Senior advocates seeking help

We expect to live out our “golden years” — the time when we’ve retired from work and/or raised a family — traveling or enjoying hobbies. Sadly, many older Americans, due to health or financial problems, struggle to just get by.

  • Monday, April 14, 2008 5:32pm
  • News

We expect to live out our “golden years” — the time when we’ve retired from work and/or raised a family — traveling or enjoying hobbies. Sadly, many older Americans, due to health or financial problems, struggle to just get by.

And many in long-term care facilities (assisted living facilities, nursing homes and adult family homes) have little control over basic rights such as privacy, protection from abuse, protection of personal property, ability to manage their own funds, or make decisions about their own health care, social or religious activities.

Redmond resident John Stilz is recruiting volunteers for the King County Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, a non-profit, independent organization dedicated to ensuring their rights. “Ombudsman” is a Swedish word that means, “one who speaks on behalf of another.”

Stilz explained, “Volunteers are our front line in the protection of the rights, dignity, safety and quality of life of residents in licensed long-term facilities. We look for people who care about others — others who, for some reason such as health, age, fear (or) lack of awareness can not always speak for themselves. We need people who get satisfaction from a ‘thank you,’ a smile, a handshake, maybe even a hug from such residents.”

Currently, there are 42 assisted living facilities in east King County with 11 represented by a volunteer. Seven of these 42 facilities are located within the City of Redmond and don’t have an assigned volunteer.

In addition, there are 15 nursing homes in east King County, nine of which do not have a volunteer representative — and one of these is in Redmond. There are also many adult family homes without a representative.

A comprehensive four-day training program, usually split into two two-day sessions is provided for volunteers. “We ask for attendance at selected monthly, two-hour meetings … and a minimum one-year commitment. And submitting a monthly activity report,” said Stilz.

Prospective volunteers for the King County Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program can contact Stilz at (206) 694-6747 or

Stilz also helps older people get acquainted with technology, by teaching classes at the Redmond Senior Center, 8703 160th Ave. NE.

“I became interested in the value of computers during ‘my other life’ as an employee of the U.S. Health Care Financing Administration. One day, my mother-in-law asked me to help some of her friends at the center with some computer questions,” he said. “Subsequently, the center obtained three new computers and set aside ‘The Computer Corner.’ We now have classes each Friday on topics such as ‘Introduction to Computers,’ “The Internet,’ ‘E-mail’ and ‘Keeping Safe While Using the Computer.’”

For fees, dates and other information about the computer classes, call (425) 556-2314 or visit

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