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Seniors Community Foundation releases master plan for senior center upgrades

The hallway inside the Carlsbad Senior Center with a sign that reads 'Welcome Back.' July 6, 2021.
Tania Thorne
The hallway inside the Carlsbad Senior Center with a sign that reads 'Welcome Back.' July 6, 2021.

The San Diego Seniors Community Foundation today introduced its "San Diego Master Plan for Senior Centers," a plan intended to bring modern senior centers to every community in the county.

According to the foundation, San Diego County's 28 senior centers serve only 8% of the older adult population. Many of these existing centers are "underfunded, understaffed and lack sufficient programming," a statement from the foundation reads.

The plan outlines recommendations for Barrio Logan, Clairemont, Eastlake/Otay Mesa, El Cajon and Santee/Lakeside — places where no senior centers exist. Of the 28 existing facilities, 13 are older or outdated or have extremely limited buildings and amenities, and five are recommended for expansion, renovation or upgrades.

"Every senior deserves a safe, nearby place to build community, access resources, and stay healthy and connected," said Bob Kelly, foundation founder and board member. "The problem is: San Diego's older adult population is growing dramatically — there will be approximately 1 million people over the age of 60 living in our county by 2030 — and the region's current senior center ecosystem won't be able to provide adequate support."

The plan released Thursday is a response to California's "Master Plan for Aging" and Gov. Gavin Newsom's call for counties and cities to create specific action plans for what's needed in their communities. San Diego County Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Nora Vargas and San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate supported the plan and the need to upgrade and build local senior centers to transform community-based support services for San Diego's older adult population.

"Equitable and healthy aging is critical for the abuelitos and abuelitas in our county," Vargas said. "Now is the time to be innovative and bring new ideas to address the challenges that we have in front of us with our growing senior population.

"If we do this right, our senior centers will provide excellent and essential support for the older population as hubs for physical, mental, social and financial health for seniors today and for generations to come," she said.

The San Diego Seniors Community Foundation has established the San Diego Master Plan for Senior Centers Capital Campaign to raise $147 million over the next 10 years to start building the network of modern senior centers the plan outlines.

"To create the robust network of modern, innovative, well-funded and fully staffed centers our region needs will require significant collaboration and coordination between government, nonprofits, businesses, healthcare, volunteers and the community," Cate said. "I have been a longtime advocate of older adults and seniors centers and know we can achieve this San Diego Master Plan for Senior Centers if we all work together."

The Sahm Family Foundation has committed $2 million over four years to further the administration and programmatic support senior centers need to modernize. This funding has allowed San Diego Seniors Community Foundation to distribute its first series of grants to fund a paid executive director for the Ed Brown Senior Center in Rancho Bernardo, Fallbrook Senior Center thrift store capital improvements, San Diego Workforce Partnership Mature Workers Project and Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center's Retirement Academy.

The foundation also announced the launch of its Wellness Services Navigator Program to provide on-site resources and support at the Peninsula Shepherd Center in Point Loma, the Fourth District Senior Resource Center and the Ed Brown Senior Center. The navigator is intended to work in targeted regions to improve accessibility of services and support older adults to help maintain their independence within their homes.