By 2030 there will be 92 million seniors living in the United States and in San Diego County just under $1 million. Currently there are approximately 550,000 seniors in San Diego. Serving Seniors, a nonprofit group in San Diego County, has partnered with other likeminded organizations to serve many of these seniors through an interdisciplinary team approach. Created in 1970, Serving Seniors recently celebrated their 46th anniversary.
Paul Downey is the CEO of Serving Seniors and is also the elected Chair of the California Commission on aging and affects input regarding legislation through the government on aging. He lectures regularly at San Diego State and UCSD regarding aging issues. Although he began volunteering with the organization 30 years ago while employed as the Press Secretary for the San Diego Mayor’s office, he became the CEO 21 years ago.
The Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center in downtown San Diego is one of the partnerships that Serving Seniors nourishes, and was created so that hundreds of meals could be served to seniors daily. Over 600,000 meals are provided to lower income seniors per year, with Serving Seniors being the largest provider of meals to seniors in San Diego County. Additional services provided include healthcare, housing, food and transportation. Mental health services are provided in addition to social services, including Social Security assistance, elder law, elder abuse assistance, and case management. In addition there are 10 locations to serve seniors throughout the county. Activities at the center include computer classes with a computer lab and cyber café, dance and arts and crafts. There is a game room for playing checkers, dominoes and other games.
Whether serving meals or participating in an activity, volunteering at the center can provide a most rewarding experience, and the community is encouraged to volunteer any time.
Sharp Healthcare also partners with Serving Seniors to provide medical and psychiatric care to seniors. Serving Seniors has three full-time nurses on staff, with Sharp providing outstation medical and nursing care two days per week. The organizations work together to provide seniors with services to assist them with issues such as depression, diabetes, nutrition, medication and connecting with a primary care physician.
Recently, Serving Seniors has added a dental center called the Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center. The center is scheduled to open June 4th with 4 dental chairs, a full time dentist, dental assistants and state of the art equipment. Volunteer dentists and hygienists are welcome to apply. The center has received national and international acclaim. Programs and services are primarily funded through grants and private donations.
“ We are proud of our collaboration and work with 30 organizations including Sharp Healthcare, the Consumer Center, San Diego State University, UCSD. and Elder Law,” Downey said. “In exchange for free space, they offer free services to Serving Seniors. This helps the seniors to continue as healthy, productive members of the community. In 2015 we received $1.1 million dollars in collaborative services including dental.”
Potiker Family Senior Residence is a housing facility through the organization with 200 units downtown. City Heights has another facility with 150 units for seniors on the poverty line where many seniors exist on under $800 per month. When asked what the requirements were for seniors to receive services, Paul replied that individuals need to be 60 years old and that the primary focus is placed on seniors with the most challenging life situations.
In April, Serving Seniors held their annual fundraiser at the Kona Kai Resort and it was most successful. The event included a silent auction, live auction, dinner, presentation and compelling stories from seniors who have benefited from many of the services and are most grateful. In addition, smaller venues for fundraising are held throughout the year as the growing need develops for senior services with much needed funding.
According to Paul, “We are grateful for our donors, but we need more. People are welcome to receive a tour and serve lunch any day of the week. We are literally saving lives and changing lives. If I was having a bad day, all I have to do is take a walk and see grateful seniors.”
There are many ways to participate in assisting Serving Seniors, including donating through the Jewish Community Foundation. For more information about volunteering, serving as an advocate or donating, visit the website at www.serving seniors.org, or visit the Gary and Mary Senior Wellness Center at 1525 Fourth Avenue, San Diego.
LA JOLLA COMMUNITY CENTER
Ruth Yansick is the CEO for the La Jolla Community Center. She is a retired entrepreneur and won “Teacher of the Year” in the Chicago Public School System. Ruth holds two Master’s Degrees and is currently a Trustee at the La Jolla Town Council. She is also involved in the La Jolla Rotary Club.
“The La Jolla Community Center is an oasis for active adults,” Yansick says. “Our mission is to promote lifelong learning, wellness and friendship.”
The LJCC has reinvented the traditional senior center, becoming a vital part of active adults and seniors’ lives. Over 1,200 community members are served monthly through the center. Members are welcomed from across San Diego.
The LJCC showcases the work of 65 fine artists and the art is rotated every other month. The art is for sale and individuals are encouraged to tour the 7,000 square foot center. Through generous donations, the center has been significantly renovated and enhanced to accommodate programs and services for seniors and active adults. Formerly the Riford Center, many facets of the building have been remodeled including the courtyard, restrooms, classrooms, entrance and lobby. The Kiwanis Great Room and Las Patronas Room are equipped with state of the art Audio/Visual equipment.
Due to generous donations, the center is able to provide free membership and classes to low income seniors and continue programs, introduce new classes and dinner dances. Opera Wednesdays, iPad/iPhone classes and the Fourth Friday Jazz Series are just some programs enjoyed by members.
Additional programs offered at the LJCC include: jewelry making; art classes; photography; readers theater; fine art gallery; Spanish, French & Italian classes; writing workshops; bridge classes; Zumba; Yoga; Pilates; Tai Chi; opera nights; jazz series; wine tastings; annual luncheons and special events. Services provided by the LJCC include transportation for seniors, big picture planning, elder law & advocacy and senior living/assistance information.
“Not only has our membership grown to nearly 800, but our programs have been expanded and elevated,” Executive Director Nancy Walters said, expressing her enthusiasm for the Center. “This is not your typical senior center. Hosting opera nights, jazz series, music and art appreciation, without losing track of providing valuable resources and services for our members is what we have been able to do well.”
The La Jolla Community Center continues to grow through community donations, and relies on membership and activity fees and grants. The Center does not receive government funding and is able to sustain itself through the support of the City and private donations.
To join as an individual or corporate member, donate, sign up for classes or events, visit the website at www. ljcommunitycenter.org. The La Jolla Community Center is located at 6811 La Jolla Boulevard.