Senior Moments // Taking Time to Listen to Older Islanders

By Susan Brandzel

Driving around Bainbridge Island, you’re likely to see neon-clad cyclists, kids playing in the schoolyard and commuters bustling to and from the ferry terminal. An equally essential thread in the island’s fabric, but often not as visible, are seniors in assisted living. We sat down with a few of them to hear their stories.

Ann Sievertson came to talk with us wearing an immaculate white linen shirt and a brightly colored necklace strung with African beads—a perfect analogy for this long-time islander: crisp, colorful and adventurous. Initially raised in Hong Kong and China, Sievertson has traveled the world. Her last international adventure took her to Kenya and Tanzania.

“It was a dream come true,” she said. “My traveling partner kept telling me that I could calm down. But I couldn’t. I was just too excited.” Sievertson, who recently moved into Madison House, has been a part- or full-time resident on Bainbridge for over 50 years. In the 1980s she ran a popular deli on Winslow Way.

A shining moment from her deli days occurred when she once fixed a sandwich for Audrey Hepburn. Although Sievertson’s mobility is more limited lately, she still takes in the island’s culture whenever she can. She recently attended the live broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera played at the Pavilion movie theater.

And when it came time for an 80th birthday bash, the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, which her son and grandson helped build, was the venue she and her children chose. Martha and Ken Williams just recently relocated to Bainbridge. In the 1970s, Ken’s work in the fisheries business sent them to Alaska for much of the year, but Martha, Ken and their five daughters spent summers in a cabin on the island’s south end.

Two of those daughters, Joanie and Karen, have raised their families on Bainbridge, one even on the site where the family cabin stood. Decades later, the Williamses have moved back to Bainbridge, where they comfortably reside with their charming Welsh Corgi named Luigi at Wyatt House. “We just love living here,” Martha said. “It’s got everything that we need. We don’t feel like we need to go anywhere.”

Bill Kreger used to work for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C. His most poignant memory of that job is related to the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. As experts in radiation protection, Kreger and his colleagues were picked up outside their office by a helicopter and flown to the site of the accident to assess the damage and ensure that an appropriate safety and remediation plan was implemented.

When Kreger retired 14 years ago, he and his wife moved to Bainbridge Island. “We liked all the green and the water on the island,” Kreger said, explaining why they chose to live here. When he resided on Wing Point, he moored his 14-foot sloop-rigged sailboat right off his house and took it out on the Sound as often as he could.

In recent years, with diminishing eyesight, Kreger has taken to listening to audio books. He is such a voracious listener that he receives a box of books from the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library each week. Lately, his favorite genre is mystery.

All of these featured seniors reside in assisted living facilities run by Bainbridge Senior Living. BSL’s administrator, Karlene Colletti, works hard to ensure that as many BSL residents as possible get out in the community. BSL runs a weekly grocery shuttle to both of the island’s grocery stores so that residents can do their own shopping.

They also take residents out for fun, such as a recent trip to Suquamish to see the museum followed by Vietnamese pho (noodle soup) for lunch in Poulsbo. Ann Sievertson was at the front of the line on that trip. BSL also welcomes visitors and volunteers from the community. “Young people come to sing songs, deliver holiday treats and visit,” Colletti said. “The residents just love it.”