Serving more than Healthy Meals to Seniors

September 25, 2013

James is a new senior resident at one of downtown San Diego’s single room occupancy hotels. James is new in San Diego and has no family or friends nearby. The small room is equipped with a twin bed and a tiny sink; bathrooms are shared with other hotel residents. Paying for the hotel room to avoid living on the streets is about all that James can afford.

James found out about Senior Community Centers home delivered meals program through other hotel residents and called to sign up as well. Kimberly, one of our home delivered meals drivers, came by the next day with a hot and nutritious lunch as well as breakfast for the next day. On Fridays, our drivers deliver breakfast and lunch for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately, James had to decline the meals because he could not store or heat up the food.

Letting one of our clients go hungry for an entire weekend – and many other weekends to follow – is not an option.  Senior Community Centers’ Food Service Director took extra ordinary measures and discovered a small fridge and a microwave in working condition in our limited storage space.

James was very grateful and surprised when Kimberly delivered a fridge and microwave along with fresh meals during her next visit! We sure made his day and are excited to know that James has access to healthy food seven days a week.

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Find out more about our Home Delivered Meals Program at www.servingseniors.org.


Why Seniors are More Susceptible to Heat and How to Help

July 26, 2013

It’s been quite a hot summer so far. We skipped May Gray and June Gloom here in San Diego and Nurse Christine at Senior Community Centers has been busy educating our seniors how to beat the heat. “I tell seniors to drink plenty of water even if they are not thirsty and to stay cool by limiting exposure to the heat during peak hours.

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(Photo Credit: http://www.griswoldhomecare.com)

Heat waves and consistently high temperatures are dangerous for anyone but especially for older adults. Here is why:

  • The brain’s natural thermostat loses its sensitivity when getting older (especially at 80 and above).
  • Circulatory problems and medications interfere with the ability to regulate the body temperature.
  • The ability to sweat and the body’s natural cooling system may be lost with age.
  • The sense of thirst and craving water may also disappear over the years.
  • Being able to “take the heat” may be a generational demonstration of strength since older adults grew up without air conditioning.
Here is what you can do for yourself and for your elderly loved ones: 
  • Clothing: Wear light-colored, lightweight and breathable clothing and a hat to fend off the heat.
  • Go easy on your joints. Swimming is a great low-impact exercise and helps prevent overheating.
  • Exercise during early morning hours. It’s cooler outside and the air quality is better.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink plenty of water – preferably every 2 hours – and don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Add fruit to your water for flavor.
  • Protect your food. Take extra precautions to keep perishable food cool and use proper preparation guidelines when cooking to stay safe.
  • Keep blinds shut. Keep out the sun by lowering your blinds or curtains
  • Keep your fan on.  Open the window to create a draft. Moving air cools down your skin.
Most of all…
  • Call or visit friends, family and neighbors twice a day. If they start acting confused, have a headache, are dizzy or nauseous, then they’re showing signs of a heat stroke. Call for immediate medical help.
Can’t cool off at home? Visit the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center between 7 am and 4 pm M-F or from 8 am to 2 pm on Sat/Sun to socialize, take classes or have lunch. Or check the following website for designated cool zones in your area: County of San Diego Cool Zones.

Cultural Competency: A Closer Look at San Diego’s Asian American Senior Population

July 12, 2013

The number of Asian seniors who benefit from our culturally competent services is growing. I am happy to announce that as of July 1, our Mandarin-speaking supportive services case manager Maggie will be available to serve our seniors full-time from Monday through Friday.

25% of the seniors we support at the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center are Asian and of that, 14% are Chinese.

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(At Senior Community Centers’ Chinese New Year Celebration)

Working with culturally diverse seniors is very rewarding and can be challenging at the same time, especially when it comes to something as important as addressing healthcare needs that could prevent seniors from living healthy and independent lives.

According a recent cultural competency workshop by Yawen Li, PhD, Assistant Professor at the School of Social Work at San Diego State University, Asian health beliefs attribute illness to karma or curses. Combined with strong superstitions and putting a lot of power into alternative healing methods, Western medicine may be the very last resort to get help. While respecting the beliefs of Asian cultures, our support services team is ready help in a culturally competent way.

Since inception of the Chinese Outreach Program in 2011, our Mandarin-speaking case manager has conducted over 1,000 visits helping nearly 200 clients. The resolution rate for medical issues is over 90%. 

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(Maggie and a senior at the Gary & Mary West Senior Wellness Center)

Our success rate is in part due to our collaborative partnerships, ongoing cultural competency training and dedicated staff members like Maggie. The following list shows ways to bridge some of the cultural differences between Asian American traditions and Western habits:

  • Be aware of differences among Asian American ethnicities
  • Avoid using stereotypes as portrayed in US media
  • Be aware of non-verbal cues as Asian Americans can be very sensitive to non-verbal communication (lack of eye contact implies not being respectful or not paying attention)
  • Use a title instead of calling by direct name
  • Work closely with family members that were identified by the senior as  the representative of the family
  • Be considerate of the high respect for authority figures within extended family and that the behavior or achievements of one person reflects on the entire family
  • Be aware that mental illness is seen as having “a bad gene” and is highly stigmatized
  • Explain problems and treatment alternatives clearly and be ready to have recommendations
  • Make sure the senior and family members understand what you are trying to communicate; nodding heads may just signify paying respect rather than understanding
  • Western cultures focus on self-expression through language while eastern cultures focus on affect and non-verbal expression
  • Language may not accommodate all that the individual thinks and feels

We are happy to have Maggie on our team full-time to help bridge some of the cultural differences to help seniors in need live a healthy and independent life. Find out here how you can support the Chinese Outreach and Case Management Program.


Happy Older Americans Month!

May 10, 2013

Every year since 1963, May has been the month to appreciate and celebrate the vitality and aspirations of older adults and their achievements. This year’s Older Americans Month theme “Unleash the Power of Age!” shows our nation’s commitment to honor the value that older adults contribute to our communities. 

The National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs (NANASP) works year-round to protect and empower seniors in our communities and wholeheartedly joins the 2013 Older Americans Month celebrations.

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As the President of NANASP I’d like to share the following upcoming developments from the latest NANASP bulletin:

In time for Older Americans Month, there are indications of new movement on two important bills that are monitored by NANASP: the Older Americans Act and the Farm Bill.

  • NANASP is monitoring developments with the staff of the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging of the Senate HELP Committee which has jurisdiction over the Older Americans Act.  We are hoping for specific actions to be taken during May to jump-start the reauthorization process led by Chairman Bernie Sanders.
  • Action is expected in the House and Senate during the first half of Older Americans Month on a reauthorization of the Farm Bill. NANASP will monitor developments that work to prevent major cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as well as to prevent changes in eligibility for SNAP related to participation in other federal programs.  NANASP will also be working for a strong senior farmers’ market program as well as a strengthened Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) and a renewed commitment to SNAP education.

Please join me in celebrating the millions of seniors who built this country through hard work and numerous sacrifices as well as the members of NANASP who continue to advocate for seniors in Washington and who provide critical services that keep seniors healthy, independent and happy.

Let’s take a moment and say Thank You to a senior for making our communities better places to live.

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NANASP is a membership organization for persons working to provide older adults healthful food and nutrition through community-based services. To join NANASP or renew your membership, please click here.


Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52) Sequesters Own Paychecks for Senior Community Centers

May 7, 2013

Seniors, staff and Senior Community Centers board members are applauding Congressman Scott Peters‘ leadership for speaking up against sequestration.

IMG_1446(Seniors at the Potiker Family Senior Residence located in the 52nd District thank Congressman Scott Peters!)

During Rep. Peters’ recent visit at the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center, I shared the impact that sequestration has on the seniors we serve. Not only does Congressman Scott Peters fight to protect senior nutrition programs, he just set a powerful example by applying the 8% across-the-board cut to his own Congressional paycheck and donating the difference to Senior Community Centers! Thank you for your support, Congressman Scott Peters!

Please read the full press release below:

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Rep. Peters ‘Sequesters’ His Own Pay; 

Donates it to Feed Seniors In Need

“The rules Congress imposes on others should apply to us too” – Congressman Peters

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52) applied the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration to his own paycheck, stating that “any rules Congress imposes on federal employees and all Americans ought to apply to us, too.” He will take eight percent of his monthly salary, which equates to about $1,300 per month, and donate it to Senior Community Centers of San Diego to supplement meals for at-risk seniors. The Senior Community Centers has had to cut services to seniors, many of whom are veterans, due to funding losses from the sequester.

“While the idea for the sequester predates my time in Congress, we should all agree that it is terrible policy; none of us would run our business or household budget this way, and it is no way to run a country,” Congressman Peters said.  “In March I introduced a motion to end the sequester and I will continue to look for opportunities to fix it.”

(Video: Congressman Peters’ motion to end the sequester can be seen here)

“Federal employees, military contractors, and thousands of small businesses and individuals who contract with the federal government are being forced to take indiscriminate pay cuts.  Members of Congress should share the impact of these cuts as well.”

“Senior Community Centers has lost nearly $60,000 for our senior meal program due to sequestration. That equates to about 21,000 fewer meals we are able to provide this year,” said Paul Downey, CEO and President.

“Nearly ninety-five percent of the seniors we serve are at or below the poverty line, so these meals make a big difference to their health and their lives. We are grateful to Congressman Peters for his long-time interest and support of what we do, and very much appreciate his leadership and his willingness to do his part to help us help the needy seniors we serve,” he said.

“In San Diego there are more than 30,000 people taking furlough days, and countless other programs are reducing services,” Peters said. “It is my hope that Washington can finally have an adult discussion about our nation’s priorities and the budgeting process.

“Senior Community Centers in San Diego provide life line resources for some of my most vulnerable constituents: low-income seniors, many of whom are below the poverty line, who might not otherwise get the food and care they need.  Sequestration has hit these centers extremely hard, as it has many other organizations in our region.  By donating the sequestered amount of my own pay, at least we can provide some relief from these cuts to area seniors and elderly veterans.”

Senior Community Centers of San Diego noted the impact that the donation would have on their facility: “At Senior Community Centers our cost per meal is $2.65. With $1000, we could provide 377 more nutritious meals to seniors. This investment in meals keeps our seniors well, and reduces the need for more costly healthcare interventions. In San Diego, an emergency room visit begins at $765, while one day in the hospital costs $4,373. Additionally, meals provide social engagement, and educational and wellness opportunities. 71% of older adults who participate in the nutrition program at the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center participate in other activities or seek assistance with clinical services.”

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Congressman Scott Peters serves the 52nd District of California which covers much of central San Diego County including large portions of the City of San Diego, Poway, & Coronado.  He is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology.  The Congressman is a former City Council President and Port Commissioner.


Photo Friday – Senior Scam Stopper

May 3, 2013

Congressman Scott Peters and Congresswoman Susan Davis as well as the Contractors State License Board hosted a Senior Scam Stopper presentation at the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center to provide fraud information relating to home repair, insurance, identity theft and more.

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Stay tuned for future events by signing up here:  SCC & Seniors First Newsletter Sign-Up


Are you Considering to Retire in San Diego?

March 27, 2013

Endless beaches, year-round wonderful weather, close proximity to the desert and mountains, a rich and diverse culture – San Diego has plenty of exciting activities to offer for an engaging lifestyle during retirement.

San Diego residents benefit from excellent health care and medical research facilities. UC San Diego Medical Center is ranked 37th in the nation for geriatric care.  (The full US News List for Geriatric Care has over 1,500 hospitals listed.)

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But amazing weather, casual beach living and excellent medical care are not enough to make San Diego a top destination for retirement. In fact, San Diego is one of the top 10 worst cities to retire.

“What makes it difficult to retire in the San Diego metro area are the high housing costs. People age 60 and older spend a median of over $1,000 per month on rent and $1,971 monthly on their mortgages, although costs drop to $436 monthly for seniors who have paid off their houses.”

While some retirees have the luxury to choose where to spend their non-working years, Baby Boomers that already live in San Diego may not have that choice and are bound to struggle with the high cost of living. Deep family roots and local investments may make it hard to pack up and settle elsewhere.

The 60+ population in San Diego is projected to increase from 531,980 today to 929,766 in 2030. This 75% increase compared to a 62% increase nationally (from 57 million to 92 million) will impact life in San Diego and the work of Senior Community Centers on many levels.  By 2030, 25% of the population will be over 60 years of age with an average life expectancy of 83 years.

Wherever you choose to spend your retirement, are you prepared for 20+ years without a set salary?  While Congress is still taking too much time to handle our aging population, it’s never too early for you to start planning. (Here is a good retirement planning guide from the US Department of Labor.)


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