U.S. Mayor Article

Seattle's New Gold Card for Healthy Aging

July 23, 2001

Oftentimes we hear the phrase "Go for the Gold" which we know means to go for the best. Here in the Seattle area many seniors are "Going for the Gold" in another way.

On May 24, 2000, Seattle Mayor Paul Schell unveiled the new "Gold Card for Healthy Aging" for seniors throughout the greater Seattle area. "The Gold Card is Seattle's way of making life a little easier for our senior citizens," said Mayor Schell.

Mayor Schell got the idea while in Australia where they use it for similar purposes and brought the concept back to the Seattle. To announce the Gold Card, Mayor Schell held a press conference which resulted in articles in The Seattle Times (the Here and Now column and a feature story), and news stories on TV stations KOMO-4 and KING-5.

The Gold Card is in high demand. To date, over 17,000 Gold Cards and 20,000 Special Discounts Directories have been distributed throughout the greater Seattle area.

To make the card more useful, three partners, the City of Seattle, King County and the Healthy Aging Partnership, agreed that the card would serve a variety of purposes. The Gold Card functions as a:

  • Senior Identification Card - The Gold Card provides easier access to many services for Seattle residents 60 years of age and older.

  • Discount Card - "Special Discounts Directory" list merchants who will provide discounts to seniors. Seattle's Animal Control gives a 50 percent senior discount on dog and cat licenses to those who have the Gold Card. The fee for adopting older cats with the Gold Card is also reduced by 50 percent.

  • Nutrition Card - The Gold Card is accepted at all City-funded congregate meal sites throughout King County. Participants complete one intake form, and can use the card at all participating sites.

  • Library Card - Gold Card holders may use the card to check out materials from any Seattle Public Library branch.

  • Information & Assistance Card - The toll-free number 1-888-4ELDERS (1-888-435-3377) on the card will connect seniors to someone who can provide information on services and programs for older adults in King County. And the web site links users to a wide variety of senior, caregiver, and health related resources.

In an attempt to improve data quality, track outcomes and reduce paperwork, Aging & Disability Services (ADS), a division of the City of Seattle Human Services Department, began using the Gold Card to track meal and health promotion activities at senior nutrition sites.

Using barcode scanners and a web-based data system, nutrition sites can easily track meals and related activities by participant. By gathering the data electronically, the system allows staff at both ADS and the nutrition sites to immediately view reports, generate invoices, and measure progress on outcomes, particularly the frequency of attendance at meals and health promotion activities.

Each participant at the meal program receives a Gold Card. On the back of the Gold Card is a barcode that identifies the card with a particular person. Using a hand held scanner similar to a Palm Pilot, a program volunteer scans the barcode as participants arrive at the site for meals or other activities. After collecting meal and activity data for the day, program staff upload the data via a modem to an internet database hosted by ADS. Staff may then log into the database to view a report summarizing the meals and activities for that day, or for any specified period. Staff also use the database to add or update participant records including nutritional risk and demographic data, to generate invoices for services provided, and to monitor progress on desired outcomes.

Privacy and Security

A secure data system protects the privacy of all clients, and ADS has adopted the following standards:

  • Access to the system is limited to designated users.

  • External users must enter through City of Seattle's firewall and present a LogIn ID and Password.

  • All User training includes guidelines for protecting client records and database security.

  • Users have access to client information only for people served by their agency.

ADS has created a Replication Manual, located on the web at /replication.htm, in order to share what we've learned with other AAA's and Nutrition Service Providers. The manual includes specifications for the scanner, database and card, and provides an overview of methods for implementing the project at new locations. ADS funds eight non-profit agencies to provide congregate meals at 50 sites in King County. Currently twenty-four nutrition sites (48%) have implemented the Gold Card Scanner Project and the Nutrition Web System, approximately 3,000 participants. ADS hopes to have the project fully implemented by early 2002.

Seniors can pick up the Gold Card at the Mayor's Office for Senior Citizens, Seattle's Neighborhood Service Centers, Seattle's Parks and Recreation Community Centers, Seattle's Citizen Service Bureau and Seattle's Animal Control Office.


Tom Rasmussen, Director
Mayor's Office for Senior Citizens, ADS
Human Services Department

Web-based Nutrition System
Maria Langlais, Project Manager
Aging and Disability Services
Human Services Department

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