Assessing senior needs

Posted: January 6th, 2017 | Columns, Featured, Senior Matters | No Comments

By William E. Kelly | Senior Matters

This is the first of a three-part series about assessing and addressing the needs of seniors.

Part one categorizes the most basic concerns of all adults and provides a list of the “needs categories,” which include income and assets, expenses, housing, health and healthcare, geographic location and support systems.

But first, what is the “aging crisis” we are hearing more about?

Numerous studies over the past decade or so have confirmed that San Diego, the nation, and even countries across the world are facing a staggering growth in our older population that is having an increasingly devastating impact on seniors and those about to enter the world of “seniordom.”

William E. Kelly

That impact is and will be overwhelmingly felt in every aspect of our society and its economic, political and social structure.

Paul Downey, CEO of local nonprofit Serving Seniors, shared that one out of four homeless persons in San Diego is currently aged 60 or greater and the number of San Diegans over the age of 60 will double by 2030 to one in four residents.

The Public Policy Institute of California announced that “Californians age 55 and older represent 31 percent of the state’s adult population.”

The Elder Index, part of a national effort developed by gerotological experts and derived from Census data, is now being used by UCLA Center for Health Policy Research to produce ground-breaking analysis and research of the economic challenges facing California’s seniors.

Based on local market rates for items such as housing, food, health care, transportation and basic necessities, “47 percent of retired older Californians [65+ years] are struggling to make ends meet.” That research shows that the basic cost of living for elders with disabilities is 20-100 percent higher than for those without disabilities.

This indeed is a crisis that demands an “all hands on deck,” bi-partisan collaboration and cooperation between diverse citizen representatives, their government, the nonprofits that serve them and the for-profit organizations that depend on them to stay in business.

A lessor effort is not capable of producing cost-effective and efficient solutions that need to address the monumental complexities of both unique diversity-age-driven and universally-age-driven issues.

The World Health Organization and a growing number of cities across the country are recognizing the need for greater collaboration and cooperation to address a deepening and burgeoning backlog of needs for more affordable and accessible age-friendly cities that serve the needs of all ages simultaneously.

A study by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies warns that governments at all levels are poorly prepared to meet the challenges.

In less than 13 years, 132 million Americans will be age 50 or greater. That is more than a 70 percent increase between 2000 and 2030 and one in five Americans will be 65 or older. The burden this unfolding crisis is putting on medical care, insurance, housing, social safety nets, the economy, individuals and family life is staggering. Moreover, I dare say it is being woefully underestimated and irresponsibly dealt with by us as individuals and as a society.

Organizations such as the AARP and the San Diego Foundation are promoting community-based efforts to make safer cities and neighborhoods with more walkable streets, affordable housing and transportation options that together create opportunities and activities for residents where all ages can participate.

In San Diego City and County individuals, nonprofits, government, businesses and philanthropic communities are starting realize there is a need and there are ways we can make our region among the most age-friendly in the country.

While seeking to identify possible opportunities to work together to mitigate the challenges impacting our older adults, their families and caregivers, it remains to be seen what the outcome of these efforts will be.

For now, we need to focus on what we need to do as individuals to fill the gaps.

There are roughly six “needs categories” to be reviewed:

Income/Assets: Pension(s); social security; investments; cash/savings; future inheritance; real estate.

Expenses: Rent/mortgage; all utilities; food; clothing; transportation; all insurances.

Housing: Affordability; accessibility; suitability; adequate space.

Health/healthcare: Ambulatory; disabled; hearing/sight; physical/mental.

Geographic location: Security/safety/crime; crosswalks; transportation options; street lighting; sidewalks; parking; parks; demographics.

Support system: Goods and services; family; friends; social groups; community organizations; clubs; hospitals/medical care; schools.

For every senior, an assessment of all these needs and an inventory of the resources at hand to meet them must be taken. A full understanding of each person’s circumstances and environment is necessary for assessing individual areas of greatest need in priority order.

Have you considered what you or a loved one’s priority needs are or will soon be? Stay tuned when the next “Senior Matters” discusses how to assess those needs.

To see part two, visit

—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. Send Bill questions or comments at

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