Needs of seniors spur action

Finding ways to provide affordable and safe housing for seniors, ensuring better access to healthcare and encouraging a greater sense of community were three of eight “urgent needs” identified during a recent symposium in San Luis Obispo.

Other needs include more meaningful employment opportunities, access to transportation and more collaboration among business groups, nonprofits and public agencies.

About 145 people attended the first-ever San Luis Obispo County Senior Symposium held in October to discuss challenges and opportunities in providing care to local seniors. 

On Nov. 21, about a dozen people from various organizations who helped plan the event will meet to discuss future actions. They’ll also work to get information out to the public on the symposium and solicit feedback to determine their next steps.

Organizers say the timing of their efforts is critical to prepare for long-term challenges, in part because San Luis Obispo County has a higher population of seniors compared to other areas of the state and is experiencing a faster growth rate in that population.

A survey of 544 seniors in the county completed last year as part of a report by Action for Healthy Communities found that many seniors enjoy a high standard of living, but a growing proportion of older residents are falling into poverty and need more assistance with daily activities.

For seniors on limited incomes, addressing basic needs including food and affordable housing is a growing concern, the survey concluded, and 50 percent of seniors interviewed said they were worse off in 2010 than in the previous year.

Toward the end of the symposium, the participants identified concrete actions that could be taken, including establishing a local board to work on housing solutions for seniors, such as local tax breaks for senior housing, creating a tighter network of social and psychological services to heal dysfunctional families and encouraging seniors to be more proactive in planning for their financial future.

Participants also said that some seniors, in an effort to remain independent, may feel socially isolated.

“We have to change the way we think,” said Jesse Sostrin of Wilshire Health & Community Services, one of the event organizers along with the San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation. “We have to be a community and rely on each other.”

Learn More

Read the final report from the county senior symposium at www.slo2025.org. To provide feedback or get more information, contact Jesse Sostrin of Wilshire Community Services at 547-7025 or email jsostrin@wilshirehcs.org.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.