Northwest NEWS

June 4, 2001

Front Page

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A place that feels like home

by Bronwyn Wilson
   Lavender wisteria blossoms drape through an arbor in front of the entrance. Senior citizens dig and plant close by, tending gardens loaded with colorful blooms.
   Inside, 20 or so seniors stretch and tap their feet to lively music in the multipurpose room. In the dining area, tables are neatly set with placemats and coffee cups in preparation for lunch. Across the way at the coffee shop, one gentleman shows his 90th birthday party photos to the others in the room. Down the hallway, a group of seniors sit before easels creating scenes from acrylic paints.
   In an adjacent room, a computer class is in session. At the gift shop handcrafted work is for sale, including knitted afghans and intricate wooden toys.
   "Is that a new walker?" one senior asks a friend. "It sure is and I can dance with this one!" the lady responds, then demonstrates the rumba. The faces of a large group of seniors light up as they watch their friend "cut a rug" with her walker.
   These happy, vibrant people are the seniors at the Northshore Senior Center in Bothell. The Center is a private non-profit agency affiliated with senior services of Seattle/King County and provides older adults in the Northshore School District with health, nutrition, recreation and education benefits.
   The Senior Center, however, isn't equipped to meet the needs of adults facing the challenges of cognitive, physical and developmental disabilities. Currently, a number of adults with disabilities benefit from adult day programs in the area. But the programs are held in the basements of churches or in renovated space. Said Marianne LoGerfo, Director of the Northshore Senior Center, "Most pressing, there isn't a center for adults with disabilities for social, health, recreation and rehabilitation services in the Northshore area." In addition, she said that there are no regularly scheduled programs in the area for special needs adults.
   For this reason, a Northshore Health and Wellness Center or Day Center has been designed to meet the needs of functionally impaired adults 21 and older. "Everyone needs to have their own life with their own friends and to develop themselves as a person," said LoGerfo. She said that many adults with disabilities become quite isolated with social support cut off. "Parents worry, 'What is the quality of their life?'" she said. For this reason, the Day Center's goal will be to enhance the quality of life.
   The idea for the Center came from a former Bothell City Council member, Sue Kienast. She was aware that the property across the street from the Northshore Senior Center was for sale and was aware of the need for a center for adults with disabilities.
   Her idea caught on and soon the surrounding neighborhood was in support of the project. Architect Steve Manthey volunteered to design the building. He donated over a year of his time to develop the concept of a 17,000 square foot building capable of offering a wide range of services. "It will look comfortable and residential," noted LoGerfo. The Center will have a big front porch, a gabled roof and will fit in nicely with the community. "It's important to have a place that feels like home and that's inviting," she said.
   Programs at the Center will include music, arts and crafts, support groups, help with memory loss as well as help for those needing a more controlled environment. There will be an area in the Center for personal care, for rest and for gathering. For higher functioning participants, there will be a Computer Learning Center. LoGerfo said that the Center would also have an exercise room. Exercise, she added, is a powerful tool against depression.
   From occupational and speech therapy to therapeutic activities, the Center will have a full range of programs. A nurse will be on the premises to make decisions about medications, nutrition, physical activity and ways to deal with depression. In addition, a transportation service will be available for those who need a ride to the doctor or other health appointments.
   LoGerfo pointed out that the Center would also offer respite for caregivers. "Working caregivers are most eager for a safe, happy, time [for those they care for] while they take care of the rest of the household."
   However, community support is needed to transform the Center from a conceptual design on paper to a working facility. On November 6, voters will have the opportunity to approve a 3.2 million bond so that the Northshore Day Center can become a reality for the region. The bond would cost the average Northshore homeowner around $5 or $6 per year.
   To make the Center happen, a Steering Committee formed and is made up of people in the business community and those active in local and state government. People from the Evergreen Hospital District who represent adults with disabilities are also actively involved.
   The Center will be owned by the Northshore Park and Recreation Service and operated by the Northshore Senior Center. Operating costs will be covered through fees, events and contracts.
   Director LoGerfo asks the community for their input regarding the Day Center as well as for ideas and suggestions on the Center's final name, which has not yet been determined. Anyone wanting to join the effort is welcome. Call (425) 487-2441 or e-mail mariannel@seniorservices.org