I can’t stop thinking about a recent article about adult day health centers being slashed (see here) - heartbreaking on many levels. Many of our senior clients struggle with loneliness and isolation, either as widows, because family has moved away, they don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods or because of limited mobility.Last year, during my oral history interviews, I asked every senior interviewed what they were most surprised about at this age – 9 out of 10 said being this alone, that they hadn’t expected to be so lonely. *heartbreaking*
Often times, adult day health centers are one of the few opportunities for seniors to take free classes, have a nutritious meal, learn about useful resources or socialize with their community. Also, Rebuilding Together works very closely with the amazing senior centers in San Francisco - either by being a referral for their clients or bringing our volunteers to help renovate their space. This past April, RTSF brought an enthusiastic team from Ernst & Young to paint, re-organize and build out a kitchen at the Richmond Senior Center. And from hands on experience of working with these centers, I can testify that they are running on bare bones staffing with ever shrinking budgets while accomplishing a tremendous amount for their clients. Often times, they are a hub within their neighborhood, like the Richmond Senior Center, and able to provide such a broad range of services specifically geared towards their clients needs.
Furthermore, the 2010 census (see here) reveals that the median age of Californians is rising and is currently the oldest in our state’s history. And by now we all know why – Baby Boomers, or in San Francisco, what has been dubbed the Silver Tsunami. San Francisco is not ready to deal with our rapidly growing senior population, and while there are dozens of concerned nonprofits, community centers and City agencies that are attempting to deal with this impending change, the huge deficits year after year are hitting seniors and adults with disabilities the hardest. Estimates show that in San Francisco by 2025, 1 in 5 people will be older than 65 and the number of seniors 85 or older will have doubled. WOW.
I love working with seniors and part of Rebuilding Together San Francisco’s mission is to help ensure that seniors can continue to age safely in their homes. Aging at home is so important – not only for quality of life, but it is also way more cost effective, for the senior, their family and the community in general. Housing is only one aspect and while RTSF will continue to serve this growing community with their housing needs, our services are really only a drop in the buckets! The majority of our clients worked 40-50+ years, served in wars, saved for and bought their homes, supported their communities, raised their families, all the while dutifully contributing to both Social Security and Medicare. Similarly,most of those same clients are now living on $9,000-$12,000 a YEAR. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it.
This is not some abstract concept, I’m talking about mothers, neighbors, friends, your childhood librarian, ourselves – what happens when you’ll need a little extra help? Contrary to Baby Boomer belief (see here”>
), if we’re lucky, we will all live a full life, until aging forces our needs to change drastically . Seniors shouldn’t have to live in isolation or in poverty; without critical in home supportive services that can keep them in their homes longer and safer; have to decide between medicine or food; any of the other important social services that we, as compassionate Californians, have thoughtfully built up over the years.
“Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.” - Pearl S. Buck