Edie Morgan has a vision: to help Key Peninsula residents “age in place.” For the past few months, with the help of a steering committee, she has been working toward that vision a step at a time.
One of those steps, to solicit feedback from local seniors, is nearing completion. Morgan hopes to compile survey results soon. Next, she will convene a “council of elders” to discuss the survey results and the local needs, and eventually to share the information and brainstorm more ideas in a public forum.
“I envision a Key Peninsula that is elder-friendly, where the services and programs are available to meet the needs of the people as they age and as their needs change,” said Morgan, the former director of the Children’s Home Society/Key Peninsula Community Resources whose background is in geriatric social work and long-term care. “You pull them (the elders) out of the fabric of this community and put them in (a place like) Tacoma, you leave a hole. I think we’re capable of keeping our community intact.”
“Aging in place” has been a buzzword in recent years used to describe people’s ability to continue living in their community thanks to services available and affordable to support their changing needs. With the aging of the baby boomer generation, it has become a focus for many organizations. On the Key Peninsula, only about 10 percent of the population was 65 and older in 2000, according to the U.S. Census, but by year 2020 as many as a third of local residents could reach that age.
“The demographics support a smaller scale (program). I’m all for ‘small is beautiful,’” Morgan said.
Morgan acknowledges this is a big undertaking, but says once priorities are outlined, the shape of the project will become more clear. A nonprofit organization will likely be formed, and serve to coordinate services that currently are available, try to recruit new services, and maybe initiate some. Morgan is not looking at duplicating anything already available, such as programs and services provided by the Key Pen Community Services and Food Bank.
“This affects the entire community, the future of the community and quality of life. It’s a community-based approach to taking care of our elders,” she said. “It requires a shift in thinking because we’re in a culture of youth orientation — the entire country is.”
Morgan has named her effort The Mustard Seed Project, after a Biblical parable that describes a small mustard seed that grew into a tree used by birds to nest in its branches. She hopes just like the mustard seed, her idea will grow — and help Key Pen seniors remain in their homes or in their community as long as they want to, instead of moving away.
“I think I’m doing what I’m supposed to,” she said. “I’ve learned from living in this community for 20-some years you can make incredible things happen with the help of your friends and neighbors if you’re doing the right work.”