San Diego is embarking on a transformation like nothing we’ve seen before. The population of adults age 60+ is increasing dramatically, representing the largest demographic shift in U.S. history. By the year 2030, 1 in 4 San Diegans will be age 60 or older – nearly 1 million seniors.
The infrastructure, services, and supports necessary to help this burgeoning population age in place and maintain independence is woefully inadequate. Our region is unprepared for this historic shift. As a result, the coming wave of seniors will face critical challenges that will be felt for generations to come.
As seniors live longer than ever, many of us are outliving our savings. In San Diego where the cost of living is high, the average social security benefit cannot cover the cost of rent, let alone food. According to the United Way’s Real Cost Measure, 23% of seniors in our region face severe economic hardship in meeting even the most basic of needs. Sadly, older adults are now the fastest-growing segment of California’s homeless population.
Another relatively new phenomenon is the increase in senior orphans. An estimated 1 in 3 people age 65+ live alone, often because of divorce, the death of a spouse, or because they never married or had children. Far too many seniors in this group have no relatives or friends to care for them as they age. These senior orphans represent the most vulnerable subset of the older population, and are at increased risk of social isolation, elder abuse, and serious health concerns.
Our region is unprepared for this historic shift. As a result, the coming wave of seniors will face critical challenges that will be felt for generations to come.
Nearly a quarter of adults age 65 and older are at risk of becoming senior orphans – this group will swell to an estimated 160,000 in San Diego County by the year 2030. The situation is even worse for older women, who are twice as likely to live alone than older men. Among women age 75+, approximately half live alone.
Who will care for older San Diegans as we age?
While some seniors may be able to hire help, the cost of care is often unaffordable. Less than 5% of San Diego residents are insured for long-term care, and a nationwide shortage of care workers continues to drive up costs.
However, there is no shortage of people seeking to take advantage of seniors. Elder abuse is a growing threat that can take many forms—physical abuse, financial abuse, exploitation, neglect. Roughly 1 in 10 Americans age 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse, and that number is expected to grow.
The situation for older adults is dire. As the senior population booms, the fragile network of aging-related services and supports will be strained like it’s never been before. There is a critical need for big-picture, sustainable solutions to help this vulnerable population, and many hurdles to overcome in developing them. The need to mobilize in support of older people is urgent, and the time is now.
We believe philanthropy is the key.
Making Seniors a Priority
Where our government has fallen short in supporting the health and well-being of seniors, there exists tremendous opportunity for philanthropic organizations to make an impact. Less than 3% of charitable giving in the U.S. is directed toward senior programs and projects. Out of 150,000+ private foundations across the country, only 7 have made seniors a major focus of their giving.
The San Diego Seniors Community Foundation is positioned to make a meaningful difference. We are the first community foundation in the U.S. exclusively focused on older adults. Through the power of philanthropy and partnerships, we can create a better future for seniors by:
- Building a network of comprehensive, sophisticated senior centers throughout the region that meet the needs of today’s older adults—places to socialize, exercise, and access critical resources. The senior center of the future will serve as a gateway to connect older people with vital services that help us live healthy, meaningful lives and maintain our independence. Achieving this vision means enhancing existing centers and also constructing new facilities where needed.
- Establishing a substantial legacy endowment to ensure that senior service providers in the San Diego region receive the funding needed to continue their good work and grow their capacity to meet future needs.
- Making grants to organizations focused on reaching senior orphans through new and novel programming, ending social isolation, and ensuring every senior has someone they can turn to and trust.
Philanthropic funding for senior programs should be a priority in every community. The infrastructure required to support a new generation of seniors can’t be built by government alone.
Unlike the many libraries, university buildings, and cultural institutions named for prominent San Diegans, the existing senior centers in our region have been unable to attract major donors up to this point. They simply don’t have the bandwidth to fundraise. Current facilities are underfunded, understaffed, and under-utilized, serving only 8% of the seniors in their areas. Many communities in San Diego don’t even have a senior center. We are hoping to change that.
With your help, we can create a network of community-based senior centers devoted to the total well-being of older adults. Facilities that will focus on seniors’ physical, mental, social, and financial health, allowing us to stay in our homes longer, maintain connections to the community, and have access to the resources we need to thrive.
This is about investing in all San Diegans’ futures. Because even if you’re young now, all of us (if we’re lucky!) will be seniors one day.