According to the City of San Diego, between 2010 and 2022, the percent of San Diegans over the age of 55 has increased from 20.8% to 25.2%—as has the number of mature residents returning to work. Mature workers often face barriers in returning to work, including ageism in the hiring process and in the workplace. Below, Del Mar Healthcare Inc. president, Donald Ambrose, tells how he is committed to challenging these barriers and leveling the playing field for mature workers.
Can you talk about some of the challenges our community faces and how you’re working to overcome them?
Del Mar Healthcare (DMH) is a 501(c)(3) private foundation and its mission is to address the health, housing and financial security needs of older adults. There is a demographic change occurring in San Diego, and around the world, where older adults are becoming a significantly larger percent of our population. We have received a gift of 20 more years of life than our grandparents or great grandparents expected. This shift is changing the way life looks after 60 and creates both opportunities and challenges. Older adults have the opportunity to spend these years being productive in their communities, whether it is continuing to work or devoting their talents addressing community issues.
The World Health Organization initiated a program called Age Friendly Cities and Communities and AARP picked up the challenge to spread the program across the United States. The goal is to get communities to recognize this demographic change and to start planning for what those changes mean in their community, specifically around eight domains: transportation; housing; social participation; respect and social inclusion; civic participation and employment; communications and information; community support and health services; and outdoor spaces and buildings. In San Diego, DMH, in conjunction with the San Diego Foundation, has been working with San Diego County and many of the local cities to adopt and implement Age Friendly plans to improve the lives of older adults, while engaging older adults in improving their communities. The San Diego Workforce Partnership’s Older Adult Employment Program addresses one of those domains.
Any partnership highlights you’d like to share?
DMH has worked extensively with the San Diego Foundation. San Diego Foundation staff took the lead growing Age Friendly in the San Diego region. The local Age Friendly network now includes San Diego County and the cities of Carlsbad, Chula Vista, La Mesa, Imperial Beach, National City, San Diego and Solana Beach, with others considering joining. DMH is partnering with the San Diego Workforce Partnership and the San Diego Regional Policy and Innovation Center on the Older Adult Employment Program.
How would you like to see San Diego change for the better?
It would be great to see the San Diego region recognize the contribution, wisdom and value in our older adult community and be more aware of the needs of this community. Nationwide, only 3% of philanthropic dollars go to older adult causes. One of the fastest growing segments of San Diego’s homeless population is 60 and older. From helping people stay in their homes, to reducing isolation, to appropriate housing options, to meals, there are many ways San Diegans can help alleviate some of the challenges of growing older.
Groups like ElderHelp, Meals on Wheels, Jewish Family Services, Oasis, San Diego Seniors Community Foundation, Serving Seniors and many others serve older adults daily. They deserve San Diegan’s support.
Why is workforce development important to your organization’s mission?
San Diego needs qualified workers and older adults are becoming a more important sector of the labor force. Unfortunately, ageism is a very real problem in the workplace. Older adults find purpose and satisfaction in continuing to work. At the same time, many older adults need to work for financial reasons, particularly with the high costs of living in the San Diego region. Statistics show that older adults are reliable employees and tend not to change jobs like younger workers.
DMH funded the Older Adult Employment Program at the San Diego Workforce Partnership specifically to develop and implement a program assisting older adults to improve their skills and find employment, while at the same time beginning to educate employers to the opportunities and advantages of opening up their hiring to older adults. The program was designed by the San Diego Workforce Partnership and the San Diego Regional Policy and Innovation Center. This program is unique and its success will be a win-win for the individuals employed and their employers. Results are being documented with the goal of demonstrating the impact of the program and seeing it replicated across the country.