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Empowering Refugee Seniors

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Senior Program participants explore the Seattle Aquarium.

Photo: IRC/Gillian Peckham

The IRC’s new Refugee Senior Program provides opportunities for refugee elders to make friends, share resources with one another, and explore the Seattle community together.

"This feels just like home." Taking in familiar sites at the Woodland Park Zoo. Photo: IRC

Recently a group of elders, primarily from Bhutan, took a field trip to the Woodland Park Zoo. Participants excitedly explored the zoo on a beautiful sunny day. At the “Asian Aviary” exhibit - a part of the Tropical Asia section of the zoo - many participants were moved to tears. "This feels just like home," one participant said. A home he hasn’t seen in 25 years.

The Senior Program is helping participants build skills and confidence needed to engage with the broader community, even beyond the group meet-ups. For example, the program helps participants access and learn to use mobile phones, so elders can maintain connections with friends and family outside of their immediate neighborhood. The group also participates in a public transportation training led by Hopelink. These workshops equip elders with their own ORCA cards and help participants learn to independently navigate buses and light rail. 

Kayaking at Lake Sammamish. Photo: IRC

So far, nearly 100 elders from Tukwila, SeaTac, and Kent have participated in activities and the group continues to grow! Participants appreciate the opportunity to meet new people and explore parts of the community they might not otherwise be able to access. Other recent activities have included field trips to the Seattle Aquarium and kayaking at Lake Sammamish. Participants are looking forward to an upcoming trip to a local farm for berry picking.

The IRC plans to continue to expand the Senior Program to reach more elders and offer even more activities.