By Lois Jasmer, Director of Business Development at Concierge Care Advisors
As I stroll through the grocery store this week I am reminded by all the displays that everyone has a favorite holiday dish. Other than the mashed potatoes and gravy, my favorite is cranberry sauce, I really don’t care if it is canned or fresh. Some of you reading this may be thinking, canned? Yuck! But for many, canned foods are all they can afford to eat, if they can even afford that. We hear a lot about all the homeless out there in the Seattle area, with opinions that are all over the board. However, there is another group that is not often thought about or talked about, and that is the low-income seniors in our communities.
Seniors average just $1,404 a month on Social Security and after paying for gas, heat, rent and prescriptions, that leaves little left over for food. Even if a senior owns their own home they may not be fortunate enough to have savings or a retirement account. Many women did not work outside of the home back in the 50’s and 60’s and hence are not getting much, if any, Social Security to contribute to the couple’s income.
A friend that I have volunteered with and done presentations for, told me of a situation at the Federal Way Senior Center. Although it has robust programs that serve the seniors of the area, the Center has been struggling. They serve over 300 seniors a month at the Food Bank, which is part of the Center’s Activity/Food Bank/Meals program. Currently, they have a real shortage of canned foods.
Centers like the one in Federal Way also promote healthy living through activities, parties, education and honoring our Veterans. Seniors need not only the social and emotional benefits that these Centers can provide, but the nutritional benefits as well. Many times as a Senior Advisor we visit an elderly client and see the refrigerator is bare and there is only cold cereal in the cupboard. One of the offerings of the Federal Way Senior Center is a hot meal to anyone that comes in. Again, many seniors cannot afford even the minimal $3 charge that it would cost for this meal. Hence, the Center ends up losing money each month without donations and fundraisers by good-hearted folks in the community, and a minimal donation by the City.
With the start of the Silver Tsunami (78 million aging baby boomers) that is upon us, funding to provide these meals is a struggle. The Federal Way Senior Center served almost 8,200 meals through the third quarter, which is up approximately 2,500 meals from last year’s TOTAL meals served for the year. Not only does this make me want to help the Federal Way Senior Center, but it also brings to light a larger problem that will be affecting so many seniors in the state and country.
I believe that part of the solution is for seniors to get the advice and guidance from a Transitional Specialist on options that are out there before they get to a crisis point, being connected early with resources. Here’s an idea; what if there were a legacy program? A person could leave a donation for the center that they frequented upon passing. It would be another resource for the center to help the seniors in their community.
With the holidays upon us, when you pass the canned beans and cranberries at the grocery store, think about picking up an extra can or two and bless a senior by donating to your local food bank or stopping by the Federal Way Senior Center at 4016 S 352nd St, Auburn, WA 98001.