Civic Coffee Recap: Combatting Social Isolation

woman at watercolor painting class

On October 24, 2023, Age Friendly Seattle hosted its monthly Civic Coffee in collaboration with the Southeast Seattle Senior Center. Panelists Jennifer Kulik, founder and CEO of SilverKite Community Arts, and Jessica Lotz, Community and Outreach Coordinator at Friends of Waterfront Seattle, discussed local programs aimed at combating social isolation.

Age Friendly Seattle program manager Dinah Stephens started off the discussion with a presentation highlighting the relevance of discussing social isolation, which was amplified during the pandemic. It is crucial for older adults to have opportunities for engagement in their communities.

Dinah emphasized the important distinction between loneliness and social isolation. Loneliness is a subjective, distressing feeling of being alone, or perceived isolation, while social isolation is the objective lack of or limited contact with others. Loneliness can affect all people. Social isolation increases with age due to various factors like the loss of loved ones, health conditions, and life changes like retirement. Younger people who lack meaningful connections in their life may feel lonely.

Social isolation has been linked to health concerns such as high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, cognitive decline, and dementia. Researchers have compared the negative health impacts of chronic social isolation—behavioral, psychological, and physiological—to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

On a personal level, some practices to address social isolation include nurturing existing relationships, spending time with friends and family, learning transportation options to get around the city, reconnecting with an old hobby or trying a new one, and volunteering.

SilverKite Community Arts promotes accessible art programs for all, with creative programming in various art forms for people ages 65 and above. SilverKite Community Arts partners with the Seattle Public Library, King County Library System, community centers, and several senior living communities to offer programs for free, including watercolor painting, creating mixed media collages, and memoir writing. They also have an intergenerational theater company and programs to provide opportunities for people of all ages to socialize.

A screenshot of the Civic coffee recording.

Couldn’t attend the Age Friendly Seattle Civic Coffee on combating social isolation? Watch the video recording on YouTube.

At the Civic Coffee, Jennifer said the in-person workshops prioritize creating opportunities for participants to connect with themselves and others through making art. Their intergenerational workshops are drop-in opportunities with programming that allows participants to get to meet others and get to make art together.

SilverKite’s Intergenerational Theatre Company creates and performs original life-story based theatre productions that tour to community centers and senior living communities throughout the Puget Sound region. Their newest production, Sidewalks, included an all-female cast, 26 through 60 years of age. Performances took place in several senior living communities and senior centers in October and early November this year. Their productions are open to all ages, and community members are encouraged to audition for roles. The goal of SilverKite’s theatre productions is to provide an opportunity for the audience to see intergenerational performances on the stage.

Friends of Waterfront Seattle is a nonprofit organization that offers programming to create a vibrant community for everyone on Seattle’s waterfront. Ongoing events include Pier 62 fire pits, lit every Thursday through the end of the year. There is a soccer field, spaces to play games like chess and Connect 4, which add to the waterfront experience. In the summer, the organization offers a variety of events like yoga, concerts, and cultural events on Pier 62.

Jessica talked about Waterfront Park, currently under construction, which was designed with Universal Design in mind—meaning with more ramps, accessible restrooms, and additional elevators to access the waterfront from Pike Place. During the summer, they are hoping to bring back an accessible and free waterfront shuttle, with seven stops ranging from the International District to the Space Needle with a stop at Waterfront Park.

Friends of Waterfront Seattle are creating more programs for older adults to create engaging and accessible opportunities for older adults at the waterfront. Due to construction lasting until 2025, most of their programming is on Pier 62. Once construction is complete, there will be programs across the whole waterfront.

Intergenerational programs are great opportunities for older and younger generations to learn from one another. Jennifer said SilverKite’s intergenerational programs allow older adults to share their wisdom and experience with younger generations and make positive contributions to their community. The programs also provide opportunities for life review, which is a natural part of the aging process.

Age Friendly Seattle thanks both panelists for this insightful conversation on programs in Seattle and King County that are helping combat social isolation for older adults.

Age Friendly Seattle Civic Coffees are scheduled monthly (except December) and will continue in the new year. Stay connected with Age Friendly Seattle to learn about upcoming Civic Coffees and other events in 2024. Visit and bookmark Aging King County’s Age Friendly Live—Virtual Events webpage. Also, follow Age Friendly Seattle on Facebook and Twitter. For more information, e-mail

Fathima GarciaContributor Fathima Garcia is an intern with Age Friendly Seattle. She is a recent Seattle Central College graduate with an associate degree in business administration. Starting this fall, she will study Human Resources Management at the University of Washington Foster School of Business.

This article appeared in the December 2023 issue of AgeWise King County.