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WA joins age, dementia-friendly networks

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Washington has received designations highlighting the state’s efforts to become more age and dementia-friendly.

Washington is the 12th state to join the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities.

Susan Engels, Unit on Aging office chief for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, said the designation builds on work the state is already doing to support people of all ages.

“Age-friendly communities consider goals that promote high quality of life for each person regardless of their age, allowing older people the opportunity to remain active in their community,” Engels pointed out. “The designation begins a book of work that we’re very excited to do.”

Some cities in the state have already joined the AARP network, such as Puyallup, Renton, Seattle, Tacoma and White Salmon. Some of the goals for age-friendly communities include ensuring people can age in place and building walkable communities to ensure people can maintain both their independence and connection with others.

Washington is also joining U.S. Aging’s Dementia-Friendly America network. Engels noted the state is already supporting people with dementia.

“Developing more community opportunities for families living with dementia,” Engels explained. “Things like zoo walks and cafes where people can come and not worry about being judged if their loved one behaves differently.”

Family caregiving is another important area as the population ages. According to AARP’s statistics, the ratio of family caregivers per adult over 80 available in Washington will decline from about 4.5 to 1 in 2030 to less than 3 to 1 in 2050.

Engels added the state has support in caregiving as well, such as through respite and counseling to help people maintain the sometimes difficult roles.

“We have innovative programs, both state funded and federally funded, where we are able to support family caregivers regardless of income levels,” Engels stressed. “With services that help those family caregivers be able to maintain their role.”

Featured photo: One in five Americans is expected to be age 65 or older by 2030. (Melanie/Adobe Stock)

Eric Tegethoff

Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He's also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.

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