A plan intended to bring modern senior centers to every community was presented today by the San Diego Community Foundation.

The plan comes in response to California’s “Master Plan for Aging” and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call for counties and cities to create specific actions to address needs. The foundation reported there are 28 senior centers in the county that serves only 8 percent of the older population. 

Out of the 28 existing facilities, 13 are older, outdated, or have extremely limited buildings and amenities, and five are recommended for expansion, renovation, or upgrades.

According to the foundation, these centers are “underfunded, understaffed and lack sufficient programming”. 

“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 outlines recommendations for places where no senior center exists such as  Barrio Logan, Clairemont, Eastlake/Otay Mesa, El Cajon, and Santee/Lakeside. 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. 

The San Diego Association of Governments estimates that there will be nearly 1 million people age 60 and older living in the county by 2035. 

San Diego County Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Nora Vargas and San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate express support for the plan. 

“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.

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,” according to Vargas. 

“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.

A donation of $2 million over four years was granted by the Sahm Family Foundation to support the administration and programming for senior centers. According to the foundation, the donation enabled the distribution of the first series of grants, totalling just over $163,000, to fund an 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, which aims to improve the accessibility of services and support older adults to help maintain their independence within their homes in targeted regions. It will 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.

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