Supporting San Diego’s Growing Senior Population
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Changing demographics in California predict a 67% increase in seniors, from 6 million to 10 million, in the next 20 years. 2010 will bring a the most significant increase in people over 60 that we've seen so far. New economic research out from shows that seniors living and renting in San Diego County need to $22,822 a year to cover basic needs. The average income on supplemental security income (SSI) is only $10,272. What kind of support is most needed for seniors in San Diego? And how do you think San Diego needs to prepare for a significant increase in an older population?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. There's no doubt that people are living longer and staying healthier well into old age. But there's also no arguing with the fact that the number of seniors in San Diego will be increasing in the next 20 to 40 years and many of them will be needing some help. A new senior community center is opening this week in downtown San Diego that hopes to serve as a model for centers across the country. The Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center says its goals are to help seniors prolong their independence, enhance their quality of life and promote overall health. Joining me to talk about senior weltness – wellness, that is, are my guests. Paul Downey is president and CEO of Senior Community Centers. And, Paul, welcome to These Days.
PAUL DOWNEY (President/CEO, Senior Community Centers): Thank you. Good morning, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: And Ellen Schmeding is Division Chief of San Diego County Aging and Independent Services. Ellen, good morning.
ELLEN SCHMEDING (Division Chief, San Diego County Aging and Independent Services): Thank you. Good morning.
CAVANAUGH: We’d like to invite our listeners to join the conversation. What kind of support is most needed for seniors in San Diego? And how do you think San Diego needs to prepare for a significant increase in the older population? Give us a call with your questions and your comments. The number is 1-888-895-5727, that’s 1-888-895-KPBS. Well, Paul, the reason that we’ve gathered here today is because of the opening of the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center. So it’s calling itself a different kind of senior center. What is different about it?
DOWNEY: Well, what’s different is that we really wanted to create something that would be attractive to baby-boom generation as well as today’s seniors. You know, everybody, if you imagine your grandma’s senior center, and I suspect, you know, there’s probably some negative stereotypes, kind of church basement, kind of boring, and that’s not what today’s seniors are all about. They are active and vibrant members of the community and those that aren’t, should be. So what we tried to do with the Gary/Mary West Senior Wellness Center is create something that meets basic needs of seniors but also encourages them to become active participants in the community. And through some innovation of things like civic engagement and lifelong learning and kind of flipping the whole model for – You know, we’ve been around for 40 years and most social service agencies do for their clients. What we wanted to do is flip that 180 degrees and give the responsibility for running the facility wherever possible to our clients and let them take charge of things and be – have some responsibility because too many seniors in San Diego and, frankly, across the country don’t have a compelling reason to get up in the morning, and that’s very sad. And these are people that still have a lot of life and a lot to give to the community and we need to tap into that.
CAVANAUGH: Now I know you want everybody to come down and look at the facility but tell us what it looks like. Describe how this difference, that it doesn’t look like a church basement.
DOWNEY: Well, what we wanted to do, first of all, it is bright, it is light, it is airy. We have skylights and Solatubes throughout, so there’s natural light, bright colors, big open spaces, with also some more intimate spaces. A cybercafé, a lifelong learning center where there’s a use of technology and, you know, big screen, high def TVs for, you know, learning and presentations. We call it the Gathering Place, which is a comfortable room, but it’s – it is sort of akin to a cruise ship where there’s going to be stuff going on all the time, whether it’s karaoke, whether it’s trivia contests, whether it’s a music group. It’s the stuff – stuff’s happening. So you have the choice of being active or being quiet but there’s always something happening. And one of the things that was very important to us is to be green. And so it’s certified LEED Gold for, which for a 70-year-old building is amazing. I mean, we were able to recycle about 95% of the materials out of it. So we wanted to be energy conscious but it’s just an airy feeling. I mean, it actually feels more like you’re on a campus like San Diego State than it does what your imagination would say is what a senior center would look like.
CAVANAUGH: And where is it located?
DOWNEY: It’s right at the corner of 4th and Beech downtown, and centrally located. There’s a brand new park going to go in across the street, a full block park. People who know the area, St. Joseph’s Cathedral is right across the street.
DOWNEY: Cal Western is just up the street. So it’s convenient on buses and there is a huge number of seniors that live in the downtown area, so it’ll primarily serve those folks but we envision it as kind of a regional place where people from throughout the county might want to come and join in the activities.
CAVANAUGH: And I’m speaking with Paul Downey. He’s president and CEO of Senior Community Centers. My other guest is Ellen Schmeding. She’s Division Chief of San Diego County’s Aging and Independent Services. We’re talking about the opening of the new West Senior Wellness Center in downtown San Diego but we’re also talking about the larger issue of the kind of support that seniors need in San Diego and what’s there for them and what should be there for them. We’re taking your calls with your questions and comments, 1-888-895-5727. So, Ellen, I’m wondering, what’s known in terms of demographics about San Diego’s senior population?
SCHMEDING: Well, currently we have about 400,000 seniors, people that are age 60 and older. And those numbers are increasing very rapidly. We expect by 2020 to have over half a million seniors in our region. And this is a diverse group of people, ever-increasing minorities in this community, and many of the issues that seniors are facing as they age are unique because never before in our society have people lived so long. During much of human history, only 1 in 10 persons could expect to live to the age of 65. Now, an individual at age 65 can expect another 19 years of life. How do they want to use those years?
CAVANAUGH: Right, right. That’s a good – that’s – that is the question, isn’t it?
CAVANAUGH: I’m wondering, Ellen, do we know like in a breakdown which communities in our county have the largest number of seniors and do you do breakdowns like that?
SCHMEDING: You know, we do look at some of those breakdowns as we’re looking at our services and how we can best provide service. One of the things that Paul and I were just speaking about is a great preponderance of seniors in the central region of San Diego, some of the older communities, persons who have bought their home, have lived here throughout their lifetimes so – but also there’s a large number of persons older than 50 in North County. So – And in the east. So if I had to say one area that was maybe more significantly populated with seniors, central region.
CAVANAUGH: And, Paul, what’s – what are the things that are unique about San Diego’s aging population?
DOWNEY: Well, I think there’s the number of people who are living in poverty.
DOWNEY: I mean, there are people who are struggling to get by. I mean, over 40% of our seniors do not have adequate income to meet their basic needs, which is defined as shelter, food, healthcare and transportation. I mean, you know, we’re not talking about taking your grandkids to Disneyland. We’re talking about basic needs. And in over 40% of them don’t have that. So – And then really that’s related here because of the high cost of housing. I mean, that’s the real driver that, you know, average rent for a one bedroom in San Diego is $973.
CAVANAUGH: Sure, yeah.
DOWNEY: Seniors we see who are living on Social Security, SSI, is eight hundred – they get average of $842.00 a month. So you start doing the arithmetic. Even living in a Single Room Occupancy hotel, which is where a lot of our clients live, you’re looking at $650 for a 100 square foot room with a shared bathroom somewhere down the hall. Well, again, you do the arithmetic on that, that’s less than $200 a month for all of your other expenses…
DOWNEY: …and you just can’t make it. You are on the cusp always of homelessness.
DOWNEY: And that’s a growing population that we’re seeing as well. So I think that’s one of the things that’s very unique here is being in an urban – expensive urban area.
CAVANAUGH: So it is actually – Is it the cost of living that is the – Is it the cost of living in San Diego that is the sole thing that’s driving poverty among seniors? Or are there other factors as well?
DOWNEY: Well, I think it’s a combination. I mean, I think it’s – you’re looking at housing, you’re looking at transportation costs, healthcare costs, all are part of that in San Diego. Clearly, our weather is attractive so you’re attracting people to San Diego…
CAVANAUGH: To retire.
DOWNEY: …to retire. But one of the things that we’ve seen with some recent research is that there’s this idea of well, gee, if you live in a rural area, it’s somehow cheaper. And it is a little cheaper but you see in rural areas, healthcare costs are more expensive…
SCHMEDING: They’re prohibitive.
DOWNEY: …and transportation are more expensive that housing. So, you know, kind of no matter which way you go, you’ve got some issues. Rural still is cheaper but in a place like San Diego it really boils down to housing and if you are renting, you’ve got some significant challenges. If you own your home and it’s paid off, then you’re, you know, you’re in pretty good shape. But as you get older, you have challenges of being able to keep the house up and you can’t do all of the things you might’ve been able to do. And if you’ve still got a mortgage, you know, you might have the same kind of issues that you had if you were a renter, you know, keeping up with the payments when you go onto a fixed income. And, clearly, the economic situation over the last couple of years has significantly depleted many people’s resources.
CAVANAUGH: Exactly. We’re talking about the opening of a state of the art wellness center for seniors in downtown San Diego. It’s called the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center. And we’re also talking about issues surrounding the senior population in San Diego and the fact that that population is due to significantly increase in the next few years. We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And let’s take a call right now from Cynthia in Rancho Santa Fe. Good morning, Cynthia, and welcome to These Days.
CYNTHIA (Caller, Rancho Santa Fe): Good morning, Maureen. I just wanted to say I think this is very exciting news. I’m 60 myself but, more to the point, I work with a lot of elderly or older people in a counseling setting doing grief and bereavement counseling. And I’m wondering, you know, even those healthy and active and vibrant older persons often has mental health counseling needs and I was curious as to whether the new center – well, I also wanted to say how much I appreciate that you’re offering the lifelong learning angle. I think that’s so critically important. But is there going to be an opportunity for the people using the center to get mental health counseling?
CAVANAUGH: Thank you. Great question. And Paul?
DOWNEY: Yes, actually, Senior Community Centers has had fairly extensive mental health using our case management staff to provide mental health counseling. We also collaborate with Sharp Healthcare and so Sharp Healthcare has a psychiatrist that spends some time in our facility as well as psych nurses and social workers with a psychiatric background. So providing counseling is a key part of it and one of the unique new things that is going to be in the facility is actually our collaboration with San Diego State College of Health & Human Services. And this is something actually that we can’t find anybody doing anywhere in the country with a college essentially saying we’re going to deposit our faculty and students in your facility to do research and, of course, in the College of Health & Human Services, you have social work students who’ll be out doing mental health counseling as well as helping with benefits, nursing, gerontology, some work with speech, language, are all part of that. So the answer to Cynthia’s question is that we will provide wraparound services with our staff as well as our collaborators like Sharp and SDSU.
CAVANAUGH: Now, Ellen, I know this is a rather open-ended question, a wide-ranging question, but what kind of support services, if you could nail them down, does San Diego County Aging and Independent Services provide to seniors? Is it total, across the board or are there some areas that are more important than others?
SCHMEDING: Well, thank you for asking. One of the things—and Cynthia’s question got me thinking, too—we do offer a wide variety of services to persons, seniors and persons with disabilities throughout the region, including mental health services. One of the things that we’re extremely proud of is operating a call center with 1-800-510-2020 being our phone number. It serves as the gateway to all of the services we have to offer. We have call center specialists from eight to five on the phones ready to make referrals. We have a website that’s always accessible at www.sandiego.networkofcare.org. That’s another avenue in for services. We offer programs for a range of need and ability for those individuals residing in nursing homes to those people who are excited about working in nursing homes as volunteers. We also – some of our best known services, similar to what Senior Community Centers operates, are the meal programs, operating in more that 25 different seniors meal sites throughout the region, and also delivering meals to homebound elderly. One of the new things that I know Senior Community Centers is involved in is mental health assessments for those homebound elderly, some of our most vulnerable citizens. We have a great partnership with Mental Health which includes screening individuals in their own home and make sure to link them with needed services. We also provide in-home supportive services to 25,000 low income individuals who are at home and need this kind of care to remain stable and at home for as long as they possibly can. One…
CAVANAUGH: And, Ellen, let me ask you one more time, what is, for people who want to access this care, what is the number once again that they can call?
SCHMEDING: It is 1-800-510-2020.
CAVANAUGH: That’s easy to remember.
SCHMEDING: Yes. And, again, our website, www.sandiego.networkofcare.org.
CAVANAUGH: We have a number of people who want to join the conversation at 1-888-895-5727. Richard is calling us from Escondido. And good morning, Richard. Welcome to These Days.
RICHARD (Caller, Escondido): Good morning. The gentleman seems to be very knowledgeable but one thing I haven’t heard. Seniors happen to be crime victims also and what can his agency do to help, and that’s my question. Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: Okay, let me – Who wants to take that question? Ellen?
SCHMEDING: One of the things I’d like to point out is that Aging and Independent Services also operates the Adult Protective Services program. And for individuals who are at risk of abuse and neglect, we operate a 24-hour phone line for individuals to call in reports of abuse. If there is a crime involved, we get law enforcement in the picture right away through cross-reporting that abuse or that crime to – and we work very closely with law enforcement, who have a number of individuals specializing in helping the elder population.
CAVANAUGH: Now, I’m sorry Paul, I just wanted to ask you a question to sort of dovetail onto that. You are CEO of Senior Community Centers, which is far more – has more facilities than just the senior wellness center that’s opening downtown. And I’m wondering, in terms of crime prevention and the other programs that Ellen was mentioning, how do the Senior Community Centers work with the county in order to, you know, help all of these programs actually reach seniors?
DOWNEY: We are – we partner with them. It’s a very close relationship, I mean, and Ellen jumped in with the APS. We have actually had APS workers out-stationed in our facility.
CAVANAUGH: And APS again is…?
DOWNEY: Adult Protective Services…
DOWNEY: …workers. And so we work very, very closely on things like adult – with Adult Protective Services, the ombudsman, and some of the other programs that are out there where our clinical staff are on the lookout for what – the types of things that Richard was referring to. And so if we even have a faint suspicion that somebody’s been a victim of abuse, we bring in Adult Protective Services and work very closely. The whole nutrition program that we provide, I mean, we do 1600, 1700 meals a day, seven days a week, throughout the county. That funding comes through AIS. It’s federal funding that gets a little bit of state funding and passes through, so it’s a collaborative relationship that I’m pleased to say is very, very close…
DOWNEY: …and we work together to try to come up with innovative solutions.
CAVANAUGH: We do have to take a short break and when we return, we’ll continue to take your calls about the issues facing seniors in San Diego County. 1-888-895-5727 is the number to call. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.
CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. I’m Maureen Cavanaugh. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS. My guests are Paul Downey, president and CEO of Senior Community Centers, and Ellen Schmeding, Division Chief of San Diego County’s Aging and Independent Services. We’re talking about the opening this week of the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center in downtown San Diego, and talking about the issues and challenges facing seniors in San Diego. We’re welcoming your calls about what you think might be most needed for seniors in San Diego and how you think San Diego needs to prepare for an increase in the elderly population here in San Diego. 1-888-895-5727 is the number to call. I wanted to ask you, Paul, you deal with meeting seniors who come to the Community Centers around town, who are going to be coming to the new wellness center in downtown San Diego. How aware are seniors about the services that are available for them in San Diego County?
DOWNEY: I would say it’s a mixed bag. Some of the folks that we work with, I think, are – become familiar with it because, you know, they find themselves in pretty desperate situations and so they ask around. But I know Aging and Independent Services does a lot of outreach, but I think that there are a lot of seniors out there and, you know, the children of aging parents who don’t know what to do. I mean, we do get a lot of phone calls from people who are quite wealthy actually who have no idea how to take care of mom or dad or grandma when something happens. And so I – and this, because of the demographic shift that we’re going to see, this is going to be a more prevalent problem, and doing that kind of outreach and having people understand what do you do when, you know, mom maybe can’t take care of herself any longer? Does she have to go to a nursing home right away? You know, and the answer, of course, is no, she doesn’t. But it’s finding those resources to, hopefully, delay that.
CAVANAUGH: Ellen, I’m interested, as Paul mentioned, there’s this demographic that’s changing. We’re going to see a lot more of a percentage of the population in the older senior category of 65 years and older. I’m wonder – how – how is San Diego County preparing for that?
SCHMEDING: Well, we’re looking at preparing in any number of different ways. One of the points that Paul just made that I wanted to follow up on is one of the programs we provide is the caregiver support program, especially important for caregivers living here locally as well as those that are from far away. We offer respite services for a contract. We have education, we have support. Caregivers are doing more and more of the heavy lifting on behalf of family members and we feel that if we don’t support them, they’re not going to be able to provide the needed support for their loved ones. Other ways in which we’re preparing are to have excellent partnerships as we do with Senior Community Centers and push the envelope for senior services in our region. The biggest problem seniors suffer from is isolation, so the more we can do to provide meaningful opportunities for seniors both in the present and in the future, that’s what’s going to make the difference. As one example, we operate the Retired Senior Volunteer program, giving individuals 55-plus an opportunity to volunteer and make a difference in their community. We also are extremely proud of putting intergenerational programs on the map and those programs bring together seniors with a young person, making a big difference in both of their lives. We’re also real big on physical fitness, mental health stimulation, and spiritual growth and wellness. These are areas that we try to do more and more outreach and education in our community and have recently begun doing work with mental health prevention as part of the Mental Health Initiative here in California. So we feel that our – the big place we can make a difference is in prevention right now. There’s nothing we can do about getting older. We’re all headed that direction.
CAVANAUGH: It’s so true.
SCHMEDING: But what we can do is help people to age in the most exciting and interesting way possible. Now that’s not going to work for everyone and so we also understand we need to maintain our safety net programs with the foundational meals that are important. And sometimes the most important thing an individual has in a day is good nutrition, a good, solid meal. But we’re also looking to help educate people about what they can do to support themselves to stay mentally and physically fit.
CAVANAUGH: And Paul.
DOWNEY: Well, and I think one of the things that we need to do is debunk stereotypes because, you know, you turn on the television and you watch the sitcoms and, you know, you hear all sorts of horrible jokes and stereotypes about seniors. And the reality is that there are some seniors who, yes, have some challenges, but most folks are able to live active and fulfilling lives, you know, right up until the very end and so as a society, as a community, we need to look at and say that, you know, just because you’re 75 or 80 and have, you know, gray hair or no hair, that that doesn’t mean that you’re done and it’s time to throw in the towel and sit, you know, in a rocking chair with, you know, with quilts over your lap doing nothing. I mean, that people have value, they have experiences. You know, if you look at other cultures around the world, elders are valued. They are – have wisdom and in – unfortunately, in this country our seniors are at times ridiculed and victims of really unfortunate stereotypes and I think that’s something that we have to change because it weighs on the seniors. Sometimes they believe…
DOWNEY: …what they’re hearing, that they’re supposed to sit in the rocking chair and not do something. You know, it gets back to what I was saying about having a reason to get up and feel like you’re still able to contribute and there’s no – you know, we have a volunteer that is 99 years old. She takes two buses from North Park every single day, and her name is Anna Arnold. Two buses every single day and she collects the coffee money for us. That’s her job. Seven days a week, she comes and does that for us. And so, you know, you can always contribute. I mean, I tell Anna that she can retire when she’s 120.
CAVANAUGH: We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Greg’s calling us from Oceanside. Good morning, Greg, and welcome to These Days.
GREG (Caller, Oceanside): Good morning. My question is appearing maybe simplistic but the ramifications and implications might be very far reaching. I’m just curious why there doesn’t seem to be a standard for age when determining a senior as far as a lot of different programs. I mean, I can think of 55, 60, 62 and 65.
CAVANAUGH: Right. You’re right. So why is that the confusion, Ellen?
SCHMEDING: Well, I think it gets back to a point Paul made that people want to keep pushing that envelope further and further out in terms of what makes a senior. Many people at 65 today do not feel in any way, shape or form old. They have a lot to offer, they have a lot to contribute and they plan to continue doing so. One thing I can share is the Older Americans Act, which is the federal funding Paul mentioned that helps to support the NEIL program and other programs including Caregiver, sets that age standard at 65, so that has a lot to do with how funding operates and how some of our services are operated.
DOWNEY: I can add though, you know, as a direct service provider, it is incredibly frustrating to have different ages.
DOWNEY: So as Ellen said, for 60, so we can feed somebody a meal at 60. But we also offer 350 units of affordable housing for low income seniors but I can’t put somebody into our housing until they’re 62.
DOWNEY: You can – you’re eligible for early Social Security at 62. So if we see somebody at 60 who comes in who’s homeless or near homeless, unable to work, we don’t have – there’s no resources…
DOWNEY: …to reach out and – and get to – for them in terms of money. So it’s frustrating. I think Ellen is exactly right, though, is, you know, there’s sort of people, societal, wanting to push it off, there’s also economic reasons of wanting to push it off.
CAVANAUGH: Right. They’re talking about pushing Social…
SCHMEDING: Social Security…
CAVANAUGH: …Security to an older age, yeah.
CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Ed’s calling us from Lakeside. Good morning, Ed. Welcome to These Days.
ED (Caller, Lakeside): Oh, thank you. I’m a octogenarian myself but I’m in good shape and I have a car. But my – this is my experience here in east county in El Cajon, and that is that because of the fear of homeless, it’s almost impossible to find a restroom wherever. So in this new facility, it should be available, restrooms should be available and that, I think, is an important factor for seniors.
CAVANAUGH: Well, Ed, thank you for that. And I’m sure that there are restrooms.
DOWNEY: Yeah, there are – there are multiple restrooms so he’s – Ed is welcome anytime.
CAVANAUGH: I wonder, though, is there – when there’s a community that have a lot of homeless people and a lot of older people as well, do you find those clashes?
DOWNEY: Yes, I mean, we see – I mean, we – First of all, we see a lot of seniors who are homeless, unfortunately…
DOWNEY: …in downtown. But in many – If you think about it, seniors and, again, back to sort of the myths and stereotypes, homeless are people that, you know, there’s a lot of people walk down the street and you don’t want to look at. Unfortunately, seniors kind of fall into that category. They’re invisible. They kind of fade into the background and that sometimes we don’t take them seriously and we don’t give them the respect just like homeless. And so I think there is – there’s a lot of similarities, you know, between the two folks and, unfortunately, a lot of them – there’s a lot of overlap with homeless seniors.
CAVANAUGH: Paul, you mentioned the fact of the way that senior citizens are regarded in this country as opposed perhaps other countries, and I know, Ellen, the idea that the older population is increasing is across at least western Europe. Are we looking to any other countries, how they’re handling the increase in their senior population as perhaps a model for what we’re doing here?
SCHMEDING: You know, we are. We exchange information as broadly as we can with other countries and looking at what they’re doing to keep seniors engaged and involved in their particular societies. One thing I can share is not long ago we had some visitors from China that came to see us and what – some of the things we were doing in terms of our intergenerational program and other services that we were offering. So while we look to others for information, excitingly, we’re also a model for others to see as well.
CAVANAUGH: You know, you mentioned, Paul, I don’t want to leave this conversation without talking a little bit more about the cybercafé that’s as part of the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center because I think that’s a particularly nice join of young and old.
DOWNEY: Yes, and that’s what we’re doing. We’re bringing in some younger students to come in and work with our seniors and it’s something actually we’ve been doing in some of our other facilities but we actually now have a dedicated space to do it. And we’re finding, again, that’s a myth. I mean, people think that, well, seniors, they won’t be able to use a computer, you know, they won’t have a Facebook page. And the fact is, they have Facebook and they are – some are Twittering. I don’t even Twitter and they’re Twittering. But they, you know, they’re – they want to learn. They’re anxious. I mean, one of the ways the fact that we’ve got people hooked is we ask them where was your hometown, and we’ll go onto Google Earth and zoom in and suddenly they see where they grew up and get hooked and the next thing, they’re, you know, they’re zapping e-mails all over the place and it’s exciting. I mean, it’s exciting for a couple of reasons. First as just it opens up a whole new world.
DOWNEY: But as Ellen was alluding to about people maybe needing to work longer because of Social Security being pushed out, we have a lot of folks that, you know, have never used computers but are anxious to get back into the workforce either because they want to or they have to.
DOWNEY: But almost every – there’s no job out there where you don’t need to have some familiarity with the computer.
DOWNEY: If you work at McDonald’s, that’s a computer that you punch into, so giving that training is very important. And we get back to the civic engagement of giving back into the community. If we have a senior who wants to volunteer in a school to give back, well, they’ve got to know how to use a computer. So it’s not only for enrichment but it’s also a very practical thing.
CAVANAUGH: You know, we often talk about the increasing older population as a problem, challenges, issues that we’re going to have to face. I wonder if I could just get a take from both of you about the advantages of having more older people in the population?
DOWNEY: Well, I mean, first, I mean, it’s wisdom. I mean, there is incredible life experience. I mean, that’s the thing. I mean, I enjoy talking with the folks that come into our facility because, you know, they can tell you what they’ve done well and they’ve done – they can tell you the things that they’ve messed up, and there’s a lot to learn from them. And they’re – also represent living history. I mean, I’m particularly fascinated by history and talking to folks who lived through the Great Depression…
DOWNEY: …and all of the historical, you know, events of the 20th century and having somebody who actually lived it. They’re a resource and they also have the skills and abilities. I mean, for 40, 50, 60 years of being a schoolteacher or an accountant or whatever it is, they bring that to the table and they don’t suddenly forget all of that.
DOWNEY: And we can learn from that.
CAVANAUGH: And, Ellen, we’re almost out of time but what are the advantages that you see?
SCHMEDING: You know, I just want to echo what Paul said and also say that many older adults today have and can model resilience for today’s youth. They’ve lived through some incredible times, they have life experience, and they still have so much more to offer, especially in families where the senior, the grandparent, the loved one, has that nurturing and assistance that they can provide. They – many of the individuals that we work with, what they want us to know more than anything is they still have so much to give.
CAVANAUGH: Well, I want to thank you both so much. And one of our listeners, Paul, said let him give that address again. So the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center that’s opening, I believe, is it tomorrow?
DOWNEY: It’s actually tomorrow, will – it’s located at 4th and Beech downtown.
CAVANAUGH: Okay. Thank you so much, Paul Downey and Ellen Schmeding. Thank you so much for speaking with us today. If you’d like to comment online, KPBS.org/thesedays. Thank you so much for listening. Stay with us for hour two of These Days here on KPBS.
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