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How San Diego Can Help Support Its Growing Senior Population

About one million San Diego residents will be 55 or older by the year 2030, that's a 194 percent increase from 2012, according to the San Diego Associations of Government.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 But finding roommates for older San Diego is not the end of the challenge. By 2035 more than a million San Diegans will be over the age of 55. That means that our county can either be overwhelmed by the needs of an aging population or embrace and maximize the contributions of older citizens in a safe environment. It's a challenge that supporters of age friendly communities want San Diego to take on. Now by addressing a series of topics essential to senior health and wellbeing. Joining me is my Iro says, author of the report titled Aging in San Diego and circulate San Diego's director of policy. My welcome to the program. Thanks so much for having me. Now. Where does this age friendly community designation come from?

Speaker 2: 00:47 So age friendly communities came out of the World Health Organization partnering with a in the United States to really promote and encourage jurisdictions to start planning for the aging population in San Diego. As you said, the population is aging, um, by 194% to get to that 1 million people in 2035 from 2012. Um, and it's the same. It's the same pattern happening across the country. So it's time to be planning for our aging population.

Speaker 1: 01:16 What are some of the elements that make the community age friendly?

Speaker 2: 01:20 It ranges from the need to improve the built environment. That's transportation options, that's housing, that sidewalks, but also, um, the social environment. We need to be planning for how to make sure that seniors aren't socially isolated. They have opportunities for recreation, for social inclusion, and to be able to live a normal life.

Speaker 1: 01:42 Now your report describes some specific challenges that seniors face in San Diego. What are they?

Speaker 2: 01:49 In San Diego, between 2016 and 20 1785 older adults unfortunately died in motor vehicle collisions and one loss of life is too many, let alone 85. In addition, 35% of homeless individuals, um, are 55 years old or older. And a quarter of San Diego's seniors make below 200% of the federal poverty level. So these are issues that we really need to be addressed. Specifically help seniors

Speaker 1: 02:16 circulate San Diego. The organization that you're involved with is an advocate for public transit and alternative modes of transportation. Why did it decide to get involved in the creation of age friendly communities?

Speaker 2: 02:29 Well, we partnered with the San Diego Foundation to write this report aging in San Diego because we believe that a city that's designed well for people, 80 years old is also a city that's designed well for an eight year old and for everyone in between. And so we need to be designing for people who may, might have a physical needs like accessibility needs. Um, and that's good for everyone. Can you describe

Speaker 1: 02:53 to us the difference between a standard city that we see now and then age friendly community? How would they look different?

Speaker 2: 03:00 An age friendly community has gone through a process where they very thoughtfully have come up with an action plan that addresses the eight domains of livability, which range from housing, transportation, social inclusion, et cetera. And so they have deliberately made plans for how, um, these cities are built out and provide access for their seniors to be able to say, go to social gatherings. I'm with multiple transportation options. Um, and so many cities may already be doing these things, but an age friendly community has been deliberately planning for this, uh, and is planning for multiple areas that address a seniors' needs. Okay.

Speaker 1: 03:42 Would we see more parks? Would we see more pedestrian walkways? Would we see more places for people to gather? Okay.

Speaker 2: 03:50 Absolutely. A big component of age friendly communities is outdoor spaces. Having a place to go to hang out with friends to be able to get some exercise. And that's really a key component as well as, um, safe sidewalks, preventing trip hazards. But it also includes issues that relate to affordability for seniors.

Speaker 1: 04:10 Where are some of the existing age friendly communities across America? What are some of the things they put into action?

Speaker 2: 04:17 So across the country, they're our age friendly communities. Um, for example, in West Sacramento, they have an action plan that includes an educational campaigns to inform seniors about the code enforcement services so that if a senior lives in a, a substandard housing, they know how to get the city involved to help them out there. Here in San Diego, in Chula Vista. Chula Vista offers shuttle services to cultural events in the city so that seniors have a way to get out and enjoy the city's offerings.

Speaker 1: 04:49 So there are cities in San Diego County that are already age friendly.

Speaker 2: 04:54 Yeah, that's right. The city of Chula Vista and the county of San Diego. Our leaders here in San Diego, um, they've already adopted an action plan. The city of La Mesa is in the process of developing their action plan and the city of San Diego has announced their intent to become an age friendly community. But that leaves a lot of jurisdictions in the San Diego region without an age friendly planning process. And circulate is more than willing to help with that.

Speaker 1: 05:20 I've been speaking with, my Arrow says she's author of the report entitled aging in San Diego and she's also circulate San Diego's director of policy. Maya, thank you very much. Thank you. The city of La Mesa is holding to public workshops to get input on how we can help support seniors tomorrow. And on May 22nd you can find event information on our website, k and tune in to our California Dream Town Hall special on navigating the golden years. That's May 22nd on KPBS midday edition. You can find more of our stories on California's aging population by checking out graying

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.