As we kick off 2019, I am doubling down my commitment to making Seattle an Age Friendly City that is safe and livable for everyone in our community, young and old, for all ages and abilities.
Seattle’s Age Friendly Seattle program is already making progress. We are focusing on improving the lives of Seattle residents in eight areas defined by the World Health Organization that influence the health and well-being of older adults . These are called the “Domains of Livability”, including:
Outdoor Spaces and Buildings
Respect and Social Inclusion
Civic Participation and Employment
Community and Health Services
Communication and Information
Last March I wrote about the programs offered in Seattle that prioritize the Respect and Social Inclusion domain, today I will describe how Seattle and King County are making our region more livable through transportation options.
Accessing services and recreation, maintaining relationships, staying involved with activities we enjoy, and social participation with friends and family are all dependent on accessible transportation or being able to safely walk where we want to go.
Providing mobility options is a social justice as well as a personal issue for me as my husband Brad Bagshaw has muscular dystrophy. He is able to get around using walking sticks, but his is a degenerative disease and we are dealing with it daily. Getting around without a car is a major challenge but one we are able to address because of Brad’s positive attitude and some help from SDOT and Metro.
Walkability: Little Things Make a Difference. When we bought our condo in Downtown Seattle nineteen years ago, walking up the hill to our respective offices on 4th Avenue was part of our daily routine. Unfortunately, because Brad’s disease has reduced his ability to walk even short distances, we now plan our route carefully, looking for help like public elevators and escalators to get up the hills. Even simple aides like benches along the way can make the difference on whether we can continue to walk or must take our car or a Lyft.
As part of Seattle’s Age Friendly Action Plan, SDOT has agreed to install more benches along many routes where people walk. I am advocating for benches designed and constructed for people of all abilities. After researching the question, I have learned that two particular design elements are especially helpful: first, include arms rests on both sides of the seat so the user can easily get down and use her arms to assist with getting up again; and second, design the bench with the seat tilted slightly downward. This makes getting up much more manageable for those who need the help.
Transportation Options: Seattle has over seven transportation options for residents and visitors alike, however, there are three age-friendly programs specifically designed for people who are 55 or older and adults with disabilities. These options are Hyde Shuttles, Regional Reduced Fare Permit and Volunteer Transportation.
Sound Generations supports the Hyde Shuttles program. Hyde Shuttles are designed to accommodate several riders at a time and the drivers provide door-to -door van service in 13 specific neighborhoods. For example, if you live in the Queen Anne/Magnolia/Interbay area and need a ride getting to your appointments or running errands within this neighborhood, the Hyde Shuttle is a great option for door to door service. If you would like more information or would like to schedule a ride, please check out the website above or call 206-727-6262.
King County offers a Regional Reduced Fare Permit. It entitles people who are aged 65 or older and people who are Disabled Medicare card holders to reduced fares on 13 public transportation systems in the Puget Sound area. It is easy to obtain and renew a Regional Reduced Fare Permit. The application can be found here . Fill out the form, bring it and supporting documents (proof of disability or a valid Medicare card) to a ORCA customer service office. Please call 206-553-300 or 800-756-5437 to find a customer service office near you.
There are multiple volunteer transportation service providers who assist elders and disabled adults with transportation needs. For example, Catholic Community Services has volunteers in 13 counties. Please call 1-844-851-9380 to coordinate transportation.
Similarly, Sound Generations has 400 volunteers who use their own vehicles to provide safe transportation to and from essential appointments. This service is a personalized service. The volunteer will wait at your appointment and return you home. You must be aged 60 or older with limited transportation options to participate in this program. For more information please call 206-448-5740.
Finally, I am advocating for new innovative approaches for individuals to connect with transit hubs allowing them to easily access bus or light rail services from their homes such as rideshares or other services. An existing example is the Uber Partnership program in Altamonte Springs, Florida. This program offers discounted ride service into the city’s transportation network.
We seniors have a lot to offer our community, and making Seattle as easily accessible as possible through thoughtful city planning and accessible transportation services is a priority for me. I am looking forward to actively engaged with Seattle’s Department of Transportation and our Human Service Department’s Age Friendly Programs to explore and implement more creative options. If you have ideas you want to add to the mix, please call my office at 206 684 8801 or send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to Lena Tebeau and Alyson McLean for their contributions to this post.