About Old Friends Club
Karen Koenig, OFC Founder
Old Friends Club was established by 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.
Karen currently serves on the Board of Directors for Dementia Support NW. Old Friends Club merged with Dementia Support NW in April 2023.
Old Friends Club empowers communities to cultivate joy in the lives of adults with cognitive challenges and nourish the well-being of family caregivers.
Our vision is a society where people affected by dementia are included, respected, supported, and have the resources they need to live well.
Old Friends Club can be the foundation of a system change in which community Members learn to better understand dementia, convey kindness and expertise to those affected by dementia, and move to destigmatizing dementia. Despite the diagnosis of dementia, we want to return the freedom to choose where to live, to enjoy meaningful and purposeful activities, to stay fit, and to stay connected.
At Old Friends Club, we believe every person deserves the opportunity to utilize respite care regardless of where they live or their socio-economic status. Our goal is to bring OFC into communities where there are little to no dementia resources available, so more people have access to a program like ours.
Old Friends Club empowers community-based organizations to offer tangible, life-changing support to people living with dementia and those who care for them. The friends and family of those with dementia are, by far, the leading providers of dementia care. So much depends on them, and they need our support.
The Clubs are community-based social respite programs that improve care and caregiver outcomes, and reduce the burden on the broader health care systems.
The need is urgent and reaches every community, so we must too. OFC believes empowering community organizations to start and lead social respite programs for the people they serve is the best way to 1.) quickly expand to meet the massive need for respite, and 2.) serve diverse communities while honoring each culture.
Old Friends Club is a dementia care resource improving on, or perhaps returning to the wholesome roots of, the adult day model. Studies show proven effectiveness and benefits of these programs, including promoting the resilience that caregivers need to continue offering care at home.
Each Club is a place of friendship and belonging for those living with dementia, where they share life together through conversation, music, art, games, exercise, and a meal. While they enjoy the Club, caregivers have reliable respite – practical chunks of time to recharge and tend to other needs.
There is an enormous gap in dementia care. Community organizations want to do more, and providers in the field of aging need real solutions to offer. Old Friends Club is a sustainable, replicable, affordable solution and can be the foundation of a system change. Join us.
Meet OFC's Staff
Dan joined Dementia Support Northwest (DSNW) taking on the role of executive director in the spring of 2021. With graduate education and professional background specializing in nonprofit management, and a strong preference for work that results in improvements in the lives of others, DSNW would already be a good fit. However, prior to obtaining his Master of Public Administration degree, Dan worked for just over ten years in a family-run assisted living community specializing in Alzheimer and dementia care. DSNW offered a rare opportunity to blend two very distinct skillsets, both in providing direct care and support to those living with dementia as well as in the executive management of DSNW as a regional service provider.
In late 2022, DSNW was approached by the Old Friends Club who, having identified the strong similarities between the two organizations given missions, proposed a merging of the two agencies, bringing the Old Friends Club into Dementia Support Northwest’s program offerings. The opportunity to help bring respite clubs to the same rural communities and service deserts he grew up in proved too enticing of an offer to pass up, and so the merger was made official in April of 2023.
While free time is a bit harder to come by these days, when it manages to sneak onto his calendar you can find Dan exploring the outdoors with his partner Baleigh, mushroom hunting, tending to a few too many potted plants on his back porch, and finding an excuse to go drink a cup of coffee by the nearest body of water.
Katie Spears, MPH
Katie S. is originally from Maryville, TN, which is a small town in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. She moved to Seattle in 2016 and attended the University of Washington Seattle, where she received her MPH (Master of Public Health) during the COVID-19 pandemic. For her master’s thesis, she wrote "Best Kept Secret": Perspectives From Adult Day Care Staff, which allowed her to interview three local adult day respite facilities (including OFC) to better understand how staff members were utilized by caregivers, how COVID-19 impacted these facilities, and what the staff members’ knowledge of WA State requirements for adult day respite was at the time.
She became passionate about changing the accessibility of resources for individuals post-dementia diagnosis and policies surrounding neurological disorders after both her grandmother and mother were diagnosed with dementia. Her paternal grandmother battled Alzheimer’s Disease for 16 years, and her mother battled Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) for 5 years after being diagnosed at the age of 50. The time helping her family find resources motivated her to make dementia care, including respite, more accessible to all.
Katie recently relocated to Atlanta, GA to complete a fellowship with the CDC through ORISE in the Healthy Aging Branch within the Division of Population Health. She is working with the Alzheimer’s Disease and Healthy Aging Team to help promote and disseminate evidence-based research into public health practice.
In her free time, Katie enjoys exploring Atlanta and surrounding areas, going to the gym, kayaking, plant shopping, and hanging with her fur babies, Nagini and Trixie.
Katie became a Dementia Friend in May 2023.
Outreach and Communications Coordinator
Katie Zeitler, MBA
Katie has worked for Old Friends Club since the summer of 2020. She has a background in direct patient care, sales and healthcare management, art and design work, and public health. Over the years, she has volunteered and worked with different non-profits in a variety of capacities, from dog care at an animal shelter, to supporting those in early recovery from substance addiction, to advocacy work for people living with Alzheimer’s disease. Through these experiences, she found that non-profit work is her calling.
Katie had the best grandparents a granddaughter could ever ask for. Her grandpa took her on adventures all over the United States. Together, they went camping, explored Ghost Towns, and visited theme parks. He proudly served his country in WWII and then supported his community as a leader through his church. Her grandmother was an incredibly gifted musician. She played the violin and piano and helped shape the lives of many musicians through her classes with them. Both grandparents lived with Alzheimer’s disease for many years and are missed dearly. It is because of them, as well as the patients Katie has had over the years that lived with some form of dementia, that Katie is here today with Old Friends Club.
In her free time, Katie likes to rock climb, hike, look for mushrooms and rocks, paint, read, and hang out with her “zoo” of animals. She is a big fan of anything that will make her laugh and believes that you should do one thing you love every day.
Katie became a Dementia Friends Champion in May 2023.