IOA Blog - Lifestyle Discussions on Aging, Senior Care & Being a Caregiver
IOA services enhance the quality of life for adults as they age by enabling them to maintain their health, well being, independence and participation in the community. We offer innovative programs in health, social service, creative arts & education.
Now in its 36th year, Dinner à la Heart
represents a perfect marriage between two of San Francisco’s favorite things:
incredible food and giving to a good cause. After all, what better way to
support Institute on Aging’s work with older adults and adults living with
disabilities than by celebrating in the city’s world-class dining with family
and friends? And this year, Dinner à la Heart will also celebrate Dr. James
Davis, a very special person who has done a great deal to support Institute on
Aging and the community over the years.
What is Dinner à la Heart?
Dinner à la Heart gives Bay Area residents an opportunity to
select from one of many chosen a Bay Area restaurant enjoy a unique dining
experience, for either dinner or lunch, while supporting the Institute on
Aging’s programs and services. Diners enjoy a prix-fixe meal along with wine
and coffee or tea, for a price ranging from $85-$250 per person.
Inspired, then involved
Dr. Davis’ experience with Institute on Aging comes through
Mt. Zion Hospital, where he was chair of the Mt. Zion Health Fund and was
introduced to IOA through one of its board members. Hearing about IOA’s work,
he says, “Got me very inspired to get more involved.” The more he worked with
IOA, he says, the more he embraced its mission.
For more than a decade now, Dr. Davis has continued to
support IOA as a member of its board; his internal medicine and rheumatology
practice, his work with the Arthritis Foundation, and his work as a clinical
professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, are all
worthy of recognition.
When Dr. Davis learned he was to be honored at Dinner à la
Heart this year, he says he was “very flattered.” It’s a treat, he says, in
part because the event is one that’s always been near and dear to his family.
“Starting when I first came back to San Francisco, my
parents and my aunt were very active in IOA, and the whole family would gather
together every year,” he says. “Then when I moved back to San Francisco, myself
and my cousins as the next generation started coming. Now my kids and my cousin’s
kids come. It’s this big family gathering every year now.”
Dr. Davis says Dinner à la Heart is a perfect example of
what makes IOA special.
“That’s really part of the beauty of IOA, is this generation
to generation connection,” he says. “Cable Car Caroling is great for that now,
too. Multigenerational families have been coming to these events for years, and
they have a wonderful legacy to them.”
Honoring the past, looking ahead
For an event that goes back nearly four decades now, it’s no
surprise the planning and execution of the event is multigenerational, too.
Sandra Simon, co-chair of the Dinner à la Heart Auxiliary Board, has been
involved for 25 years, and her mother was involved for many years before that.
“My mother passed away in 1994, and one of her friends on
the board called and said ‘you need to come on and take her place,’” she says.
“I couldn’t say no!”
Simon says one of her favorite aspects of Dinner à la Heart
is the connections it forges.
“There are people who are always together,” she says.
“They’ll call to make a reservation for their group and instantly you remember
Simon says she is particularly looking forward to honoring
“Oh, I’ve known Jim Davis since we were kids,” she says. “He’s
been so involved and has given a ton to the community. Many of our supporters
were his patients! Everyone thinks he’s a great guy, so it was an easy
Davis will be honored and will speak at a special event at the Presidio Golf
& Concordia Club that evening. A social hour begins at 6:30 p.m., with
dinner to follow at 7 p.m.
Preparing for the occasion
Simon says planning for the event begins in August, and
picks up steam in December, when the list of participating restaurants is
finalized. Some of the restaurants have participated for years, but they always
try to bring in new venues, as well. On the day of the event, Simon says,
things get really hectic.
“We try to make it festive as part of the experience, so
every restaurant gets decorations,” she says. “And we also bring them gifts
from IOA’s day center’s program – they make notecards for this occasion. Then
our ladies deliver all these items to the restaurants.”
As for the popularity of the event itself, Simon says it’s
an easy sell.
“We’re asking people if they want to go out to dinner with
their friends,” she says. “People say, ‘Yeah, why not?’”
Carolers young and old will gather Saturday, December 1st for one of Institute on Aging’s most beloved events, the 34th Annual Cable Car Caroling. This multicultural songfest brings holiday cheer to isolated older adults and adults living with disabilities at assisted living centers, skilled nursing facilities and individual homes across San Francisco.
More than 500 volunteers aboard 15 motorized cable cars will traverse the city, visiting about 60 locations over the course of the day. The holiday season is a joyous time of year but for those who are lonely it can be difficult, and that’s where the carolers come in, bringing smiles and laughter to those who may not have another opportunity.
‘A profound experience’
Few can speak to the impact of Cable Car Caroling better than Ken Donnelly, CEO of the Heritage on the Marina retirement center and a member of the Cable Car Caroling board. Donnelly says Heritage on the Marina has been participating in the event since 2013 and he has no plans to stop.
“It’s a wonderful event, for both carolers and recipients,” he says. “Not only do the carolers feel that they are bringing joy to their older neighbors, but they also see the various environments they live in and the frailties they deal with each day.”
As the CEO of a facility and a caroler himself, Donnelly says it’s a particularly moving day for him, but he says it truly is the older adults who benefit the most.
“They appreciate people from the greater community taking time to come and spread good cheer,” he says. “I think the carolers’ singing oftentimes reminds them of a happy time for them.”
Uplifting holiday atmosphere
“We see more than 1,000 seniors in a day,” says Tamara Cameron, IOA’s Events Manager. “For a lot of them, this is the only holiday celebration they get. It’s really special to do that for someone you know isn’t going to have anything else.”
Cameron says the participants represent every segment of the community.
“We have a ton of families, we have a group of Brownies who come out,” she says. “We have a woman who does this as her holiday celebration every year, then she and her friends meet at her home for dinner afterward. Everybody is represented. Some of our IOA employees come out, too!”
Cameron says the joyous atmosphere on the day of the event is infectious.
“The holiday spirit it creates is my favorite thing about Cable Car Caroling,” she says. “People show up in their holiday clothes, they are so excited to be there – it’s just a very uplifting day.”
The older adults at the facilities are always touched by it, as well.
“It’s a win-win because it is such a gift on both ends,” Cameron says. “It’s a gift for them to have us sing to them and it’s a gift for us to get the opportunity.”
Festive fun for a good cause
Imagine a world where you are alone – isolated and vulnerable; feeling hopeless, invisible, worthless, and unloved. For too many seniors and adults living with disabilities, this is a reality. Isolation and loneliness plague too many and it is extremely detrimental not just to the quality of life but overall health. Research shows that lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Holt-Lunstad, 2015).
Friendship Line provides a literal lifeline to these isolated individuals. Friendship Line, founded in 1973 by Dr. Patrick Arbore, Director of IOA’s Center for Elderly Suicide Prevention, makes and receives almost 150,000 calls per year to reach out to those feeling alone. By providing a warm voice to speak to and a person to connect with, this service provides an ally, a friend, and most importantly a human connection. The calls made at Friendship Line fill these secluded individuals with hope, purpose, and meaning. After the calls, they feel seen and heard – acknowledged in a way they haven’t for a very long time. It restores a light within that had dwindled. At its core, Friendship Line provides the human connections that bind us to life.
Last year, Cable Car Caroling raised more than $100,000 for this vital service.
A family tradition since day one
One of the most enthusiastic supporters of Cable Car Caroling is Zak Arbore, Patrick’s son, who has participated every year since the very beginning. Now in his second year as co-chair of the event alongside his wife, Renee Russo, Arbore says he can still remember the inaugural year.
“I was 4 or 5 years old when it started,” he says. “My early memories are of the smells, sights and sounds of the places we visited. The cable cars were so fun. Some of the cars used to have a bell in the back and I remember ringing them a lot.
As he’s grown older, so has his appreciation for Cable Car Caroling, both the event itself and what it means for the Friendship Line his father started. The sense of community the event creates, he says, is why he keeps coming back.
“When all the carolers come back together and share a meal together, there is an incredible sense of accomplishment,” he says.
To be sure, Arbore says, Cable Car Caroling is a family affair.
“My Dad started the Friendship Line and I have grown up in and around his work,” Arbore says. “My mom has always been a part of it, too; she is usually our song leader on our car. And now my wife and a lot of her family are staunch cable car carolers.”
How to take part
Cameron says the event always sells out, so if you want to carol, you should sign up as soon as possible. Those who can’t or don’t wish to participate can also donate online at give.ioaging.org/ccc. You can also sign up to take the Cable Car Challenge, wherein every $200 you raise earns you a ticket to the event (with a minimum donation of $200).
Anyone on the fence about caroling, Arbore says, should go for it.
“The holiday spirit has never been as tangible as when you are participating in Cable Car Caroling,” he says. “You are riding a motorized cable car through a world class city, you are vising elderly people who do not get many visitors ever and you are the star of the show. You can throw your voice into the group’s song and wait to see those elders’ eyes light up with joy and hope for the future.”
2030 seems like the distant future, but it is only 12 years from the writing of this article—just as close in time as 2006. That year is going to mark a milestone in US demographics: for the first time, people 65 and older will outnumber those 18 and younger. Indeed, 1 out of every 5 Americans will be at or past retirement age.
Those numbers, from the US Census Bureau, are fairly staggering, and represent some fairly enormous social changes over the last few generations. Better medical care, improved awareness of what is and is not healthy, and declining birth rates mean that America is aging (though slower than Europe or parts of Asia).
By 2035, there will be 78 million people 65 and over
By 2060, that number will jump to 98 million
By 2060, people 65 and older will make up 24% of the population
None of this is bad, of course. For one thing, it means people are living longer and have more time to explore and learn and live their lives to the fullest. And this isn’t the demographic disaster or the “end of America” more hysterical media types like to imagine it is; the rate of immigration will keep the US population growing at replacement rates, with the happy outcome of making this country much more diverse.
That being said, of course, an aging population brings with it its own set of social and economic challenges. One will be social benefits, like paying for Medicare and Social Security. That’s a political issue, of course; there is more than enough money in the GDP to handle this. But a larger problem looms in the medical and health care needs of an aging population.
This happy explosion in the older adult population means that there is a growing need for doctors, nurses, and professional caregivers, especially in home-based care. Indeed, it is one of the most important areas of economic growth.
The population is changing. But what isn’t changing is the need for committed, compassionate, and professional care that helps older adults live their best lives. Understanding that market can help younger people find jobs that will be challenging, interesting, fulfilling, and filled with love.
“The Future of Employment”
It’s not just us saying this. Writing at Quartz, Dan Kopf calls jobs involving personal care of older adults the “future of employment.” Indeed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as he points out, says that this will be the fastest area of employment growth from 2016-2026 (and, one can surmise, beyond that, but the latest numbers are through these years).
To back that up, Kopf gave some more impressive numbers. Over the next decade:
Personal care jobs will grow by 750,000
Home health aides will grow by 425,000
These jobs will grow from 2.3 to 3.4 million jobs overall
These jobs will grow 37% and 37%, respectively, the 3rd and 4th fastest growing jobs in the US
(Even those last percentages are misleading, since the 1st and 2nd place jobs will only add 17,000 workers.)
So it is pretty clear that the aging population is going to have a direct impact on what work will be like in the future.
This work isn’t all uniform, of course. There are many different jobs, including working at hospitals and at nursing care facilities. But more and more, the bulk of jobs is moving toward senior home health care as the result of cultural and sociological shifts.
Senior Home Health Care Leads the Way
In the last few decades, we’ve seen a cultural move toward aging in place. While many nursing care facilities are amazing places staffed with wonderful, dedicated people who work hard to build a true community, more and more people want to stay in their homes or with a loved one in place of starting over.
That’s not easy, of course. While there are programs to help, such as home-delivered meals for older adults in California, it can be challenging to age in place. It can be hard to care for yourself, and it can be hard to care for a loved one, especially if you have a full-time job and family of your own.
That’s where a caregiver comes in. Whether you have a full-time caregiver who might specialize in your specific health needs or a part-time one who can come in and handle things like medicine or bandages or basic chores like cooking, caregivers are an enormous help. They are companions and nurses, friends and chefs, someone to talk to and someone to laugh with and someone to lean on. They are people who help older adults age in place, with the comfort and dignity they deserve.
There are reasons for this. For one, not everyone knows that this is a growing industry. And there are some unfair structural reasons. For one thing, the average pay is low, often under $15 an hour depending on the state. Few jobs come with benefits, and few have consistent hours. That makes people reluctant to take a job.
But that could change. Indeed, the shortage of workers, combined with the growing need, will demand that changes. When labor becomes necessary, wages and benefits go up. It seems almost inevitable.
That’s why we think that not only is this job growing in importance, but as more people realize its importance and the shortage of workers become more apparent, this is a position that will be able to provide a stable and steady income for anyone with the dedication and the heart to take it.
Aging at Home in the Bay Area
The need for senior home health care jobs is of particular importance to us here in the Bay Area. In fact, San Francisco and nearby Sacramento are both in the top 10 for employment growth in in-home senior care (#1 is Nashville, and there are probably some good country songs to be written about that).
This region has been leading the way for cultural changes in how we age. At Institute on Aging, we fully believe that growing older doesn’t mean life is over, or that you have to settle down and stop exploring. We know that you are still you, at any age, and have the same rights and expectations for a decent life as any age group.
To do so, though, there is a need for home health care. That need is growing, and the profession is changing and getting the esteem and respect it has always deserved. Ideally, wages and other benefits will grow accordingly.
That’s not just a matter of basic economics. It’s not just supply and demand. It comes from recognizing what is important as the nation changes and recognizing what we need to make it happen. That’s why senior home health care jobs are the fastest growing in the country: we’re catching up to what makes life truly important.
Many people look forward to retirement for years. But when the time comes, they trade their old sources of stress for new ones. This is particularly true when it comes to finances. Stress itself can lead to significant declines in a senior’s emotional and physical health and even accelerate the aging process. And, of course, your elderly parents’ financial stress can affect you as well. Whether some of the financial burden falls on your shoulders or not, it can be very unsettling to face compounding bills and other expenses without knowing how you will manage together.
The good news is that there are more helpful financial resources for seniors than you might expect. In California, there are programs to help aging adults and their families with many necessary living expenses, from family caregiver support to home utility relief. If you’re looking for financial assistance for your elderly parents, this is a good place to start. With a combination of federal and California state benefit programs, you can help them to rebuild some stability and to refocus on their special freedom in the later years. In a lot of cases, even a little bit of financial help for seniors goes a long way.
What Financial Assistance Is Available for Your Elderly Parents?
When your parents are retired and on a fixed income, they may find that they have a lot less flexibility than they are used to. The spending habits that supported their previous lifestyle may become impractical or even impossible. In some cases, low-income seniors may struggle just to cover their basic necessities of life.
This is why California has a number of programs that offer financial assistance for the elderly, including:
Health Care and Prescription Drugs
Medicare is a common benefit that can help cover the costs of many of your parents’ health care needs. Depending on their income level, they may be eligible for Medi-Cal benefits, which make medical costs even more affordable. Among the benefits, these programs offer prescription drug discounts and assistance for home care services. You can visit the Social Security Administration website for more information about eligibility and benefits.
State Property Tax
Based on age and income, your parents could be eligible for property tax assistance in California. This can be a relief when facing the whole range of bills and daily expenses on a fixed income. Contact your county assessor to find out more and to access application forms.
Many seniors struggle to feed themselves, let alone to feed themselves healthy, balanced meals. If your elderly parents are subsisting on a low income, they may be eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through CalFresh. If eligible, they’ll receive funds through a debit card system that they can apply toward their regular groceries. Find out how you can get started applying for nutrition assistance here.
Social Security assistance is based on an individual’s work history and whether they paid into Social Security in the past. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is an additional benefit for senior citizens who currently meet the low-income threshold, helping recipients further relieve financial stress. Click here to calculate your parents’ estimated Social Security benefits, and learn more about SSI benefits here.
Overcoming the Barriers to Financial Help and Stability for Seniors
With the range of programs and opportunities for relief available, it’s unfortunate that many aging adults do not realize the benefits of these resources. Common reasons seniors do not participate in federal and state assistance programs include:
They don’t know what’s available or what they qualify for.
The benefits and services are difficult to access.
The application processes are too complicated.
But, with your help, your elderly parents can overcome these barriers and create their own personalized financial strategy for the years to come. If new expenses arise that appear to be unmanageable, you’ll know that you can reach out to see if financial assistance is available.
Whether your parents are living on a limited income to begin with or the expenses simply pile up and outweigh the resources of retired living, the financial assistance in California is designed to help fill in these holes. With the right money management strategies and diversified, purposeful income sources, your elderly parents can move into their later years with confidence and freedom.
These empowered strategies will lighten your parents’ load and yours too. When your parents have meaningful tools and resources, you can feel more assured of their independence and security, and the time you spend together can be more about enjoying each other’s company than about financial worries and problem-solving.
There’s a well-known phrase, attributed to Ben Franklin (but in reality a little older), which is that the only certain things in life are death and taxes. It’s not a fun phrase, but there’s a certain shoulder-shrugging wryness to it because there are some things in life one has to accept.
But even if you accept them both, it might be hard for you to wrap your head around the idea that death and taxes aren’t always separate and that you still have to understand tax implications for your estate after you pass away.
That’s why estate planning is so important for older adults. You want to be able to control your legacy and make sure that the money you’ve earned and the property or possessions you want to leave go to the right people in the right amount.
Of course, taxes are just one thing you have to prepare for when it comes to estate planning: there are a host of other issues that you need to take into account. Not doing so can make it challenging for your family after you pass away, but following these estate planning tips for older adults means you will make things easier on those who are left.
In fact, you could say that’s another certainty.
Estate Planning Tips For Older Adults
When you start thinking about your estate, there are some logistical and emotional hurdles to overcome. Here’s how you get moving:
Talk to the People In Your Life
Ultimately, the decision on what to do with your money is up to you, but you can also talk to your children and other loved ones about your estate. This doesn’t mean soliciting their opinions or asking for advice, but it can be good to say why you are making the decisions you are making. You can clear the air so there aren’t disputes after you pass away. You don’t want to be worrying about that.
Understand What Kind of Estate Planning Is Right For You
It’s no secret that there are vast amounts of inequality in the world, and especially in America. There will be different levels of red tape and different requirements for different levels of wealth. For instance, only about .2% of people pay the federal estate tax (or roughly one out of every 500). But if estate tax applies to you, you should understand how to make sure your money is taken care of.
It’s important to know all the tax and legal obligations that come with your level of assets. Ask yourself questions like, “What options do I have to help my loved ones avoid probate?” and, “What are the implications of continual non-wage wealth after death?” Making sure you know all your obligations is the best way to meet them.
Plan for Long-Term Care
The good news is that people are living longer than ever these days. The bad news is that money doesn’t enjoy that same extended longevity. Money can be spent and run out before you pass away, even when you still have medical bills and the costs of living in a facility or aging in place.
When estate planning, make sure that you have taken into account the need for long-term health and habitation needs, not to mention entertainment or travel expenses. You don’t want money locked away somewhere where you can’t access if you need it. Think realistically and actuarially.
Create a Living Trust
One way to protect your assets while leaving them accessible is by creating a living trust, which you can dip into when you need. When you pass away, your assets still go to your designated heirs, but you yourself won’t be caught in a bind. A trust also designates someone to manage your affairs for you if you are incapacitated. Make sure that you have designated someone as executor to ensure your wishes are followed.
There is no question that this stuff is hard. It can be extremely challenging to keep in mind all the rules and regulations and to have a firm grasp on all your assets and the best ways to protect and distribute them. Getting a reputable financial planner can make a world of difference.
The benefit of having a professional financial planner is that, well, they are professional. They’ll work with you to understand what you want and what you need in your later years. They will make offer you advice based on what they think is best for you and your needs. It’s compassion and professionalism.
Keep Your Documents Safe and Accessible
It seems anachronistic in the electronic age that you might need to rely on actual physical documents, but you often do. Wills, living trusts, living wills, medical care information—all of that relies on an actual signature. If these documents are destroyed in a fire or earthquake, or you pass away without telling anyone where they are, or you can no longer remember, it can be a real hassle.
So keep them safe, make sure you can grab them if you need to, and tell your designated executor where they are. It’s not just bookkeeping; it is truly safekeeping for your future.
Review and Revise
These aren’t set in stone. Your situation may change, your ideas of what you want to do with your money may change, the world itself may change. You aren’t bound to your first thoughts, especially if you are materially depriving yourself of financial flexibility (which again strengthens the need to have a revocable trust).
Make sure that you revise in the aftermath of divorces, weddings, deaths, or births. Make sure your wishes reflect the nearest current reality. After all, the point is to pass on what you have to those you love with ease and grace and without conflict.
Avoiding Conflict In Your Estate
Having your estate and financial affairs settled means being able to give of yourself, but it is also a gift to yourself: you’re giving yourself peace of mind. You’re able to know that what you have will live on after you while allowing you to live in comfort in the present.
Making sure that you have an estate plan means being able to live your life. It means that you don’t have to worry about a sudden disaster or slow sickness harm your family. It means that you are continuing to show love and take care of those you have loved and cared for all your life. Your love has always been the true certainty in life: make sure it keeps on living.
Think about San Francisco, and what do you imagine? If you live here, you probably think of the street you live on, your favorite neighborhoods, the traffic, or the buildings. That’s normal; we live in the human environment. But we also live in the natural environment, even if it doesn’t always seem that way.
But like everywhere else, San Francisco exists as an overlapped natural world. And when you start to think of it that way, the city is dwarfed. There are vast green spaces where the noise and the bustle fade away. There are parks where wild animals flit about unconcerned with man. And there is the crashing majesty of the ocean, this powerful force teeming with life which will be here long after our time has passed.
And, by volunteering, you can be a part of it all.
San Francisco and the Bay Area are full of opportunities for older adults to volunteer, at all levels of activity. Why would you want to volunteer outdoors? A few reasons:
Contributing to a better environment
Learning more about nature
Learning more about your city
Educating people about all of the above
Helping yourself and others become better stewards of the planet
Outdoor volunteering in San Francisco is a great way to explore the intersection of nature and humans and to be a part of it. For older adults, there aren’t many better ways to get out, get active, and get stuff done.
An increase in routine, which is important for mental health
Socialization with peers and with others
A sense of purpose, especially after retirement
Physical and mental activity
All of these are true for outdoor volunteering and in many cases, even more so. We love the outdoors, which is why we encourage San Francisco summer festivals and other summer activities for older adults. There’s something about fresh air, the ocean breeze, and the sunshine (in moderation and with caution) that makes people feel more alive.
Volunteering is being a part of something. So here are some areas to which you could donate your time.
Outdoor Volunteering Opportunities for San Francisco Older Adults
Not every one of these places might be your cup of tea, but hopefully, there are one or two that inspire or excite you. They could all use volunteers.
The Presidio National Park is one of the area’s crown jewels: a sprawling mix of nature and history, overlooking the Bay. From the vast grounds to Fort Winfield Scott, it draws people interested in both history and natural beauty. As such, there are a lot of volunteer opportunities, including:
Special Event Volunteer
You’ll be sure to find a position that works for you.
We know this is technically still the Presidio, but wanted to especially point out that you can volunteer to help the archeologists who learn more every day about the history of the region. Help find, wash, sort, label, and otherwise assist archeologists who are finding new things out about the American, Spanish, and Native history of the region. We think you’ll really dig it!
The name sort of gives it away here, but mere words can’t describe what it is like to aid the National Park Conservancy in identifying and tallying 19 species of birds of prey. You can find these majestic and powerful birds and help contribute to their long-term survival.
Full training is provided starting in July each year, with the peak season in the warm months of September and October. Some of the areas might be challenging for less mobile older adults, but others will find it deeply rewarding.
It’s hard to get more deeply involved in protecting the ocean’s wildlife than this. The Marine Mammal Center is dedicated to protecting the beautiful species that have spent their time finding their food, raising families, and sometimes sunning in the sun, long before the age of man, and countless millennia were being threatened by modernization.
At the Mammal Center, you’ll “rescue and rehabilitate sick and injured marine mammals, educate the public about ocean conservation and so much more.” We know you’ll find it worthwhile and fulfilling. It certainly has our seal of approval.
Point Reyes is another one of the natural wonders of the region that can take your breath away every time you see it. As a volunteer, you’ll experience land and the sea differently, interacting with them in ways that the general public never does. It’ll deepen your understanding of the mystery and beauty of where the land meets the water.
And there are almost innumerable opportunities here, from “restor(ing) critical habitat by collecting and planting native grass seed, protecting riparian habitat, and locating, identifying and removing exotic, invasive plants” to “educat(ing) park visitors about tule elk, snowy plovers, elephant seals, and gray whales” to repairing trails and answering questions and monitoring wildlife. You won’t just be volunteering: you’ll be part of the park.
What better way to be part of San Francisco than by volunteering at the great monument of the city, a triumph of engineering and ingenuity buffeted by an enormous park, free and open to the public and filmmakers alike?
As a volunteer, you’ll remove invasive species, repair historical monuments like WWII barracks, monitor and protect wildlife, aid scientists, and assist the public. It’s a great way to learn more about the monument, the park, and the history and wildlife that has formed them.
Of course, there are a lot of state and national parks in the region, both up and down the coast and inland. In volunteering with the Parks Conservancy, there are almost innumerable things you can do.
What’s nice about the Parks Conservancy is that they have special group projects for groups as small as 5 people. It is something you can do with your friends and family, building closer bonds and continuing to give back.
Giving Back While Giving Yourself a Gift
Really, this is what volunteering is all about. You get outside. You get around people. You get away from people, too, planting native species or cleaning a trail or counting hawks, watching them beat against the sky as they circle in the buffeting wind, lonely and powerful, with steel reserve.
Those are sublime moments that will burn as embers in your memory, a tribute to a life well lived. The friends you make, the lives you touch, the people you educate, the bonds you form, and the difference you make: all of these add up to something in life. They add up to you making a difference, in your life and the life of a city, trying to balance its majestic and sprawling weight against nature.
You can be part of that balance. Outdoor volunteering is a great way for older adults to give themselves a gift while giving the gift of themselves.
Camilla and Susan were best friends for more than 40 years, ever since their kids were in school together. Both widowed in the last decade, they grew even closer to each other. Camilla even moved into Susan’s apartment building in the Mission Terrace area of San Francisco so they could spend every day together.
But a year ago, Camilla had a stroke and passed away a few days later. It felt for Susan as if she was losing another lifetime partner. She had come to depend on Camilla’s company, her advice, and her more outgoing personality that helped to keep them both active among their community of friends. Susan found herself becoming more isolated than she had been in a long time, but she didn’t know what to do without Camilla by her side.
Then one day, she got a call from a friend who had recently moved back into the city after living with her son’s family for a few years in the South Bay Area. She invited Susan to join her for a movie night at the senior center nearby. Susan agreed to go, and that evening woke her up again for the first time in a year to the possibilities: she could make plans to look forward to throughout the week, she could meet new people who also live nearby, and she could have somewhere to go to ask for help when she’s living alone and stumbling over certain challenges.
Do an online search to find senior citizen centers near me
Call a local senior organization for help and advice
Some Surprising Benefits of a Local Senior Center
Senior centers offer a wide variety of events and activities that promote physical, mental, and emotional stimulation to keep aging adults active and connected. But you may be surprised by how far the list of offerings and opportunities really extends. Many centers for senior citizens offer classes for fitness, games, artistic expression, and other kinds of enrichment—as well as classes in computers, managing personal finances, healthy cooking, and even foreign languages. You’ll likely find a senior center near you that offers support groups for grief and loss so you can process your thoughts and feelings with others who understand what you might be going through.
How to Find a Senior Citizen Center Near Me
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you probably have one or more senior centers close by. And it won’t be too difficult to discover them and to get involved. Here are a couple of different approaches to seeking a senior citizen center near you: by searching the Internet or by making a call for targeted help and advice.
Do an Online Search to Find a Nearby Senior Center
The quickest way to find a senior center near you is to do an Internet search. In the search bar of Google or another search engine, type in “senior center” followed by your home zip code, and hit the button on your screen or Enter on your keyboard to process your search. The search engine will give you a list of centers for senior citizens that are near your zip code. You may have an option of looking over these options in a list view or on a map that helps you understand exactly where they are in relation to your home.
When you see a center that interests you and you want to find out more, click on the name of the center to be directed to an information page or to its website. You can likely find a lot of details about the senior center before you even visit because the website probably has a schedule of events and classes posted, a list of other services, and instructions about how to get involved.
Call a Local Senior Organization for Help and Advice
Another way you can find a senior center near you is by calling an organization that is committed to helping older adults all throughout the SF Bay Area live and thrive independently. This can be a great option if you aren’t as comfortable using a computer or if you’d rather connect with an understanding person right away who can listen to what you hope to find from a senior center and steer you in the right direction.
Institute on Aging is an organization based in the San Francisco area that offers reliable home care assistance, comprehensive health and behavioral care, and an adult day program, among other services and assistance programs. We are familiar with the many senior citizen centers throughout the Bay Area and have partnered with some of them to bring life-changing services to aging adults in our communities. Give us a call at (415) 750-4111 and we can help you find a center nearby that offers the kind of programs and assistance you’re looking for.
At Institute on Aging, the Social Day Program integrates many of the great benefits, activities, and services of a senior center, alongside transportation to and from the center, assistance with personal care, and nutritional meals. It is a vibrant community of older adults who benefit from socialization and energizing activities. The program helps to offer a routine for seniors who are in transition and still seeking a sense of purpose in their later years.
If you have been feeling lonely or bored or in need of help that you can’t find elsewhere, a local senior center may be able to offer you everything you’re searching for and more. Attending a senior citizen center can be a great way to connect with not only people, but also services and resources that can improve and enrich your quality of life.
When you moved out of the family home and set off on your own, your mother likely went through a mix of worry and excitement for you. Your challenges were new, and you were bound to make some mistakes on your way to figuring out adulthood. Now that she’s living alone and facing the challenges of later life, you’re likely going through your own worries, especially if you’re unable to act as a regular caregiver to support her independence.
It’s critical that your mother is safe and supported while aging in place. But that alone isn’t enough; she also needs heart-warming company, energizing activity, and chances to achieve her goals during this unique time of life. So, how can you find the best of the resources the SF Bay Area has to offer for your elderly mother living alone? How can you find solutions to your worries and turn your attention to the excitement for what’s to come as your mom faces a new life phase full of possibilities?
The Value of Older Adults Aging in Place
The primary benefit of aging in place is a very personal and emotional one for the many seniors who choose to remain in their homes for as long as possible: here, they can maintain their independence. Your parent can continue to make choices and feel in control of her days and the broader arc of her life. This enduring independence doesn’t necessarily mean she does everything on her own without help, but it does mean that she can continue to live the life she has worked hard to create for herself. She will likely be going through many changes into the later years of her life, and aging in place means one less transition as she remains surrounded by what is familiar and full of memories.
Beyond the advantages of independence, a senior who ages in place can also stay connected with the San Francisco area community she has long known, leaned on, and given back to. Remaining at home may also be the best financial option for your mother, even if she does require occasional in-home assistance; residential care facilities can be prohibitively expensive and go beyond what your aging parent actually needs.
Finding the Best Bay Area Resources for Your Elderly Mother Living Alone
Next to the benefits of seniors being able to live and age independently, there are real physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual risks possible when an older adult lives in isolation. But it is possible for your mother to live alone without being unsupported or lonely. In San Francisco and around the Bay Area, there are myriad resources developed expressly for aging adults. And there are valuable connections and support systems throughout our Bay Area communities that can offer your mother well-rounded assistance and enrichment in the following ways:
Home safety and security mean that your mother’s home is protected from the outside, but it also means that she is safe navigating the environment inside. You can look into virtual security systems that warn of any intrusion. You can also consider IoT sensors if she is at risk of falls or would benefit from frequent monitoring of vital signs and home environment conditions. But, first, it’s a good idea to schedule a home safety evaluation so you can get expert advice on ways to improve your mother’s home landscape to minimize hazards and maximize accessibility.
Grocery and meal assistance can go a long way if it is challenging for your mother to make it to the store and manage a load of groceries on her own or if she has limitations that interfere with food prep. There are a number of easy options for scheduling grocery deliveries in San Francisco and around the Bay Area, and many of these options include fresh local products. You can work together at first to explore the online marketplaces, and then once she’s comfortable, it may be one more task she’ll be able to complete herself. She can also benefit from meal delivery services, which can be a particular advantage if food prep and adequate nutrition are challenging and for low-income seniors.
Medical care and assistance are available for your aging mother right at home for both primary and specialty care needs. An organization like Institute on Aging can offer all-inclusive health care services for seniors and help make healthy aging in place feasible and convenient. IOA provides these integrated programs to seniors throughout the SF Bay Area.
Access to help and support when needed is critical if your elderly mother is living alone. If she already has a strong support system in her neighborhood community, then aging in place is actually an important tenet to her independent well-being. However, it’s a good idea to proactively scope out additional support systems, especially as she may need progressive and specialized attention as time goes on. Similar to the inclusive health care services, there are home care specialists who can visit your mother’s home and design a care plan that fits her needs exactly. Offering everything from transportation to meal prep to overnight care and friendly companionship, these services can evolve with your parent and leave space for the valuable opportunities for independence in between.
Social and emotional fulfillment is just as important to the logistical and safety concerns to ensure that your mother has the best quality of life possible. If she is still very independent throughout the day or if she already has a caregiver to assist and accompany her, there are exciting and accessible ways to make friends in San Francisco through organized social groups, local senior centers, and group fitness classes throughout the Bay Area. Another great way for your mother to make close and fulfilling connections is through a Social Day Program like the one at Institute on Aging. The priority is to foster socialization and personal enrichment, but it can also provide reliable support for seniors who need assistance, including with personal care, transportation, and meals and nutrition.
There is every reason your mother can live and thrive at home—once you help her get connected with the supportive and compassionate resources available right here in the Bay Area. Of course, technology also offers incredible tools and resources to help seniors adjust to independent living even as their needs change with age. But human connections will always be critically important. With a collection of local resources, you can help your mom to stay healthy, active, and in touch with new discoveries to keep her smiling and growing even into her later years.
The future of aging is about more grace, more opportunities, and greater happiness. In Los Altos, this future is possible now when we apply the best care and resources to support our aging loved ones. In the Bay Area, we are lucky to have innovative opportunities extend to our seniors who can use creative solutions to the new challenges they face with age. There are tech advances and tools designed for seniors to live more comfortably and actively. There are progressive services for older adults’ mental health and elder abuse prevention. And there is compassionate, convenient senior home care in Los Altos that not only supports older adults in all the areas where they need assistance at home, but also empowers them to be as independent as possible as they age in place.
What Can You Expect from Local In-Home Care Assistance?
The beauty of Los Altos’s senior home care services, especially those offered by Institute on Aging, is that they can adapt to suit each family’s and each individual’s needs. Whereas one person may simply need help with meal prep and cooking or financial management support, another person may need round-the-clock assistance and companionship. A care manager can assess an individual’s living situation, daily routines, and overall needs and design an individualized care plan with just the right services and resources.
You might be surprised at the diversity of support available through in-home care for older adults. Institute on Aging has developed the following programs and services that are available for older adults in Los Altos and around the San Francisco Bay Area:
Personal care. For seniors, even a little bit of in-home assistance with everyday activities can go a long way toward supporting their regular lifestyle. Receiving help with personal care not only helps older adults stay healthy, it also means they have more energy left to enjoy the brightest parts of their days.
Companionship. Of course, a very important part of health and happiness throughout our lives is companionship. Kind and reliable home care assistants can become an integral part of the home and family, especially as they develop a friendship with your aging loved one and discover favorite activities over which they can bond.
Live-in and 24-hour assistance. Some aging individuals will need more intensive or constant care, and an in-home care assistant is the perfect solution. By working closely with your aging loved one, they will be able to respond expertly, compassionately, and quickly round the clock.
Integrated health care. Many older adults have complex health needs that require multiple physicians and specialists. To keep things manageable, it helps immensely to have many of these doctors and resources in one place. That is the revolutionary model of the On Lok Lifeways PACE Center (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) at IOA. Participants can visit the center or receive in-home benefits that include medical and specialty care, social services, prescription services, nutritional services, as well as other therapies and individualized care.
Behavioral services. A wide range of mental health services are available for seniors and these opportunities can significantly improve quality of life. For many, it is possible to receive behavioral care and services in the home, removing some of the practical and emotional barriers to getting help.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s care. Aging adults with Alzheimer’s or dementia may need special attention and unique kinds of care to meet their needs. Professional in-home caregivers are both knowledgeable and gentle, so your loved one will feel safe and supported by a familiar companion. They may also benefit from specific behavioral health care, such as reminiscence therapy to improve their mood as they reconnect with past memories that are still familiar.
Care for adults living with disabilities. Individualized care plans will include consideration for any disabilities your aging loved one experiences, from mobility challenges to sensory limitations.
Home safety evaluations. For a senior’s overall safety and optimal independence, staff can help by conducting a home safety evaluation to look for any hazards and recommend home updates that can enhance your loved one’s quality of life.
Light housekeeping. A home care assistant can assist with basic housekeeping needs and help maintain an orderly home environment for your loved one aging in place.
Meal planning and prep. As basic as it may be, help with meals can make an enormous difference for busy families and aging adults who struggle to manage these tasks on their own. A professional caregiver can provide assistance in the kitchen with an eye on your loved one’s best health and nutritional needs.
Transportation. It’s also possible for seniors to receive transportation services through their home care program. This can include assistance and companionship while your loved one runs errands and attends appointments and other activities.
Reliable home care assistance comes from a staff of visiting home health aides, nurses, nutritionists, physical and occupational therapists, and other clinical practitioners. While it may be an unfamiliar transition to start, in no time your aging loved one will experience the support of compassionate assistants and begin to feel healthier and more secure living and aging at home.
How Can Home Care Enhance the Lives of Older Adults in Los Altos?
As we age, it can be challenging to accept and embrace the lifestyle changes, role reversals, and loss of independence that so often emerge in our later years. But we can creatively support seniors in ways that optimize their independence while giving them meaningful support. This is one of the primary goals of a home care assistant: to enable and empower an aging adult to live with agency and dignity, even if they require constant care.
When your loved one connects with the help they need, you can also spend less time caretaking and more time making the most of your time together, whether it’s getting some exercise with a walk a Los Altos park or visiting the Los Altos Senior Center for music classes, book groups, and special community events. With basic needs taken care of, we can turn our attention to helping aging adults renew and embrace their purpose during this special phase of life.
San Francisco is a town of endless reinvention, from a muddy piratical outpost to a Gold Rush boomtown to a shipping epicenter to a wrecked and burnt-out husk to a phoenix reborn. It’s been a counterculture haven and the beating heart of a new tech and capitalist revolution.
But reinvention doesn’t mean ignoring its past. San Francisco is layered, each era impacted by the ones that came before it and affecting the next. The past is still alive, here. The counterculture still dances and the Gold Rush still attracts and pirates still reach scabrously from the muddy bay…
You know all this already because no matter what else, San Francisco is home.
If you’re an older adult living here, you’ve been witness to some of San Francisco’s transformations, and you know the way the city has changed. You probably have a good working knowledge of some of San Francisco’s history. But no one can know everything.
That’s why we encourage you to take a historical walking tour of San Francisco. These can shed more light on parts of the city you thought you knew, and illuminate times and places you had no idea existed.
Walking is great exercise for older adults, and if you can do it, this summer and fall is a great time for it. You can work out your body and your mind, and see beneath the top layer of the city you call home. You’ll love what you discover underneath.
8 Great Historical Tours of San Francisco
To be honest, there are more great historical tours in San Francisco and the Bay Area then we can really keep track of. This is just a small sample to get you going, and hopefully, we have a little something for everyone.
San Francisco was one of the leading cities in the long struggle for LGBTQ civil rights. It was a place where people could be themselves, and be free to love whom they wanted. It wasn’t always easy, as the killing of Harvey Milk and the horrors of the AIDS crisis showed, but the community thrived in its strength and togetherness and changed the city and the world.
This guided tour takes you all around the world famous Castro District, the heart of San Francisco’s LGBTQ history, showing you places like Milk’s home and offering a moving visit to the original AIDS quilt. It is solemn and joyful, a celebration of love, sadness, and courage. And it’s fun. It’s important. It’s a vital part of America.
Joshua Norton was a British citizen and vagabond who came to San Francisco in the 1840s. In 1859, tired of politics as usual, he declared himself Emperor Norton I, Ruler of America and later, Protector of Mexico. While neither of these proclamations exactly took, he became a local celebrity, and continued to make declarations befitting an emperor. He was treated with amused deference in the city, not being mocked, but accepted as one of San Francisco’s great characters.
And you can get a tour of history with him, as a Norton I impersonator takes your group on a rollicking time-travel tour of the city, the Barbary Coast, the earthquake regions, and more. You’ll hear about Norton himself as well as other characters who have added so much flavor to San Francisco. Who, really, have given it life.
Chinatown Walking Tour
Price: $35 (does not include optional lunch)
Duration: Around 2 hours
Location: St. Mary’s Cathedral
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to learn that San Francisco has always attracted immigrants from the west as well as the east. Many people from China moved here throughout the centuries (including, of course, before California was a state or a part of the United States). They aren’t separate from mainstream San Francisco history; they are a vital part of it.
That’s why a tour of Chinatown is important. It isn’t a tourist area; it’s a living, breathing section of the city, rich in history, filled with character and characters, and a hugely important contributor to San Francisco and the region. On this tour, you’ll see stores you may have missed, eat food you may not have tried, and see the splendor and quiet beauty of a temple.
Computer History Museum
Time: Open Tuesday-Sunday, 12-5pm
Location: Mountain View, CA
This is the only non-walking tour, although all museums are sort of walking tours. But it’s ok that this one is idiosyncratic: the whole museum is. It’s a tribute to self-proclaimed geekery, to tech wizardry, and to the combination of rigorous science and incredible information that transformed Silicon Valley and altered the world.
Of all of the regions transformations, this one might have been the most dramatic, and the Computer History Museum captures all of that with equal parts reverence and irreverence. You can see how determined women and men had the vision to create a new technology, and the world they bequeathed us.
Bullit. Vertigo. Dirty Harry. 48 Hours. The Maltese Falcon. The Conversation. San Francisco is one of the most famously cinematic cities in the world. Often, we really only think of films from the 50s to the 70s. But from the earliest days of cinema, filmmakers recognized the potential of the fog and the hills, the bustling city juxtaposed against the ferocious bay, and wanted part of it.
This free tour from San Francisco City Guides shows you the alleys and buildings in which some of the most famous silent films of all time were shot. You’ll walk in the footsteps of Chaplin, Pickford, Chaney, and Valentino and see where Fatty Arbuckle created the first modern media scandal. It’s a salacious and enlightening tour and not to be missed.
1850’s San Francisco
Price: Free (donations welcome)
Duration: 2 hours
Time: Sporadically throughout the year (see calendar)
Location: Transatlantic Building
We don’t often think of San Francisco in the 1850s, but that was the time of its first real boom, in the echoes of the Gold Rush. It was a time when people from around the world flocked to make their fortune. Some did; most did not. Those who did created the city we know today.
Like so much else of the world in that time, there was a decided French influence, and the architecture and culture of San Francisco’s first great boom took on a decidedly Parisian air. This free tour shows you how this made the city and still influences it. This is one of the first layers built up after the depredations of the Gold Rush turned native villages to muck and grime, and it is surprisingly elegant and continues to impact San Francisco today.
Price: Free (donations welcome)
Duration: 1 hour
Time: Sporadically throughout the year (see calendar)
Location: Mermaid Fountain
Fisherman’s Wharf is another one of those places that seem sanctified by tourism and bleached by ubiquity, but it isn’t, really. It’s an active market, bringing in fresh seafood that goes out around the country, but especially makes its home in San Francisco’s restaurants, from the hottest haute cuisine to the greasiest spoon. This tour shows you behind the scenes.
What’s more, The wharf area has long been a slithering and scaly place, from the earliest days when this was a fishing village, and a coastal haven, before it turned to finance and computers. The tour will remind you that the stubborn reality of San Francisco is that it is a port town, tied to the ocean, and beholden to the bounty of the sea.
Also, the fish are absolutely delicious.
1906 Earthquake Tour
Price: Free (donations welcome)
Duration: One hour
Time: Sporadically throughout the year (see calendar)
Location: 525 Market Street
One of the most important events in San Francisco’s history is the 1906 earthquake that shattered the city and ravaged it with fire. San Francisco was not yet old. It was a new city, barely removed from the death of Emperor Norton, and still acclimating to the end of the frontier. And then it was burned rubble.
But that didn’t matter. It rebuilt and became stronger. It didn’t forget what was under its feet and instituted more and more stringent earthquake protections. This tour is a reminder that earthquake preparedness for older adults is crucial, but also a reminder of the indomitable and renewing spirit of this great city.
You and Historic San Francisco: Always Changing but Still The Same
In a lot of ways, a city is like a person. Many people might only see one facet, whether that is Silicon Valley or the LGBTQ community, just like people might say you’re just like your mom or reduce you to your profession. But we all know neither of those is true. A person, like a city, is a collection of everything that has ever happened to them, building and growing on itself, and facing the next day with the weight and blessing of accumulated experience.
Because a city, like a person, can age and change but still remain the same, with the same beating heart and the same indomitable spirit. No matter how you see yourself in the mirror or how many skyscrapers have risen where ramshackle gambling dens and fancy Parisian mansions once stood, it’s still the same.
So celebrate San Francisco. Celebrate its oft-sordid past and its gleeful present, its booms and busts, its characters and catastrophes, its death and rebirth. In doing so, celebrate yourself. You’ve earned it. You’re here, in this great contradictory sprawling wild city. You’re still you.