The Senior Center: Where everybody knows your name

Growing old in a happy way, supported by community, is our hope for all.

Back in the olden days (I’m talking the 1980s and 90s), back before entertainment streamed, we all used to watch TV shows at the same time.

I remember a strange sense of community around this ritual, knowing friends and strangers alike were all watching together. If you’re around my age, you might remember the Thursday nights when millions of us dropped into a Boston bar to relax…

“Sometimes you wanna go

Where everybody knows your name

And they’re always glad you came

You wanna be where you can see

Our troubles are all the same

You wanna be where everybody knows your name.”

Our board president reminded me of that song when I mentioned this commentary. We’re not in Boston and we don’t serve drinks here (except maybe on a First Friday) — but when someone walks into Vashon Senior Center we almost always know their name. And we’re always glad they came.

Not that we would ever judge anyone for asking, “What was your name again?” I myself ask that, way more than I ever expected I would. Memory is a funny thing. This mind that used to hold dozens of phone numbers and complex details about multiple projects now needs written lists. A lot of lists. Maybe even two or three introductions before I manage to get a name recorded for good in my brain.

And that’s okay. The Senior Center is a place where you never have to be embarrassed about forgetting a name, or anything else. It’s always okay to ask.

In this issue of the Beachcomber, you’ll see a call from the Senior Center and Vashon Care Network to participate in a survey around adult social respite and caregiver support. (See page 4, “News Briefs.”)

As our community ages, more residents are experiencing health challenges that keep them home, isolated from friends and activities, and dependent on family and friends as unpaid caregivers.

A core group of powerhouse planners has been meeting over the last several months, dreaming of ways to make Vashon a better place for elders and caregivers alike. The survey will help us create a program that really suits our island. Please do share your thoughts with us. Help us create what’s most needed.

Adult social respite is just one of the new initiatives currently bubbling at the Senior Center. We’re working with VIFR and Mobile Integrated Health, sharing referrals to better support isolated seniors needing assistance. We just wrapped up our first Dance for Parkinson’s class series from Seattle Theatre Group at the Park District’s Ober Park exercise room.

Our newly-launched weekly foot care sessions have a growing waiting list. We’re finally moving ahead with restoring the Memorial Garden behind our building. And new programs and trips are being added to summer and fall calendars.

The Senior Center is fortunate to have the support of many funders and generous donors to help in these endeavors. We recently received grants from Granny’s Attic for our Nutrition program and the Village’s Bluebird Transportation. Granny’s does so much for Vashon.

We also learned the results of our request to King County’s Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy (VSHSL) Supporting Senior Centers funding stream. We received an award that begins July 1 and runs through the end of 2026 for $120,000 per year, a total award of $306,000. This will support crucial operations and programming, as well as providing scholarships for Home Care Aides in a joint effort with Vashon Care Network.

We are deeply grateful and fortunate, indeed.

That said, the need for support is growing as well, particularly around isolated seniors. We will apply for two more VSHSL grant opportunities next month.

One of them will support the Senior Village — the work volunteers do beyond our walls — things like Bluebird rides, friendly visits and so much more. If you have time to volunteer for the Village, give us a call. We’re always looking for more drivers especially.

The other VSHSL grant will fund Caregiver Connections and Support, hopefully allowing us to launch the social respite program.

As always, we are grateful for the ongoing, lovely support of Vashon individuals. We hope you’ll join us at Rainbow Blingo on June 1. (See page 1, “Happenings.”) You can help us raise money and have a fantastic time trying to win some yourself.

At the Senior Center, we want to make the journey through older years as pleasant and easy as possible for everyone.

We’re all going to grow old if we’re fortunate. Growing old in a happy way, supported by community, is our hope for all.

Maria Glanz is the executive director of Vashon Senior Center.