The aging population in San Francisco is becoming more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, culture and socioeconomic status. As a result, the need for culturally competent professionals and organizations that serve and provide services for seniors is becoming increasingly important.
This diversity is based largely on the changing landscape of the City’s senior population. According to research by the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services, whites made up 55% of the total senior population in 1990, but declined to 42% by 2008. During that same period of time, the percentage of Asian/Pacific Islanders increased from 27% to 40%. In terms of hard numbers, the amount of white seniors decreased by more than 9,000, while Asian/Pacific Islanders increased by almost 25,000. A significant portion of this growth is due to immigration: about 20,000 Asian and Pacific Islander seniors currently living in the City entered the United States after 1990. African Americans decreased slightly as a proportion of seniors, by more than 800, while Latinos increased by more than 3,500.
Language has a lot to do with San Francisco’s changing senior landscape, as a majority of senior San Franciscans (54%) speak a language other than English. This includes people who speak both English (still the leading language) plus one other language. Chinese is the second most common language (26%) among the 60+ population, followed by Spanish (9%), Tagalog (6%) and Russian (4%).
30th Street Senior Center is the most comprehensive center of its kind in San Francisco, offering health and wellness programs, social interaction, nutritious meals, educational opportunities, case management services and information services to more than 5,000 seniors annually in a multicultural setting. Though the Center is open to all, it currently serves people from the following ethnic communities: 67% Latino, 10% Asian, 9% Caucasian, 1% African American and 3% Other.
Founded in 1979, 30th Street Senior Center impacts the lives of thousands of seniors by providing services on a donation basis to any senior over 60. The Center which relies heavily on volunteer staff, is largely funded through support from the philanthropic community. No one is ever turned away.
A bilingual (English/Spanish) case management program is among the many services 30th Street Senior Center provides to local seniors. The goal of the program is to reach isolated or at-risk seniors, help them maintain independence in their own homes and prevent premature institutionalization. A few of the management services provided by the Center include: arranging and monitoring in-home support services, para-transit services, housing assistance, support with Medi-Cal and Medicare counseling, referrals to money management services, legal services, medical appointments and advocacy and assistance with solving a variety of problems for homebound individuals.
Many seniors call 30th Street Senior Center their second home, as it is open six days a week (Mon- Sat) and is the only senior center in San Francisco that’s open every holiday. (If Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, the Center will be open.) Everyone who works and volunteer for the Center believes in the potential of older adults and works hard to make all of its programs and services reflect that.
Valorie Villela, Director – 30th Street Senior Center