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. 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.
Activity Director - Sammamish, WA
Karen has worked in various professional roles from retail operations to public relations to tennis instructor. Her passion involves building a sense of community that is inclusive, effective, and FUN! Karen’s most recent experience was with the Lake Washington School District’s SNAPS program – a data-based communication & behavioral program for students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Karen’s philosophy is to “meet people where they are currently, and then, together, see where we can go”! She is creative and thoughtful. Karen values teamwork and appreciates all those involved in making OFC a success.
In her spare time, Karen plays tennis and runs. She competes in various events and volunteers regularly with NW Trail Runs. Karen is a mother of two, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a friend.
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 a form of 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. It’s important to her to not only make a difference but to have and show a hospitable demeanor in everything she does.
In her free time, Katie S volunteers with the Alzheimer’s Association, enjoys exploring the PNW, working out, kayaking, and hanging with her fur babies, Nagini and Trixie.
Katie Zeitler, MBA, CNA
Katie joined Old Friends Club doing Community Outreach during the summer of 2020. She began her career in healthcare in 2013 and took a position as an Activities Director at a memory care community in 2018. She helped pilot a very special program that helped reduce the use of psychotropic medications through increasing the amount of engagement and attention each resident received every day. Her favorite part about the position was getting to see her residents radiate happiness.
Grandparents on both her paternal and maternal sides both experienced Alzheimer's disease, so it is a disease she is familiar with on a personal level. She misses her grandparents every day. She wrote and illustrated a book about her grandpa entitled "Where is Grandpa?" that she used as a fundraiser for the Walk to End Alzheimer's in 2020. This book is a guide to help families understand how to respond to different behaviors and to get a better idea of what is happening in the brain of someone with Alzheimer's.
Katie wants to help families, caregivers, and those living with dementia find support, improve their quality of life, and find meaningful engagement and connection in their daily lives. She was on the Walk to End Alzheimer's committee as their Advocacy chair from 2019-2021 and speaks with representatives in Olympia, WA each year to advocate for specific legislation related to Alzheimer's and dementia.
In her free time, Katie likes to rock climb, hike, forage for mushrooms, look for rocks, make art, take photos, and play with her animals.