Hey Bainbridge Islanders, You’re Living the Dream, and You’re Living Longer than most Washingtonians!


Most of us are familiar with the nouveau expression, “Living the Dream.” Many Bainbridge Islanders – especially new ones – use it to describe their lives on our little rock. And why not. There’s so much to do here, from enjoying our community’s vast array of arts and cultural activities to playing pickleball, hiking in the Grand Forest, riding a bike on our many roadways, or simply hanging out in a coffee shop, or browsing some of the unique stores on Winslow Way.

Graph Courtesy of Kitsap Daily News

We’re truly blessed here on Bainbridge. So, it’s not surprising when we run into a friend or an acquaintance and ask, ‘how are you doing?’, and the response might just be, “I’m Living the Dream!”  The amount of interaction and socialization we have with one another could also be why Bainbridge Island’s life expectancy is somewhere in the neighborhood of 87 years! That’s nearly nine decades, if you’re counting!

Bainbridge Islanders live a good long life, and our longevity is one of the reasons why Washington’s population enjoys the second-longest life expectancy in the nation, right after Hawaii.

According to recent reports – outlined in The Seattle Times and Kitsap Daily News and other media – and based on a national study, Kitsap County’s data measured Bainbridge’s life expectancy to be 6.5 years longer than most other Kitsap residents, and 7.8 years longer than the state average. It’s also among the highest in the state — rivaling that of the San Juan Islands.

The 2024 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps Study, recently released by the University of Wisconsin, says residents of Kitsap County’s life expectancy is 79.5 years, just under Port Townsend and Jefferson County’s 80.3 years and King County’s 81.6 years, but several notches above the 74.9 life expectancy of residents of sparsely populated Pend Oreille County in Northeastern Washington.

Thankfully, no Washington State County was anywhere near the bottom of the heap. The position goes to Buffalo County, North Dakota, with a life expectancy of just 55.9 years. The figures were derived from calculations made between 2019-2021. The life expectancy report did not take in to account the COVID-19 Pandemic. It does take into account premature death rates across U.S. Counties, measuring the number of years of life of people 75 years or younger in a sample of 100,000.

Of course, calculating life expectancy is hypothetical — the average age at which people will likely die based on conditions in their environment, like air and water quality. The statistics reflect the high quality of life we islanders enjoy. For example, Bainbridge has a high number of senior facilities, and people here tend to have a healthy lifestyle, for the most part, eating well and exercising daily.

It goes beyond good habits, Lena Wilson Tabafunda, Bainbridge Island Community Senior Center program manager, told the Kitsap Daily News.

“When I talk to our seniors, they tell me this is their happy place,” Tabafunda explains. Because of the center’s social atmosphere, members feel comfortable — and seen (by others), she adds. “People say, ‘They hear me, they listen to me. I’m not invisible.’ The human connection is a big piece to longevity.”

The center provides as many activities as it can for seniors of all ages and income levels. Eventually, the center aims to be multigenerational because, “That keeps everyone young,” Tabafunda notes.

One drawback to aging-in-place on Bainbridge is the lack of high-level medical care providers, which can become a challenge for seniors who require more frequent visits to a physician.

According to the Kitsap Daily News, researchers anonymously interviewed Kitsap senior care specialists, who reported that until access to healthcare improves in the county, there should be stopgap measures in place. Respondents lamented the lack of “tele-health” in the county, an umbrella term for online medical assessment services that has gained widespread use since the Pandemic. Routine or non-emergency appointments, like prescription fills or physical therapy, can be conducted over the phone or with a video call, respondents recommended. More and varied use of technology for healthcare in Kitsap would significantly ease crowding in local urgent cares and emergency rooms.

Despite that obstacle, stress levels for Bainbridge seniors are pretty low, by Tabafunda’s observation. Chronic stress, it should be noted, can significantly shorten one’s lifespan. “None of them sweat the small stuff. They have enough experience to know that every day is a gift,” she says.

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