BOTHELL, Wash. - Northshore Senior Center employees are working to take care of the people most vulnerable in this coronavirus outbreak. Though the center has been closed for one week out of caution, per King County health official guidelines, staff continue efforts to make sure senior citizens don’t feel forgotten.
“We have closed our facilities and instead are really focusing on how we can bring services to seniors while they’re at home staying safe,” said Brooke Knight, CEO of Northshore Senior Center.
Northshore is Washington state’s largest senior center, serving about 7,000 people annually and as many as 500 people per day.
“I think this senior center is a very important part of the community and I think it really helps a lot of people. And it gives people something to look forward to and to help them understand what’s going on with this situation,” said Chester Kimball, who has been a member for the last two years.
Knight said during the temporary closure, Northshore is providing outreach services to its members. Staff members are delivering food, medication and groceries to senior citizens at home. Northshore offers the door to door service to help protect members from COVID-19.
“It is still really hard for people. Being isolated, I’ve heard, for seniors is basically the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day on their health. So, seniors are isolated generally and now we have isolated them even further because of this health crisis,” said Knight.
Hot meals are prepared for seniors to also pick up, should they want to get out of the house. Kimball said the closure has been tough on some members.
“One of the problems with seniors is being alone and not having family around or having friends around or losing friends. And something like this is very important, I think,” said Kimball.
“Folks rely on these centers as a place to socialize with other people, as a place to have healthy activities, healthy food, participate in exercise classes. And those are things that they’re not doing right now. And so, it is just extremely hard for a group that is already marginalized,” said Knight.
King County health officials said the elderly are at the highest risk in the coronavirus outbreak. Kimball said he understands why the precautionary measures were taken.
“There’s a lot of fear there, I guess,” said Kimball. “They feel it’s going to be a long time, it’s going to be dangerous and it’s going to be a long time before anything is really done about it.”
63 percent of the people served at Northshore are low income and depend on this facility for necessities. Though the center may be closed, Northshore is still doing what it can to make sure seniors have what they need to stay healthy.
“We’re really focused right now on just doing what we can to meet the emergent needs. But we are worried what the long-term plan is,” said Knight.
The CEO said the plan is to reopen the facility on March 20. She explained that could change as more develops about the outbreak.
In the meantime, Northshore is also offering a pop-up food pantry every Tuesday and Friday. They’re welcoming donations from the community to help support seniors. Donations items can include high protein, low sodium non-perishable foods, adult diapers, toiletries and other goods.