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Wellness Center Touted As National Model For Seniors

Aired 5/30/13 on KPBS News.

A San Diego senior wellness center has become a national model for dealing with the problem of senior citizens living in poverty.

A San Diego senior wellness center has become a national model for dealing with the problem of senior citizens living in poverty.

The new Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center features full-time medical staff, a cyber café, and an enrichment center.
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Above: The new Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center features full-time medical staff, a cyber café, and an enrichment center.

More than 130,000 seniors in San Diego County are living in poverty, with the annual income well below the federal poverty level of $11,170 per year.

About 500 of them come to the Gary & Mary West Senior Wellness Center each day.

The three-year-old center has become a model on how to provide seniors living in poverty with full-service care. From a gathering place, to a game room for chess and dominos to computer training classes and healthcare access for chronic illnesses.

Paul Downey has worked with seniors for nearly two decades and oversees the wellness program.

"Our goal is, if we can keep these seniors healthy, we can keep them independent," Downey said. "They're happier but they also stay out of emergency rooms and have fewer hospital days and, hopefully, we can delay or defer the need for long-term care."

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