Edmonds Waterfront Center’s response to loneliness epidemic shared at Thursday luncheon

A multigenerational group shares the stage during the Edmonds Waterfront Center lunchon. L-R: Joannie Schendel, Diana White, Jennah El Mourabit and Brook Roberts.

More than a senior center, and more than a community center, the Edmonds Waterfront Center (EWC) is fully committed to bringing people together and fighting loneliness, its leaders said at the EWC’s annual luncheon on Thursday.

Waterfront Center CEO Daniel Johnson addressed the “Loneliness Epidemic” and noted the health advisory issued last year by Dr. Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General.

In his report, Murthy said a lack of connection to other people can increase the risk for premature death to levels comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Lacking social connections is associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease; a 32% increased risk of stroke; and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia for older adults, according to the report.

Johnson said one solution is an investment in social infrastructure – like the EWC — that creates the opportunities for social interaction.

Johnson spoke to about 175 people who attended the EWC’s annual lunch, noting, “We are building something unique. We are more than a senior center, more than a community center. We are a dynamic multigenerational, multicultural community hub where people connect, learn, and celebrate.”

One of two major fundraisers the EWC holds annually, the lunch raised about $61,000. Johnson said that with additional mailed contributions and donations from retirement accounts, proceeds from the lunch will reach the budgeted goal of $75,000.

The main part of the luncheon program included an in-person demonstration of the power of social connections.

Diana White, a board member of both the Seattle Foundation and the Hazel Miller Foundation, interviewed two EWC patrons: 101-year-old Joannie Schendel and 19-year-old Brook Roberts. White asked the two about the struggles associated with social isolation that face both seniors and young people.

Roberts, a member of the EWC board, said, “I want to be sure the youth voice is heard and considered. That is my interest in serving on the EWC Board.”

Schendel recounted joining the USO when she was 17, performing in both Europe and the Pacific. Asked when it is that she feels most alive, she resorted to her USO roots and broke into song on the waterfront center stage.

Finally, Rick Steves, travel guru and Edmonds benefactor, asked those in attendance to consider a contribution to the EWC, drawing on his travels to describe countries that place a high priority on caring for aging adults. “This is not a charity,” said Steves. “It’s a vital community service.”

“For me, being able to support EWC is a great way to leverage my philanthropic giving. It’s an investment with great and tangible returns. It’s part of me and I’m part of it.” Steves said.

If you would like to learn more about the Edmonds Waterfront Center or would like to make a contribution, go to the EWC website: www.edmondswaterfrontcenter.org.

— Story and photos courtesy Edmonds Waterfront Center

  1. Great to see the Waterfront Center being put to good use. We should have more events there that brings the community’ generations together.

  2. I try to walk Edmonds every day and make a stop at the Waterfront Center. It’s a great resource and I’m always amazed at how many people gather there. People from one month to 101. It provides a great place to stop and enjoy coffees, ice cream, pastries, sandwiches, cold drinks and much more. Nice seating inside and outside and beautiful views. I encourage people to support and take advantage of this lovely asset.

  3. While I’m really happy the community has a place like this, I have to say that I find it sad not everybody in Edmonds can enjoy it. it’s very expensive to rent space there for an event. The community volunteer open house is being held there next month and for the first time we have to pay a fee to have our nonprofit club participate. I thought the idea of the center was to bring all of the community together not just the ones that can afford it.

    1. Tina…I might assume there are lease payments, Property Taxes, Insurance for the Building, Liability Insurance for the building and the parking lot, Utilities such as electricity, sewer, water, garbage, Maintenance of the building and parking areas and Staff to be on hand to man the building and make sure everything runs smoothly while there is a function in the building.

  4. Colleen I recognize and understand there are overhead costs to run the building. my point is when the center was built, it was presented as a place that everybody could enjoy and I don’t see that as being the case. Don’t get me wrong. I love the building and I have personally used it. I just wanna make sure that everybody in our community is being able to use it the same way. Maybe there should be another center up by 99 that will be a little less costly to run in more assessable to everyone.

  5. Tina– Firstly: wrong place, wrong timing, wrong purpose. Secondly: Join America– Edmonds is part of our transactional world; look it up!

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