Few groups have felt the impact of the changes wrought by the coronavirus pandemic more acutely than low-income, homeless seniors in San Diego.
A year ago, we were hopeful, with a vaccine on the horizon, of returning to normal service delivery well before the end of 2021. But in September, the Delta variant arrived, and a booster shot is become a necessary element to be “fully vaccinated”. .” However, our team of At the service of seniors remained committed to providing services in as close to “normal” capacity as possible.
Now, with the current omicron COVID-19 surge, Serving Seniors is implementing additional protocols for customers, staff and volunteers to ensure the health and safety of our San Diego community remains our top priority while through the new year and beyond.
We maintain strict alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and San Diego County guidelines and will continue to monitor the status of the pandemic. We have preparations in place to adjust as needed.
We are on track to serve 1.5 million meals this year. Most are delivered to our customers’ homes and as take-out meals from our centres. We will continue our comprehensive on-site services with additional COVID-19 safety protocols. Our in-person group meals will continue in our facilities at 25% capacity with increased social distancing by spacing out chairs and tables.
Equally important, our social activities will continue, although they are also operating at 25% capacity with social distancing in place. Thanks to San Diego’s mild winter climate, we are able to move some activities to the outdoor areas of our facilities.
Our staff has taken care of ensuring that support is always available. We have converted an outdoor space in our Gary and Mary West Seniors Wellness Center to serve seniors and put it to good use. This allows seniors to continue face-to-face meetings with our team in a safe environment. Services include housing assistance, access to nurses, and personalized case management to meet their individual needs.
Together with our community partners, we continue to offer COVID-19 booster clinics to ensure customers stay healthy, safe and have access to vaccines at Serving Seniors facilities. All Serving Seniors staff and volunteers must wear KN95/N95 masks. Surgical masks must be worn by all customers and guests. KN95s are available on request.
Fortunately, there is a lot to look forward to in 2022. Two affordable housing projects for seniors are progressing. Construction is currently underway for our new community in City Heights at Fairmount Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard. The residence includes 195 units for seniors and low-income families. We are on track to open this summer.
The City and County of San Diego has given approval for our proposed 162-unit complex at Clairemont, Genesee Avenue and Mount Etna. We hope to celebrate groundbreaking in 2023. Affordable housing is key to finding a lasting solution to homelessness among seniors.
I delivered a service update to our customers last week via video. You can see it here.
From providing meals to combating the effects of social isolation, our mission to help seniors living in poverty live healthy and fulfilling lives remains our primary focus. In my role as CEO of Serving Seniors, we have worked to correct these disparities for 50 years.
Maintaining our essential services, even when we had to temporarily close our network of senior centers during the pandemic, has been the greatest challenge in our history. Our team overcame all obstacles and even improved our services from pre-pandemic levels.
Now, with the pandemic lasting much longer than we hoped, we have adapted to this version of “normal”. We continue to work to find new ways to stay connected and continue to provide our vital services.
Whether it is the original strain, Delta or Omicron, the elderly remain the most vulnerable population when it comes to COVID-19. More than 80% of deaths occurred in people aged 65 and over.
We understand the fatigue everyone is feeling, but we can’t let our guard down now. We must stand firm to prevent any new hold on our elderly population in order to prevent serious illness or death.
Serving Seniors sees the immense value of our facilities remaining open, providing meals, health care, social services, online access, and more, as a vital lifeline for all of San Diego’s vulnerable seniors. . We can’t afford to shut down again – and with the availability of effective vaccines and our resolve, that doesn’t need to happen.
Paul Downey is CEO of At the service of seniors, a San Diego-based nonprofit that helps seniors living in poverty lead healthy, fulfilling lives.