Old Friends Club was established by Executive Director Karen Koenig who was recently awarded a Service Recognition Award by the Washington State Association of Senior Centers. She was recognized and celebrated for her immediate and compassionate response to those families in need of memory care when Sno-Valley Senior Center had to close its long-running Adult Day Care Program in 2015.
As the former Program Coordinator for that program, Koenig was familiar with the population, community and members who had been served or given their support over the years. She gathered and motivated a small staff and collection of volunteers to create what is now Old Friends Club, a member-based social day program which focuses on strengths, respect, choice and fun, and encourages Club Members to interact and care for each other.
Family Caregivers are also supported with time for themselves and free resources to navigate the sometimes difficult journey of caring for someone with dementia. Old Friends Club currently offers services at three locations and is accepting new members.
Activity Director - Carnation, WA
Joan began working with this population more than 25 years ago, with a majority of those years as an activity coordinator for the Adult Day Health program at Sno-Valley Senior Center in Carnation. Perhaps because of her vast experience with this population, she has developed a very accessible style and creates a comfortable welcoming environment allowing members to feel at home very quickly. She is also the creator and designer of “Shake Loose a Memory,” a game using dice and cards that encourage memory in a social setting without the social pressure. Joan says each day brings new experience and that she continues to learn from each member. “Each one of us is unique in our personality and what we have personally lost to dementia,” she says, adding that she thinks everyone needs to respect and be respected for both.
Joan is always working to help members connect with themselves, their past and present, and with each other. “The day most special to me is when someone recalls a memory… and they are able to share their story with a group of friends.” She says it’s nice to see everyone listening, while some are remembering their own experiences and might even chime in to create a group discussion—people who may not be able to do that often or in any other situation. She says, “That’s a great feeling!” We have great feelings about Joan, too.
Katie Zeitler, MBA, CNA
Katie joined Old Friends Club as the Marketing Coordinator during the summer of 2020. She brings seven years of caregiving experience and two years of activities directing experience to the table. Her grandfather had Alzheimer's disease and passed away in 2008. Katie is the AIM/Advocacy chairperson for the Snohomish Walk to End Alzheimer's committee, serves as a program advisor and storytelling volunteer for Recovery Beyond, and volunteers as a dog feeder/cleaner and photographer at Homeward Pet Adoption Center. She recently wrote and published a book for children and adults about Alzheimer's Disease entitled, "Where is Grandpa?" Katie enjoys drawing, painting, photography, mushroom foraging, and going on hikes with her husband and dogs.
Ashley has always had a passion for helping others. Whether it was attending to the needs of patients during her clinical training as a nursing assistant or caring for and rehabilitating abused pigs at an animal sanctuary she volunteered at, helping others in need is what fulfills her the most. Through these experiences, she has learned the importance of having patience, perspective, and compassion for all beings. Her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics has honed her critical thinking skills, allowing her to analyze situations and develop timely and thoughtful solutions, which is essential when working with people living with dementia. Moreover, Ashley has watched her grandmother move through the stages of dementia and realized through engaging with her that Old Friends Club was the perfect place to put her skills to work in helping those with similar needs.
Paul is the newest member of Old Friends Club. He earned his degree in Social Welfare from Middle Tennessee State University. Afterward, he began his career in long term healthcare promoting Quality of Life for populations living with Alzheimer’s and late-stage dementia. During his tenure working in long term healthcare, Paul became an Eden Associate. As an Eden Associate, Paul's main focus was to ensure that “each person felt they had value in society and their voice was heard”. He worked daily to provide meaningful activities and promote social interaction. Paul received extensive training learning the techniques necessary to build successful relationships and trust within the populations he works with. Paul relocated to the state of Washington in December 2019 and is excited to bring his energy and friendship as he joins Old Friends Club.
Cass is the activity director at the reopened Issaquah and Sammamish location.