Welcome to the March edition of Aging and Still Engaging. The content of this month’s column has been provided by Tom Clough, who sits as board chair for Senior Volunteer Services and as a member at large for the SLO County Commission on Aging. While the content may be especially alarming for some readers, it serves as a wake-up call and sense of urgency to advocate and act.
Tom’s research brings to light what he describes as “The Invisibles” – SLO County seniors who face housing uncertainty. Today, many of our senior citizens are struggling to survive unable to meet even their basic needs, and it’s going to get worse. California’s senior population is entering a period of rapid growth. By 2030, as the Baby Boomer generation reaches retirement age, the over-65 population will grow by four million people. It will also become much more racially and ethnically diverse, with the fastest growth among Latinos and Asians. Many more seniors are likely to be single and/or childless — suggesting an increased number of people living alone. All of these changes will have a significant impact on senior supportive services.
According to the Public Policy Institute of California, it’s projected that by 2030 slightly more than one million seniors in our state will require some assistance with self-care, and that the demand for in-home supportive services, assisted living and nursing home care services will increase after decades of decline. These changes will have direct and major implications on providing necessary senior services, particularly for volunteer supported senior services and the budget requirements for Medi-Cal and In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) programs, both of which pay for care and services for low-income seniors. California will need additional resources, including non-profit services, volunteers, assisted living facilities, nursing care facilities and health care professionals, especially those who provide in-home and community-based services. California’s community college system will be critical in training workers to meet the state’s health care workforce needs for the growing and changing senior population.
In SLO County, serious hardships are now being faced by vulnerable local seniors. And they are a large group. One of the major factors contributing to vulnerability is the financial insecurity that comes with not having enough income to cover basic needs. There are some staggering numbers for seniors 65 years and older living in SLO County. Fifty percent of those living alone can’t cover basic needs, and 27% of senior couples can’t cover basic needs. Another alarming report shows that 80% of local senior renters living alone are trying to survive with incomes that fall short of what’s needed for their basic needs
Among the biggest concerns for these vulnerable seniors are the increasing challenges to stay in their current housing due to rising rents and home affordability, difficulty in obtaining in-home support services such as for personal care, safety, home maintenance, the affects of isolation and loneliness, and access to medical care caused by cost, transportation obstacles and declining health hurdles. We all need to be concerned for our vulnerable seniors, and that’s why we need to build community awareness and support for those struggling to survive. We hope that awareness leads to action to support our neighbors. A good place to start is by attending meetings of the SLO County Commission on Aging, and learning of ways to engage in the conversations necessary to improve conditions and outcomes.
The San Luis Obispo County Commission on Aging invites the public to join us at the Veteran’s Hall on Grand Ave. in San Luis Obispo on Friday, March 16 from 10 a.m. – Noon. Our presentation that day will be “Aging in Place means Home Preservation”, with guest speakers Julia Ogden, Chief Executive Officer of Habitat for Humanity of SLO County, and Jim McNamara, CAPSLO Energy Services Director. For more information about the Commission on Aging, visit www.slocounty.ca.gov/coa.htm, or call 235-5779.