San Diego’s next mayor will have a full agenda, no doubt about that. From revitalizing neighborhoods to funding pensions to working out managed competition for city services, our new chief executive must begin planning for the graying of San Diego — and I’m not talking about May gray. The number of San Diegans over the age of 60 will double by 2030 and represent one in four residents.
The Elder Economic Security Initiative, better known as the Elder Index, also tells us that two in five San Diego seniors lack enough money to meet housing, food, health care and transportation needs. Here are some facts to consider:
• The cost of rental housing continues to increase. It is not uncommon for a low-income senior to spend from 60 percent to 75 percent of their monthly income on housing, often leaving only a couple of hundred dollars for everything else. Where do the candidates stand on creating more affordable housing? Is there a commitment to community planning that encourages the creation of safe, walkable neighborhoods with all needed services close by?
• Nutritious meals for seniors helps keep them healthy and independent. What will the candidates do to ensure that every senior in the city who needs a meal receives one?
• Many seniors rely on public transit shop and get to the doctor or neighborhood senior center. What will each candidate do to improve transit in San Diego, especially for seniors who do not live on a major bus route or near the trolley?
San Diego must have a mayor willing to make the commitment to build infrastructure now to meet the demographic realities of our aging population. The price of inaction will be to increase the burden on younger citizens who have dealing with this shift in crisis mode.
Other cities are not waiting to make infrastructure investment for burgeoning numbers of seniors. San Antonio, for instance, allocates over $11 million annually to support a network of 60 senior centers in each of its neighborhoods.
In fact, a $27 million bond act was just approved to build regional one-stop senior centers very similar to Senior Community Centers’ Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center here in San Diego. These centers will pull together a vast array of resources under one roof with the single purpose of keeping seniors independent.
Bottom line, if San Antonio can do it, why can’t San Diego? All it takes is some vision, community partners and the political will to do something about a problem sooner rather than later.
So how about it, Mr. Faulconer and Mr. Alvarez, can we count on you to take action? We’ll find out at the voting booth Feb. 11.
Downey is the president and CEO of Senior Community Centers, a nonprofit agency dedicated to increasing the quality of life for San Diego seniors living in poverty.