News from the Orcas Senior Center

Submitted by the Orcas Senior Center.

Long-Term Care meeting

Are you concerned about the elder care options of the future? Are you a caregiver who is not satisfied with current employment options? Do you have ideas about the kinds of in-home care we need on Orcas and suggestions for possible solutions?

Lahari and the Orcas Senior Center are co-hosting a series of community conversations about the current status and problems facing long-term and in-home care on Orcas, to understand the diverse interests of stakeholders and to discern potential strategies and sustainable solutions for aging at home on Orcas.

All are welcome on Thursday, Nov. 1 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Orcas Senior Center. In addition to a community discussion about Orcas-specific challenges, Deborah Craig will present information about home care “co-ops” and how the cooperative business model is changing the face of elder care in Washington. Craig works at the Northwest Cooperative Development Center and is a cooperative business developer specializing in home care cooperatives.

For more information, contact Dennis King at 1-888-685-1475 or Tom Eversole at 360-370-0562.

Aging on the Salish Sea

There is a myth that seniors on Orcas Island are well-off and can access services they need through private or public resources.

“My observations as Director of the Hearts and Hands program since November 2017 are different, and the need for support services for elders is growing. By 2020, more than half of islanders will be 55 or older, according to the State of Washington’s Forecasting Division,” said Tom Eversole.

Many elders cannot age safely at home here. Their home maintenance has been deferred for years. Home maintenance and repair emerged as a critical need in the 2017 needs assessment conducted by the Orcas Senior Center. OSC is undertaking efforts to establish a collaborative, affordable community response.

Frail and elderly women and men here, who need care themselves are often the sole caregivers of others. Ultimately they must relocate. Many individuals and nonprofits are working earnestly to support elders here at the end of their lives, but a reliable system of in-home health plus in-home care accessible to everyone is unavailable. Caregivers can’t afford to live on Orcas making what Medicaid pays them. A variety of public and private organizations have begun exploring sustainable solutions.

Loneliness and depression define the “golden years” for some on Orcas. Island neighbors, faith-based and civic organizations, San Juan County Senior Services, Compass Health and nonprofits like OSC do what they can. We need a consumer-engaged system for mental health and addictions treatment and prevention beyond Medicaid. We should become a “Dementia Aware Community.”

Elders are subject to crimes by scammers and identity thieves. The senior center’s new technology initiative will help seniors avoid cybercrime and use the internet safely. As elsewhere, elder abuse and neglect occur on Orcas. With fewer options at their disposal, however, local seniors may endure more here, fearing that their limited support will be lost. Both the senior center and senior services respond when there is a suspicion, concern or report of elder abuse, notifying to the proper authorities.

Emergency preparedness also emerged as a 2017 senior needs assessment priority. Accordingly, the senior center has undertaken a new initiative for preparedness in coordination with first responders and county emergency management’s established response plans. The project strives to increase individual senior preparedness as well as the readiness of communities to include vulnerable neighbors in their response activities.

While challenges to aging on Orcas are significant, they are not insurmountable. As Margaret Meade said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

A fuller discussion of these and other issues confronting island elders is at