Common Concerns for Community Living: Housing, Transportation and Health Care

In a recent effort to identify challenges and opportunities facing communities, Aging and Disability Services (ADS)—the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County—solicited input from individuals and organizations across King County. ADS connected with participants at senior centers, interviewed family caregivers, and conducted special outreach activities with cultural groups, including immigrant and refugee communities, and advocates for people with disabilities. Across geographic areas and populations, common themes emerged related to community living.

Individuals expressed unmet needs related to affordable and accessible housing, transportation, and medical care. Financial self-sufficiency was another common concern. Participants highlighted diminishing finances, lack of food security, and gaps in services and program eligibility as challenges to maintaining community living.

Aging and Disability Services staff met with community partners to get input on pressing community living issues.

Community members have difficulty locating affordable and accessible housing that is near to transportation and other resources. In addition, some individuals require greater assistance transitioning to housing—in particular, those with mental health needs and/or functional limitations. While affordable housing may be more readily available in some suburban and rural parts of King County, individuals reported limited transportation services in these areas.

Limited transportation services coupled with scarce health care and social services in some areas of the county create barriers to accessing vital supports for many community members, and particularly those who live with disabilities or experience cultural barriers. Gaps in the healthcare system also make it difficult for individuals to navigate and access needed assistance. Participants discussed medical needs going unmet and highlighted behavioral health and memory care supports as resources that require greater assistance for individuals to access.

This focus group discussed creation of a seamless service system.

Though geographic, financial, cultural, and language barriers present challenges to individuals connecting to appropriate services, community members identified methods that improve access. Consumers discussed the benefit of having a trusted source that is able to provide them with comprehensive resource information either in-person or over the phone. This relationship could be with a staff person at a community-based social service organization or with health care provider. This established, trusting relationship is particularly important for groups that experience language, cultural, and communication barriers.

Consumers and service providers spoke of a need for increased collaboration and a seamless support system that is both responsive and informed by the diverse needs of older adults, adults with disabilities, families, and caregivers. Community-based services that are easily accessible to participants are a key ingredient in this seamless support system. Community members would like to see more affordable and accessible resources available in areas in which they live, particularly in south King County.

Aging and Disability Services planner Angela Miyamoto talked with members of the Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities to learn their best sources for information and assistance.

ADS expresses its appreciation to the participants, advocates, and service providers who helped to frame some of the challenges and opportunities for community living supports for older adults and people with disabilities across King County.

Contributor Allison Boll is a University of Washington Master of Social Work candidate currently interning with Aging and Disability Services. She previously held an internship with Senior Services and has well-rounded experience working in a nursing home, rehab and assisted living facility.