Aging and Disability Services (ADS), a division of the Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) that serves as the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle and King County, received two awards from the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) at a virtual awards program on July 20—one of them the top Innovation Award winner for 2021.
ADS’ Community Living Connections Collaborative Funding Process initially received one of 15 n4a Aging Innovations Awards. The Aging Innovations Award is n4a’s highest award category. During the conference general session that followed, HSD/ADS was announced as the top Innovation Award winner for 2021 and the recipient of a $2,500 prize.
Age Friendly Live—live and online events coordinated by the Age Friendly Seattle team at ADS—received one of 21 n4a Aging Achievement Awards announced at the conference.
The 2021 n4a Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards recognize AAAs and Title VI Native American Aging Programs that develop and implement cutting-edge approaches to support older adults, people with disabilities and their family caregivers. Among the selection criteria was the ease with which other agencies could replicate the program in their communities. N4a published program descriptions in its 2021 Awards Book.
Per the n4a media release, “With service gaps, no additional money to bring new providers on board and a need for an even stronger focus on meeting the Seattle Human Services Department, Aging and Disability Services’ (ADS) racial equity goals, ADS devised the Collaborative Funding Process. The Collaborative Funding Process is a new approach that enables community-based agencies to determine how they will collectively deliver services. Unlike a traditional funding process where the AAA or, in this agency’s case, a panel, makes funding recommendations, collaborative funding means agencies work together to decide funding allocations and service expectations. Over seven months, participating agencies met with a racial equity consultant as they identified funding and service delivery levels for each network provider agency.”
“The 2018–2019 Collaborative Funding Process resulted in over $3.7 million in 19 provider contracts that began in January 2020, including contracts with five new providers,” said Mary Mitchell, interim Aging and Disability Services division director. “Collaboration enabled the network to support new agencies serving LGBTQ and south Asian elders and African American caregivers without adding more money. The network also gained greater capacity to serve south county residents, where needs are greatest; offered improved access to transportation services; and improved network communication overall.”
Age Friendly Live comprises two ongoing online event series—Civic Coffee Hours and Close to Home—and other events designed to reduce social isolation and increase opportunities for civic participation among older people. According to the Age Friendly Seattle 2020 Annual Report, more than 6,400 people participated in Age Friendly Live events or viewed them later on the ADS YouTube channel last year.
“Over the past two years, through intentional outreach to immigrants and refugees, simultaneous interpretation during in-person events, and online event streaming with auto-captioning in a choice of world languages, we saw exponential growth in the number of participants,” said Mitchell. “In 2019, staff intentionally sought out immigrant and refugee older adults, starting with outreach to Russian- and Amharic-speaking communities, and arranged for simultaneous translation during in-person events (with interpreters speaking into a transmitter and guests wearing headphones ADS). Later that year, ADS received requests for interpretation in Khmer and Vietnamese as well. When audiences began to exceed room capacity, staff reached out to The Seattle Public Library, which joined us as a co-sponsor, made larger meeting spaces available, and increased outreach to older Seattle residents.”
“Then, COVID-19 stay-at-home orders presented an additional challenge,” Mitchell said. “How could we offer online events that supported our multicultural audience? Staff studied options for live streaming in multiple languages as well as captioning for people who are hard of hearing. They selected Microsoft Teams Live—a webinar platform that provides captioning in multiple languages and retains language choice in video recordings.”
“We also recognized the risk of social isolation during the pandemic, so staff created Close to Home: Stories of Health, Tech & Resilience, a second series intended to reach older people who were confined at home,” said Mitchell. “Every program included local COVID information and public library resources as well as Community Living Connections services that we fund. Once we return to in-person events, we expect to offer a choice between in-person attendance and online viewing.”
To ease online program access for individuals who are uneasy about joining online events, Age Friendly Seattle promotes a single web link. Each program is promoted through e-mail and social media, emphasizing language access. A phone option is available for people without Internet and Seattle Channel TV now broadcasts recordings in the weeks that follow.
Earlier this year, Age Friendly Seattle received an American Society on Aging Award for Excellence in Multicultural Aging in recognition of their intentional outreach to immigrant elders.
For information about upcoming Age Friendly Live events and links to past programs, visit seattle.gov/agefriendly/events.
Need aging or disability resources? To access local services, call Community Living Connections at (toll-free) 844-348-5464. Calls are confidential and free of charge.