Residents of The Summit have been visiting local businesses on various outings. They share their observations about what does and doesn’t work for seniors.
A lot of old folks want to get out and have a good time once in a while, but that can be difficult in a community that caters mostly to younger people. Capitol Hill is kind of like that, so I was interested to learn that a group of seniors have been scouring the neighborhood looking for senior-friendly places to have coffee and a treat.
They even developed a rating system and wrote a piece for the Capitol Hill Times on their findings. My father-in-law passed a copy to my wife, who gave it to me.
The article made me think of obstacles that can make normal activities difficult for many people as they age. I met the people who did the Capitol Hill survey one afternoon last week, intending to ask them about the serious business of aging, but they were having too much fun for that.
They were visiting Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery on East Olive Way. When I asked about the start of the project, one of them joked, “You know our memory doesn’t go back that far.” They’re all in their 80s and 90s, seven women and one guy, and have been visiting coffee shops and eateries since February.
Most Read Local Stories
- Tim Eyman under investigation in theft of $70 chair from Office Depot WATCH
- Former Eastside lawmaker arrested after drinking with underage relative, police say
- Meet the many unsung heroes of the Seattle Snowpocalypse WATCH
- Amazon puts the smile in federal income taxes — by not paying any | Danny Westneat
- Amid measles outbreak, state House panel moves to ban personal vaccine exemptions
What they don’t like are uncomfortable seats, loud music, steps, dark bathrooms and big, heavy coffee cups.
What they do like is good lighting, clean restrooms and mostly the chance to get out into the community — that’s really what their project has come to be about.
The eight live at The Summit, one of several retirement and assisted-living communities in the First Hill/Capitol Hill area. The communities offer residents lots of outings — to plays, movies, lectures and so forth.
But Marilyn Israel, one of the Summit staffers responsible for creating outings, said going out for coffee is different. She’s been there a year, and early on she thought, “They’re not really experiencing the neighborhood they’re living in.” The staff started taking some of the seniors to coffee, and they really liked it.
They also had lots of opinions about the places they visited, so Israel came up with an evaluation form they complete after each visit. Locked bathrooms were particularly annoying, especially when you have to walk all the way to the bathroom before discovering you need a key.
Mobility was a big issue. Sylvia Slonim said it’s not good “if I come with a walker and have to go up and get my order.” And Hanna Adler said, “if I see steps, I know I can’t go in.”
They visit a different place every other week, and they’ve included some ice-cream shops and dessert places, too. Their observations vary because they face different challenges, but many of the things they’d change might make life easier for other folks, too.
Some places don’t have sugar substitutes, even though many people on restricted diets can’t use sugar. That was a problem at a couple of places that emphasize organic ingredients.
Someone suggested that bringing along sweetener would be a gallant thing for a date to do, but Bernice Bloch thought not. “At this stage, if I’m going on a date, it’s not going to be cheap.”
Other kinds of outings are nice, but the freewheeling conversations they have wouldn’t happen in an art museum or theater, Joyce Roslin said. They’ve bonded as friends in a way that wouldn’t have happened without the excursions.
And even though there’s food and coffee at The Summit, this was different. “It makes you feel like you’re a part of life,“ Edith Horn said.
“I don’t think there should be loud music on the speakers,” Bill Berley said. It was interfering with the conversation, so one of the shop workers turned it off.
The seniors shared several desserts. The molten-chocolate cake was a hit; so was the grilled chocolate sandwich. But several s’mores were left uneaten because people had so much trouble cutting them up, and just biting into them wasn’t an option.
At the end, they were kicking around the idea of publishing a guide to coffee shops, and someone suggested they could publish one on how to get old and be happy.
That’s their biggest discovery.