On March 28, San Diego District 3 Councilmember Chris Ward held a press conference in the courtyard of City Hall and announced the city of San Diego joined the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Age-Friendly Communities (AFC) movement and the AARP Network of AFCs. This WHO worldwide movement is designed to make our cities and communities friendly, safe and livable for people of all ages. It is an undertaking that requires a solid perspective and understanding of the needs and challenges inclusive of a richly diverse intergenerational and multi-cultural population.
Quoting from the May 2018 executive summary of San Diego County’s Age Well San Diego Action Plan, “Communities across the world are looking for ways to accommodate the growing population of older adults. Due to longer life spans and decreasing birth rates, older adults make up a larger percentage of the population than ever before. In San Diego County, seniors over the age of 65 will make up an estimated 21% of the population by 2030, up from 13% today.”
That is less than 11 years away. Many will remain active and independent but growing numbers will suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD). These demographic shifts present both significant challenges and potential opportunities.
In brief, the independent jurisdictions within the county of San Diego follow guidelines set forth by WHO before they are granted a certificate into the fraternity of the some 750 age-friendly cities throughout the world. Members must show measurable progress to maintain that status. There are eight domains to an age-friendly community: Communications and information, community support and health services, outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, and civic participation and employment.
San Diego County has established a plan for the unincorporated areas. The incorporated city of San Diego will now begin to develop its own. The process takes patience and collaboration over a period of years. The communities of Chula Vista and La Mesa are in various stages of this process.
There will naturally exist many similarities in needs, priorities, and solutions from community to community and neighborhood to neighborhood. Simultaneously, there will also be conditions unique to a given community or neighborhood. No two community plans will be identical. But they will have the experience of each other’s efforts to share so as to avoid completely rebuilding wheels that already exist and might be perfectly applicable or could be with some modification. Further, AARP California is available for providing information helpful to our communities. Funding can come from anywhere and often come from more than one source, i.e. donations or grants from individuals or nonprofits, corporate/business donations and local, state or federal tax revenue sources. Through generous support from the Del Mar HealthCare Fund, the Age-Friendly Communities Program at The San Diego Foundation has granted $1.9 million dollars to local nonprofits and municipal efforts in improving the lives of older adults in our region, since the program began in 2013.
To be successful, the city of San Diego must have a solid perspective and understanding of the needs and challenges of our richly diverse intergenerational and multicultural population. Though within the City of San Diego many similarities in needs, priorities, and solutions exist from community to community and neighborhood to neighborhood, some are unique and more specific to each.
This is great news and an opportunity for volunteers from all corners of the city of San Diego to get involved and help create the differences that will impact their and the lives of their loved ones for generations to come. So, stay tuned for future announcements as this complex process evolves in the city of San Diego. In the meantime, to get an appreciation for the work that thousands of volunteers, local government workers and organizations have been doing, refer to San Diego County’s detailed Age Well San Diego Action Plan released in May 2018, which also has a detailed timeline at: bit.ly/2FOUg7h.
You can also view Chula Vista’s Creating an Age-Friendly City at bit.ly/2YJCn2s.
My role in this project began some 12 years ago asking community leaders to explore the needs and challenges faced by the LGBTQ community in San Diego as it aged and the impact. That led to a professional LGBT senior-needs assessment through the San Diego LGBT Community Center and their creation of a senior services position. The decade that followed, saw the North Park Senior Apartments planned, funded and built with the professional guidance of Community Housing Works. My role evolved into supporting intergenerational and multicultural set of city and count wide age-friendly initiatives impacting all people in San Diego County, primarily as an influential messenger and long-term volunteer, spokesperson and cheerleader involving friends, colleagues, neighborhoods, community organizations, leaders, volunteers, businesses and local government and facilitating meetings to foster collaboration. But this is only the beginning of the research, surveys and community input required before a strategy for an implemented plan with viable solutions for the city of San Diego can be devised.
— Bill Kelly is a longtime local activist who currently focuses on LGBT senior issues and moderates the Caring for our LGBT Seniors in San Diego Facebook page. Access to the group is free to all seniors, their advocates, families, friends and caregivers. Reach Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.