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District 2 Supervisor

Taking care of our seniors

My personal and public mission to help seniors age gracefully in the city
Is San Francisco willing to make room — and rooms — for its aging population? Photo: Matthew Bennett

Four days before I became supervisor in January 2018, I was sitting in a room with my family waiting for a doctor to present us with my father’s diagnosis.

“We believe that your dad has Lewy Body Dementia. There is no cure. He has between five to seven years, but he’ll get progressively worse, and it could go quick,” my father’s doctor told us.

One year later, when my father came to City Hall to see me sworn in for a full term, thanking him publicly was one of the great joys of my life. On that day, I knew he understood what was happening. He touched the nameplate on my office door and cried tears of joy.

MEETING THE NEEDS OF THE CITY’S SENIOR POPULATION

Since my father’s diagnosis, I have immersed myself in what it takes to properly care for our seniors, especially those with disabilities. I have learned how complicated the medical system is for them. And I have learned how few resources are available to our seniors, particularly housing. I am determined to do everything in my power to address our seniors’ needs — especially housing.

According to the Department of Aging and Adult Services, one in five San Franciscans is 60 or older. This share of the population is only growing. As the cost of living skyrockets, 16 percent of seniors are below the federal poverty line. Seniors with disabilities earn even less, and require greater support. Our senior population is growing, our homeless population is aging, and we are facing the worst housing crisis in our city since 1906.

HOUSING FOR SENIORS

The city government maintains a stock of 22,000 affordable housing units. Although seniors occupy nearly 10,000 of these units, only 5,565 are specifically designated for seniors.

Some people living in affordable housing not designated for seniors miss out on necessary services, both on-site and in the form of referrals to community organizations that provide health services and case management.

NOT ALL NEEDS ARE THE SAME

For seniors with mobility issues or illnesses such as dementia, it is critical that we provide housing with on-site supportive medical services. These seniors need easily navigable layouts and design. We have communities like this in our neighborhoods, but waiting lists are long. By investing in senior housing, we can shorten wait times and keep our neighbors in our community.

Many of our senior neighbors still live in the homes they moved into decades ago, when they had young families. For our neighbors who are healthy, active, and independent, senior housing might mean downsizing into a smaller unit. For others, more support is required. We must make all types of housing for our seniors available, from apartments to units with supportive services.

CITY ACTION

For the dignity of people like my dad — and our aunts, uncles, and grandparents — it is time to make more room for seniors in San Francisco. When the original proposal for redevelopment of the 3333 California Street UCSF Laurel Heights Campus was met with neighborhood concerns, I worked with the developer to eliminate the office space and instead dedicate space to affordable senior housing. Legislation I introduced will mandate that, if approved, the proposed housing development provide 186 new units of on-site affordable housing for seniors.

Actions speak louder than words. When it comes to senior housing and providing dignity for our loved ones, it is time for San Francisco to act.

Questions or comments? Reach out to District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani at
sfbos.org/supervisor-stefani-contact or 415-554-7752.

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