Many seniors in San Diego live in what is effectively poverty, with incomes below $850 a month. Serving Seniors helps low-income seniors by providing meals and other services to help them live healthy and fulfilling lives. The 45-year-old organization recently served its 10 millionth meal. Times of San Diego spoke with Paul Downey, president and CEO, about the nonprofit’s mission, services and challenges.
What’s the mission of Serving Seniors?
Our mission is helping seniors in poverty live healthy and fulfilling lives. We are a wellness organization that keeps seniors healthy and independent.
We do this by providing comprehensive support for our seniors, most of whom live on an average of $850 per month. Our core programs include providing almost 600,000 nutritious meals each year, case management, care management to assist with health issues, homeless services, permanent supportive housing, activities and advocacy. Through collaborations, we offer access to dental, healthcare and legal services.
Where do you provide services?
We provide services at ten sites in San Diego County including downtown San Diego, City Heights, San Ysidro, South Bay, Lemon Grove, Spring Valley, La Mesa and Mira Mesa. In addition to the services we offer at each of our sites, we also deliver over 500 meals to homebound seniors in the neighboring communities.
How many people do you estimate that you’ve helped over the years?
Serving Seniors has assisted about 100,000 low-income senior adults and provided 10 million meals over its 45-year history. We currently serve about 5,000 people per year who represent a diverse group of ethnicities and cultural backgrounds.
What challenges does the organization currently face?
Demographics and the economic insecurity of our clients are our primary challenges. Demand for our services increases each year as more and more Americans turn 65 — about 10,000 per day. According to the Elder Index, prepared by UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research, almost one in two California seniors lack enough money to meet their basic needs like food, shelter, healthcare and transportation. This double whammy of significantly more seniors who lack resources places an ever-increasing burden on organizations like Serving Seniors to keep pace.
How can interested San Diegans get involved?
We are dependent on the generosity of San Diegans whose donations allow us to provide our comprehensive programs and services. Donations are gratefully accepted through our website at www.servingseniors.org. There are also many opportunities to volunteer, including helping serve lunch to our seniors. You can also offer to lead a class on a topic of your interest (such as travel, photography or history) or get co-workers involved in hosting a birthday party during our once-a-month birthday celebration. Individuals, groups and businesses can call us at 619-487-0727 to reserve a volunteer spot with our activities director, or call 619-487-0605 to discuss a philanthropy partnership with our development team. You can find out more about volunteering online. Your time, talent and treasure makes a difference to seniors in need.
Times of San Diego regularly writes about nonprofit organizations that are making a difference in San Diego. Organizations wishing to participate in this question-and-answer series may contact firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
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