Key Takeaways

  • Every year, NISC's annual Programs of Excellence Awards honor and promote the outstanding programs offered by senior centers across the country.

  • Learn more about the Senior Helping Senior Network, the 2022 Programs of Excellence Award Winner in the Health and Wellness category.

  • The Senior Helping Senior Network aims to offer emotional support, reduce social isolation, and link older adults with services. 

NISC Programs of Excellence 

  • Year Awarded: 2022
  • Programs of Excellence Name: Senior Helping Senior Network
  • Hosting Organization: Sunshine Garden Chinese Senior Community Center, Seattle
  • Seattle Population: 733,919
  • 60+ Chinese Population: 14,395
  • Senior Center Members: 548

About the Senior Helping Senior Network

Loneliness impacts 20 million older adults and often exists alongside social isolation. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, most services offered by the Sunshine Garden Chinese Senior Community Center transitioned to a virtual platform, which caused unintended social isolation for older adults, increasing the risk of adverse effects such as worsening physical conditions, neurocognitive dysfunction, depression, falls, and frailty.

The center has launched a project focusing on senior center participants who live alone and have not participated in senior center activities either via Zoom or in-person in the past six months, as well as those who received free iPads but did not join any activities via Zoom. The goal: connect identified seniors to care communities and other vital community resources, with the support of culturally competent programs. This kind of connection and engagement can be especially important for Chinese seniors, who may have limited access to cultural activities due to language or physical barriers. 

The pilot program will use two strategies to re-connect isolated seniors with support:

  1. Phone calls to and from trained staff, and
  2. Phone calls and visits (if and when allowable) with a community peer

The goals and objectives are to:

  1. Reduce social isolation and fear in response to anti-Asian hate crime and harassment
  2. Offer emotional support and connect seniors to community resources
  3. Provide critical calls once symptoms of depression are identified (and a reporting protocol ) 

Key takeaways from the Senior Helping Senior Network:

  • The project includes a staff member tapped as a Care Ambassador and is recruiting volunteers as Care Buddies.
  • The Care Ambassador consults with the Chinese Information and Service Center's Clinical Director for technical consultation regarding older adult's issues related to mental health and will receive relevant training, including depression training, cultural sensitivity training, and reporting protocols.
  • Already, some isolated seniors have began to participate in some of the senior center's activities.
  • With limited resources, the program so far is only able to contact participants via phone calls. If there were additional funding available, providing transportation services to increase participants' ability to access the senior center's activities would improve the program.

About the Sunshine Garden Chinese Senior Community Center

The Sunshine Garden Chinese Senior Community Center offers day activities, food and nutrition, health promotion and wellness and educational and recreational opportunities. A program of the Chinese Information and Service Center, the senior center is available the first Friday of each month and aims to serve the Chinese community in Seattle's North End.