Holiday Meal Drive

November 17, 2017 - Paul Downey

For many of us, the holiday season means gathering with friends and family for feasting and gifts. It means vacations and visits and cozy fires in the hearth.

But what if the only thing the holiday season brought you was aching hunger, cold hands and feet, and nights spent wondering whether you’d eat tomorrow? Hunger is an everyday problem in San Diego – our elderly neighbors are starving. Please help us feed them.

Food or Shelter?

Thousands of our senior neighbors are living on Social Security incomes of less than $1,000 per month. Many are isolated and depressed – nearly half of them have to choose between rent and food, every single day. The majority of them will not celebrate the holidays with feasting or gifts. They will be too busy trying to survive – to scrape together spare change for their next meal – to celebrate the holidays at all.

The most common reason that our senior neighbors come to us is to receive a meal. No one is ever turned away, and we serve nearly 2,000 meals to more than 800 seniors every single day of the year.

$2.50 Feeds a Hungry Senior

A single meal costs us $2.50 to prepare and serve to a senior in need. This holiday season we want to raise $25,000, which will provide 10,000 senior meals. In the spirit of #GivingTuesday, which is quickly approaching, I’m asking you to make a donation to help us feed our senior clients. Your gift today will ensure that low-income seniors will have lifesaving food this holiday season.

I hope that you will help eradicate hunger for San Diego’s seniors this #GivingTuesday. Every contribution, however large or small, helps a senior in need.

With gratitude,

Paul Downey
President and CEO, Serving Seniors

Additional Ways to Support Serving Seniors:

For eligible purchases at AmazonSmile, 0.5% of the purchase price is donated to the customer’s selected charitable organization. To begin shopping with Serving Seniors as your charity of choice, click here.

Double your donation with matching funds from your employer. Check with your HR department for information on your company’s matching gift programs. Employer matching gifts may also be available to you if you are the spouse of an employee whose company participates in matching gifts.

Options for including Serving Seniors in your estate or financial planning include: securities transfers, IRA rollovers, endowment gifts, bequests/estates, charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts, gifts of real estate, gifts of retirement assets, gifts of stock, gifts through a will or trust, and more. More Info

Recurring donations are the best way to provide steady support. Use our secure online form to become a monthly donor, and you’ll ensure we have the resources to provide seniors with the support network they deserve. More Info

Are you a member of Thrivent Financial? Make Serving Seniors the beneficiary of you Thrivent Choice dollars. Learn More

View Our Wish List

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


Stay up-to-date with Serving Seniors and hear about our future events by signing up for our e-newsletter.

If you have an educational or advocacy topic you’d like to present to our seniors, please email

Meet The Bloggers