the executive director of the Vashon Senior Center.