The San Diego Seniors Community Foundation (SDSCF) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, established in 2017. Their singular focus is to improve the vitality 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. SDSCF is one of the only foundations in San Diego County solely focused on seniors. They exist to ensure that no local senior is left without access to the knowledge and resources to thrive.
The San Diego Workforce Partnership connected with SDSCF to learn more about how they’re helping seniors in our community.
Can you talk about some of the challenges our community faces and how you’re working to overcome them?
One thing we’re particularly concerned about is the rise in elder economic insecurity in San Diego. According to the United Way’s Real Cost Measure Report, 23% of seniors in our region face extreme economic hardship in meeting basic needs. With San Diego’s high cost of living, the average social security benefit isn’t enough to cover rent here, much less food or medicine. As people live longer, many of us are outliving our retirement savings (or had little savings to begin with). As a result, seniors have become the fastest-growing segment of our local homeless population. Several factors have combined to create a perfect storm for older people – the lack of affordable housing, ageism, hiring discrimination, the increase in elder orphans, and the impacts of systemic racism compounded over a lifetime mean that many seniors in San Diego are falling through the cracks. It’s a dire situation.
As a foundation we are working to raise awareness about the stark economic realities facing our most vulnerable seniors and inspire action toward solutions. We are helping to pilot initiatives like the San Diego Workforce Partnership’s, which provides job training and assistance to help older people re-enter the workforce. This is an example of a program that wouldn’t have happened without a donor who believes in it. Our position is that philanthropy must play a role in closing the gaps in our social safety net so that all San Diegans can age with health and dignity. Currently, less than 3% of charitable giving goes to programs and projects for seniors. Our goal is to move the needle and inspire more people to give so that we can fund organizations and initiatives that help make San Diego a better place to grow old.
How would you like to see San Diego change for the better?
Our population is aging rapidly. By 2030, 1 in 4 San Diegans will be age 60 or older–a huge increase in the number of seniors. We know that the existing network of aging-related services and supports is not prepared for this coming wave of elders. We believe that the key infrastructure needed to serve older San Diegans is a robust network of modern senior centers that will serve as community-based hubs for aging services.
Currently, San Diego’s existing senior centers are severely under-staffed and under-funded, and most are still closed due to COVID. The pandemic has decimated these resources that were already in rough shape to begin with. A massive investment is needed to bring senior centers up to the standard that we see in other communities around the country.
A senior center should be seen as much more than a place to play cards or join a knitting circle. The “senior center of the future” as we call it will be a place where older people can socialize, of course, but also access resources and services that support physical, mental and financial wellbeing. Neighborhood senior centers must be seen as key elements in creating an age-friendly region where older people can live healthy, vibrant lives, stay in our homes, and remain engaged with our communities.
What else do you want the community to know about the San Diego Seniors Community Foundation?
SDSCF is the only community foundation in the country solely dedicated to serving older people. We are truly a new model–a locally based foundation with a mission to ensure the health and wellbeing of seniors. In addition to advocating for seniors, building community partnerships and increasing philanthropy for senior causes, a central role of our foundation is to strengthen essential infrastructure that supports older adults.
We recently completed work on a master plan for San Diego senior centers, which we’re really excited about. In the coming months, we’ll be rolling it out with support from stakeholders who believe in our vision of a robust network of 21st-century senior centers to serve the next generation of elder San Diegans. It’s not just about taking care of seniors today, we are looking ahead to the seniors of tomorrow as well. All of us will be seniors one day (if we’re lucky!). So investing in infrastructure to help people age well is an investment that we make in our future selves.
How can San Diegans get involved?
If you’re interested in learning more about the senior center master plan, or if your organization is interested in partnering with SDSCF, we encourage you to reach out. It’s going to be an all-hands effort to turn our vision into reality–we’ll need the support of community members, philanthropists, elected officials, the business community, nonprofit leaders and seniors themselves to be spokespeople for this cause.
You can learn more about our work at sdscf.org.