Keep Your Lungs Healthy

November 3, 2017 - Paul Downey

This guest post is courtesy of E. Walsh, Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

We want to help seniors in San Diego stay safe and healthy as cold and flu season approaches. Most people don’t think about their lungs until a problem develops, and by age 80 the average person has taken 672,768,000 breaths. All day every day your lungs work hard to keep your blood full of oxygen and your body healthy.

Here are some tips to help you and your lungs stay healthy this flu season:

Get a Flu Shot

It’s easy to underestimate the seriousness of the flu, but it’s also dangerous: 50% of people hospitalized with the flu are over age 65, and virtually all flu-related deaths occur among older individuals. This is unfortunate and preventable with an annual shot of the flu vaccine.

Flu shots are available in many places around San Diego. You can go to your pharmacy, make an appointment with your primary care provider, or visit a health clinic. Best of all, the flu shot is a benefit covered by Medicare, so there is no cost to you. Set up an appointment today and protect yourself against the flu.

Where to get a flu shot in San Diego.

Schedule a Medical Screening

Visiting a healthcare provider can be an anxiety-inducing experience — no one wants to receive bad news. You might also be worried about the cost, but we’re here to help.

Serving Seniors’ team at our Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center can connect you with a caring nurse who can help prepare you for what to expect during your appointment, and who can help you understand any results you receive after an exam. If you need assistance with Medicare or Medi-Cal we can connect you with a healthcare advocate.

We can also help you find low-cost or no-cost access to healthcare — it’s important to get regular access to the care you need to make sure your lungs are working properly. Tell your healthcare professional about any history of illness including asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, lung cancer or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Have a Clean, Safe Place to Live

Many respiratory illnesses start where you’re living. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can watch out for, to stay safe. Beware of what you’re breathing into your body, especially when it comes to dust, mold and asbestos.

Dust comes from a number of sources, including human and animal hair, pollen from plants, soil and other materials. Dust particles can be trapped in furniture, carpets, curtains, bedding and other surfaces. Regular cleaning and vacuuming helps reduce dust. You might also consider an air filter for your home.

Mold is another common hazard. It develops naturally in moist locations such as bathrooms, basements and any place where water collects. In some cases mold can make you very sick, especially if you have asthma or allergies. Regularly check your home and yard for standing water, leaks or drips and signs of mold growth. Fix leaks immediately and ensure that any water in your yard can quickly drain away from your home.

Asbestos is common in construction materials used in older buildings and homes, but is relatively safe when left alone and intact. However, when products containing the mineral are broken or damaged, asbestos fibers can become airborne, causing accidental exposure through inhalation. Over time, this can cause mesothelioma cancer. Asbestos can be found in a number of areas and construction materials, including basements, flooring, and walls. Never begin renovation without first having a professional assess the building materials of your home.

It’s extremely important to have a safe place to live. If you need more information about affordable housing options, please contact us.

Take Action

It can be easy to do nothing, but when it comes to flu prevention, medical screenings and a safe place to live, we can help. Take action and take care of yourself — you’ll gain peace of mind and be glad you did.

Testifying for the Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care

October 27, 2017 - Paul Downey

Our President and CEO, Paul Downey, testified this week at an informational hearing for California’s Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care, emphasizing the importance of affordable senior housing and access to health and support services.

The hearing provided an opportunity for leaders in senior services organizations to share observations and boots-on-the-ground perspectives with state leaders to help them understand the types of programs and services that California seniors need. The session, part of a series of public hearings throughout the state, focused on creating or improving services which help seniors age at home.

In addition to Paul Downey, experts from UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, AARP California, the California Assisted Living Association and other organizations discussed the importance of efficient, accessible services for seniors and the unique service needs of this population. Representatives also shared resources and examples of successful service models and proposed solutions to help elected officials affect change.

A Unique Perspective

Besides being our President and CEO, Paul Downey serves as Chair to the California Commission on Aging. As the state’s principal advocate for older adults, the Commission’s mandate is to ensure healthy, purposeful, dignified longevity for older Californians. The Commission also advises the Legislature and federal, state and local agencies on programs and services that affect older adults. With an impressive list of credentials and many years of experience, Paul is uniquely positioned to provide valuable insight into challenges around aging and services for seniors.

Paul began by sharing that Serving Seniors was the first organization in the country to receive approval to use Section 8 vouchers for transitional housing for homeless individuals. This project-based use of Section 8 vouchers is certainly better than nothing, but we’re still unable to triage homeless seniors’ situations efficiently due to the strict rules and bureaucracy involved in the Section 8 program.

Paul illustrated the challenges and inefficiencies Serving Seniors faces as a result of the lack of housing in San Diego with this example:

“It used to take our team 90 days to help a homeless senior through the transitional housing program and place them into permanent, affordable housing. Now, because of the lack of housing units, seniors might wait up to a year for placement. We have nowhere to put them after they complete the program.”

What Can You Do?

As Serving Seniors approaches our 50th anniversary, we urge San Diego citizens to get involved and support our ever-growing senior population. If the youth of today is our future, seniors are our legacy. Encourage your City Councilmember to make affordable housing a priority today:

10 Quick Facts About Housing in San Diego:

  1. Current vacancy rate in San Diego: 2.73%
  2. Average cost of a studio in San Diego: $1,529/month
  3. Average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in San Diego: $1,640/month
  4. Average cost of a two-bedroom apartment in San Diego: $2,000/month
  5. Average cost of a single-room-occupancy unit (90-100 sq. ft. “hotel” room with a communal bathroom down the hall) in San Diego: $750/month
  6. According to the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, there are presently 3,700 adults aged 55+ on the streets of San Diego.
  7. The average wait time to receive Section 8 vouchers upon approval: 10 years
  8. Serving Seniors owns 350 units of affordable senior housing between two properties; for our 150-unit building in City Heights, there is presently a waiting list of 256 individuals. We turn one or two units per month.
  9. In recent years, 10,000 SRO (single-room-occupancy) units have been demolished in San Diego development projects.
  10. Keeping our senior clients in their permanent housing units requires constant support and intervention from our clinical and support teams. We have to strike a balance between landlord and social worker to keep seniors who have a history of episodic homelessness from regressing.



A Successful Senior Scam Stopper Seminar

October 20, 2017 - Paul Downey

Congressman Scott Peters and Senator Toni Atkins partnered with the California Contractors State License Board to present a Senior Scam Stopper Seminar at Serving Seniors’ Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center this week.

One in Five Seniors Has Been a Victim of Fraud

Seniors are frequently targeted and vulnerable when it comes to fraud and scams, especially those who live alone. Scammers often look for individuals with savings or who are receiving monthly Social Security checks, and often plan a scam to access those funds.

Criminals target seniors because of potential cognitive or other impairments, knowing that if the case ever makes it to a courtroom, the victim’s mental soundness and memory recall can be questioned. Unfortunately prosecuting financial fraud cases is difficult, and many financial crimes are not reported, making it even more difficult to catch scammers and shut down fraudulent operations.

Senior Scams and Fraud Prevention

Representatives from the Contractors State License Board, the IRS’ Taxpayer Advocate Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the State of California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse shared information, tips and real-life cautionary tales of fraud.

Seniors and staff learned about common scams and fraud techniques, as well as ways to protect themselves, including:

  • Investment, home improvement and mortgage scams
  • Telemarketing and tech support scams
  • Impostor scams (“Your grandson has been arrested in Mexico – send money for bail!”)
  • Sweepstakes, lottery and prizes scams
  • Debt or tax collection scams, including IRS impersonation fraud
  • Elder financial abuse, sometimes involving relatives, romantic interests and “friends”
  • Construction-related scams and contractor fraud + tips for choosing a contractor
  • Things to look for before donating to a charity, especially following a disaster or tragedy
  • How to prevent shoulder surfing
  • Identity protection tips
  • Questions to ask if you think you’re being targeted
  • What to do if you suspect or are a victim of a scam

Our Favorite Scam and Fraud Avoidance Tips from the Seminar

  1. Don’t put your real birthday on forms in order to get free food or desserts at restaurants – use a false one
  2. When picking up prescriptions, don’t say your birthday out loud – hand the pharmacist your ID for DOB verification
  3. When expecting packages via mail (especially during the holiday season) arrange to have them delivered to your workplace or left with a neighbor – don’t let them sit out all day and risk their being stolen by “porch pirates”

Additional Senior Scam and Fraud Resources


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