The San Diego Seniors Community Foundation announced its No Seniors Alone Initiative fundraising campaign Wednesday, which is intended to raise $1 million to support isolated older adults across San Diego County.
Community leaders — including Bob Kelly, foundation president and CEO — held a virtual news conference at the Norman Park Senior Center in Chula Vista to discuss the challenges older adults face as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, as well as the pathways that will enable San Diego’s older adult population to thrive and the region to continue to benefit from their contributions.
“COVID-19 is indiscriminate in choosing who it affects, and the reality for older people is that we are at high risk of infection and at even higher risk of long-lasting impacts due to social isolation,” Kelly said. “Health and economic well-being later in life has little to do with personal sacrifice on an individual level. It has more to do with our collective willingness to give where it helps to build a community that supports all of its residents.”
According to the foundation, the widespread impact of COVID-19 and associated social distancing measures have hit San Diego’s older adults especially hard. This has resulted in what AARP calls a social isolation and a “loneliness epidemic.”
A UC San Diego study published earlier this year found that 85% of residents living in an independent senior housing community reported moderate to severe levels of loneliness. The COVID-19 pandemic, with its associated social distancing and lockdowns, has only made things worse, they said.
To help residents impacted by feelings of loneliness and isolation, San Diego in May expanded its AgeWell Social Calls Program to offer comfort to San Diegans of all ages, including those who only speak Spanish.
In addition to the disproportionate physical and mental effects of COVID-19 on older people, officials say San Diego’s service providers tasked with caring for this population lack adequate infrastructure and funding to deliver safe support services in the midst of a pandemic.
By 2030, one in four San Diegans will be 60 or older, but the region’s high cost of living means that 23% of seniors do not have enough income to meet basic needs, Kelly said.
“Nationally, there is a major shortage of philanthropy when it comes to senior programs and services, but here in San Diego, by 2030, we will have 930,000 residents over the age of 60 — a 130% increase since 2000,” said Abigail Sahm, representative for the Sahm Family Foundation. The foundation gave a matching gift of $500,000 to help it reach its milestone.
The San Diego Seniors Community Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 2017. Its priority focus is to improve the lives of all seniors in San Diego County, so they are physically active, socially connected, and receive the care and necessities for a healthy, dynamic life.
— City News Service