San Diego Distributes $200,000 to Combat Isolation of Seniors

Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in early March, senior citizens have mostly been staying at home. Research has found that senior citizens are at an especially high risk of death from COVID-19. The risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19 increases with age, and more than 10% of those age 90 and older die if they get the infection. Those who have stayed at home or in their senior living communities have had an extended period of social isolation. The city of San Diego distributed $200,000 in grants to a variety of community organizations in order to combat the social isolation of seniors.

No Senior Alone Initiative

The No Senior Alone Initiative was started by Bob Kelly, who is the founder of the nonprofit San Diego Seniors Community Foundation founder Bob Kelly. The initiative began in October. The goal is to raise $1 million to help the area's population of senior citizens. The Sahm Family Foundation has offered to match the funds in the amount of $500,000.

Why Social Isolation Is a Concern for Senior Citizens

Loneliness and social isolation have always been a problem for the elderly. With COVID-19 putting a halt to social gatherings and public health authorities discouraging travel, senior citizens have had fewer opportunities to socialize. Their high risk for infection with COVID-19 and complications or death if they do get infected has further increased their isolation. Seniors living alone and those residing in assisted living communities have had few or even no visitors since March. A lack of socializing may cause depression, anxiety and stress in seniors. All of these mental effects can depress the body's immune system.

Purpose of the No Senior Alone Initiative Grants

Chairman Ted Chan of the San Diego Seniors Community Foundation held a press conference on November 19. During the press conference, he explained how the pandemic is impacting senior citizens. Chan is a professor and chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of California at San Diego campus. As an emergency medicine physician, he sees all of the challenges that seniors deal with on a daily basis. These challenges impact their physical health, social life and mental well-being. The purpose of the initiative is to reduce loneliness among senior citizens.

What the Grant Funds Are for

The San Diego Seniors Community Foundation chose nine grant beneficiaries for the $200,000. Those organizations offer programs and support to elderly people. These organizations have seen the demand for their services drastically increase since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each of the grant recipients will use the money to provide remote or safe in-person programming with social distancing in place. The programs will be for the elderly. Some of the programs provide seniors with access to the equipment that they need for virtual or remote connections. The equipment can also be used to help seniors with telehealth medical appointments with their doctors. Other programs focus more on keeping senior citizens mentally engaged and helping them reach their daily fitness goals.

Community Partnership for the Grant

This programming was made possible by a donation from the Sahm Family Foundation. This nonprofit initially provided a $500,000 matching grant challenge to the city of San Diego. They made the offer in October to help cut social isolation among the elderly while the COVID-19 pandemic continues. The San Diego area has 150,000 senior orphans. A senior orphan is someone who has no family in the region.

Recipients of the Grant Funds

The first phase of the No Seniors Alone Initiative has nine recipients. The San Diego LGBT Center received $50,034 for its digital support and community outreach program for seniors in the LGBTQ community. Villa Musica will receive $27,200 for a program called Music on the Move. The program awarded $25,000 to the Somali Family Services organization. The Neighborhood House Senior Center was awarded $24,445 for a remote health and wellness program.

The Challenge Center has been awarded $16,000 to develop a new physical therapy and exercise program for seniors, and the classes will take place in a socially distant outdoor setting. Peninsula Shepherd Center will get $16,000 for the Connections Through Technology program. This helps seniors with the equipment they need for remote and virtual communication. The San Marcos Senior Center also received $14,910 for similar purposes. Oceanside Senior Center was awarded $15,000 for a digital cafe. Foundation for Senior Care was awarded $6,620 for a telehealth program.

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