This Charter amendment would create a “Dignity Fund” dedicated to annual, mandatory spending on services for seniors and adults with disabilities.
The Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 to put this initiative on the ballot.
With the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market gearing up across the street at 8:30 a.m. on a recent Wednesday, six elderly Asian women line up their wares across the front of the Grant Building and entreat pedestrians, calling softly: “Buy. You buy.” Canned Bartlett pears, bagged carrots and onions, boxes of Land O’ Lakes American cheese, packages of whole-wheat bagels, jars of Algood peanut butter, dried beans, sesame crackers and squat cans of evaporated milk were neatly displayed at their feet, along with grape juice and orange juice in plastic liters — clearly food obtained from community agencies’ free distribution programs.
A tragedy happened in San Francisco’s Chinatown in mid-April. Yee-Shui Mar, 91, fell from a window in her apartment building. The Chinese-language newspaper Sing Tao Daily reported that Mar, who was from Taishan City in Guangdong province, lived alone. She had a married daughter and grandchildren living elsewhere.
“I don’t know how any senior can handle all of this stuff,” sighs Mary Anne Humphrey, 68, who suffers from limited mobility due to a spinal cord injury. Humphrey is explaining the endless paperwork, social services, doctor appointments, benefit plans and medications she juggles as a disabled senior. Fortunately, Humphrey is one of 1,200 San Francisco County residents who have received help over the past five years from a unique Bay Area program that keeps older adults and the disabled living independently: the Community Living Fund.
Visit the farmers market in downtown San Francisco on Sundays, and you may see, past the stands of organic lettuce and fresh flowers, a few elderly women hunched over a random assortment of condiments and canned goods. As security approaches, they quickly scatter, only to set up shop on the opposite corner a few moments later. According to several food pantries, elderly recipients of free food disbursements are turning around and selling the donations at various locations throughout San Francisco.
Year after year, private organizations strategize and line up clients to push for last-minute ‘add-backs’
For clients at Self-Help for the Elderly, the citizenship classes taught by volunteer instructor Joanne Lee are a perfect fit: Classes are held at a convenient Chinatown location, senior clientele are easily accommodated and the material is taught in both English and Chinese. It has worked out well for students Sammie Xu, 69, and Nancy Zhang, 64, Chinese immigrants who are studying for their naturalization exam. Before enrolling in classes at the social services agency, the married couple tried others in which teachers only provided instruction books without guidance or taught classes only in English.
Baby Boomer women are in trouble. Decreased fertility and increased life expectancy have made aging a feminist issue, according to new research from Stanford’s Global Aging Program. “I have some bad news — it’s a mixed story,” said Adele Hayutin, the program’s director.
Already reeling from a deep recession and massive cuts to staff and services in this year’s budget, San Francisco is being hammered by a new tidal wave of state cuts — estimated at $26.5 million — which could put low-income seniors and others on the brink of homelessness and hunger, many advocates say.
Hundreds of San Francisco’s most vulnerable people — the mentally ill, homeless, and seniors among them — will be pushed out of the social services safety net and even further into the margins if proposed cuts to the Department of Public Health go through.
Changes in cities over the next two decades will be driven by the “longevity revolution” as the ranks of US adults over 60 soar and many more lifespans stretch past the century mark. While these changes present challenges to cities that are ill-equipped or unprepared, they also serve as a wake-up call to tap into the skill and expertise of older adults. These elders represent a key to the solutions, whether it’s through volunteer work, sharing professional experience or helping families with childcare.