Greenwood Senior Center programs engage, entertain, and build community

Greenwood Senior Center programs engage, entertain, and build community
By mattc

Greenwood Senior Center program participants enjoy a tour of the Museum of Flight.

By Cecily Kaplan, PNA Senior Programs Director

Each quarter, community members eagerly look forward to our Greenwood Senior Center’s robust program of events, activities, lectures, and classes. Our programming brings people together for activities that create connections and strengthens the Power of Community for older adults.

A question we often hear is, “how do we come up with our diverse suite of programs?” Our secret sauce is our incredible Program Manager Ariel Burnett! She’s developed many connections and partnerships to build an interesting, fun, and exciting quarterly event line-up.

We recently caught up with Ariel to learn more about her work and how she plans such an engaging schedule.

Greenwood Senior Center Program Manager Ariel Burnett at the Museum of Flight.GSC Program Manager Ariel Burnett at the Museum of Flight’s recent “The Walt Disney Studios and World War II” exhibition. 

So Ariel, how do you do it??

“This is actually something I can go on at length about because I think the answer really exemplifies the best qualities of working in community. The short answer is that it comes down to building relationships and being open to and prepared for new ideas from every direction.”

Can you share some examples?

“Our community makes suggestions all the time. I have a Programming Advisory Group of members who generously bring me long lists of activities they have heard of or thought of since our last meeting. My mailbox behind the front desk frequently has brochures, business cards, and newspaper clippings that people think might be worth following up on. I am forwarded event emails, book reviews, and articles. My coworkers tell me about ideas that came to them in the night, or after conversations they had that revealed a need.

One evergreen request is for instructors and speakers. Many of our programs come from people who volunteer themselves. Maybe a professional magician from Dublin, for example, or a mason bee enthusiast who wants to inspire others to raise more pollinators. Our very popular cooking class series is taught by a neighbor who struck up a conversation while passing a group of us meeting outside due to COVID precautions.

Our friends and family are fair game too—many of our speakers are the parents or children or in-laws or neighbors of community members. People with interesting professional backgrounds or specialized interests who are happy to share with others, especially after their loved ones encourage them.”

Greenwood Senior Center program participants enjoy a tour of the Henry Art Gallery.

You are one of those people too, right? You’ve taught creative classes, like felting and mosaic making, and you were one of our original tech supports! Your quarterly field trips are beloved!

“I try to fill in the programming where I can. I’m proud that our trips are made 100% on public transportation because I like to provide people who are new to our bus, train, and ferry system the opportunity to try them out with guidance. It can be kind of intimidating to do it by yourself for the first time. Also, the bus stop is a great place for people to get to know each other while we’re waiting.”

Do you work with business, higher education, or cultural groups?

“We utilize subject matter experts from local small businesses—physical therapists who want to teach people about how to prevent injuries or contractors who want people to know about small changes they can make to keep their homes accessible as they age. We have held talks from the Seattle Public Library and Woodland Park Zoo, nurses from Seattle Pacific University, and researchers from the University of Washington. Scarecrow Video presents classic movies here once a quarter. We take advantage of opportunities from organizations with speakers bureaus, particularly Humanities Washington, which regularly sponsors informative lectures here. We also partner with the Museum of Flight, Seattle Audubon, AARP, and newly this quarter, the Undersea Naval Museum.”

Group of older adults cheers the camera with drinks made during a spirits class at the Greenwood Senior Center.

A recent cocktail-making course held in the Greenwood Senior Center dining room. It also involved cocktail tasting. Cheers!

Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

“As I plan a new quarter, the starting point for everything is inevitably, ‘who do you know?’ I used to get worried that the program ideas would dry up at some point and we wouldn’t have anything new to put into The Review Newspaper. Even after doing this for nearly a decade, I have occasional moments of anxiety about this. The fear was especially acute during the pandemic quarantine. But still, even then, the suggestions, offers, and opportunities came rushing in, in trickles and then in floods. The community comes through every time!”


Here’s just a small sample of the feedback that we’ve received about Ariel’s work from program participants:

“Thank you for your help. I appreciate it, and I appreciate the Phinney Center offerings via Zoom which allow those of us in isolated areas to participate.”

“I want to thank you so much for your help. I am glad to be connected with you and Cassie along with other staff at the Greenwood Senior Center.”

“Thank you for arranging this excellent talk! So much good information and very well presented.”

Program partners have also shared glowing feedback:

“It was a joy, as always, engaging with the group at Greenwood Senior Center. I hope they enjoyed it as well. Thanks, again, for the opportunity to share my specialty insights with the members there.”

“It was a great audience with great questions, exactly as you said! I’m so glad they enjoyed it. Thanks again for coordinating everything to make today happen!”

“Thanks again for inviting me to talk. I had a great time, and everyone asked such neat questions.”

The continued popularity of and excited reception to our GSC programming from participants and partners shows its positive impact. It shows the Power of Community.

Power of Community Logo

Support the Greenwood Senior Center and celebrate the Power of Community with a tax-deductible gift to our campaign today. Our goal is to raise $60,000 for all of our senior programs, including our events, lectures, and classes. Help us spread the word!