According to the 2020 census, older adults over age 65 made up 8% of Sammamish’s population. However, many of these older adults consistently cite a lack of opportunities for social interaction and connection with each other.
Sammamish Seniors is a local volunteer-run organization that is filling this void.
For older adults, one of the biggest challenges is maintaining consistent social interactions. This problem becomes more pronounced after retirement, or when children leave the nest, causing loss of many sources of connection.
“Once I became an empty nester, there were just not as many programs for me to take part in,” said Margaret Rosenow, 78. “As a senior, it’s easy to feel isolated from the community and that negatively affected my mental and physical health.”
In 2018, a group of residents started Sammamish Seniors as a platform for older adults to connect and explore their interests, with the goal of combating social isolation.
“At our first meeting, it was a cold and rainy day,” said Don Gerend, 82. “But still over 250 people showed up.”
Since its founding, Sammamish Seniors has had a core group of 20 volunteers who significantly expanded programming based on interest from its members. One well-received activity is the book club. Other events include a community conversations series featuring talks from community members. Sammamish Seniors also publishes a monthly newsletter that is sent to over 300 residents.
In addition to these virtual programs, they occasionally host in-person activities at Beaver Lake Lodge, Big Rock Park, and Sammamish YMCA.
In the long term, Sammamish Seniors hopes the city will establish a permanent physical location for its community activities, including these free programs.
“While surrounding cities [including Redmond and Issaquah] have senior centers, Sammamish lacks a permanent physical location for seniors to meet,” said Joyce Bottenberg, 77.
Another priority is securing funding from the city to create a permanent position for organizing senior programming.
“A core group of volunteers is currently planning all new activities,” Tom Ehlers, 62, said. “We hope to have someone who is responsible for and consistently thinking about new programming for seniors to help our programs take off.”
At the end of the day, Sammamish Seniors aims to be a platform to connect not just seniors, but all adults.
“We’re not just looking to serve seniors over 60,” said Ehlers. “Sammamish Seniors is a place for people to interact and grow with each other.”