National Nutrition Month: Go Further with Food

March 27, 2018 - Paul Downey

Whether it was via a pyramid or plate diagram, most of us were taught that we should “eat the rainbow” every day in order to get the recommended daily amounts of vitamins, minerals and health benefits from our food. And most of us take for granted that we have easy access to fresh produce and balanced meals. We have options. We don’t think twice about the food choices at our fingertips.

Now imagine if you were living on just a few dollars a day. Would fresh produce or balanced meals be at the top of your list of concerns? Probably not. You’d likely be more worried about paying rent, affording medications, maybe getting to and from work or appointments. That’s the reality that many of our senior clients are living. Many of them can’t afford fresh foods or balanced meals. Our senior clients’ income, mostly in the form of Social Security, averages $950/month.

Access and Affordability

According to the Elder Index, developed by UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research, a single senior in San Diego needs an income of $1,974/month to afford basic rent, food, health costs and transportation. By this calculation, 41% of San Diego seniors live below the Elder Index. With a population of 202,413 adults aged 62 above, San Diego is home to nearly 83,000 seniors who have to choose between paying rent and purchasing food every day.

With limited access to nutritious food, most seniors initially arrive at Serving Seniors suffering from malnourishment or chronic health conditions related to poor nutrition, including high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Health concerns, especially prolonged issues, reduce seniors’ quality of life and drive already-poor seniors even deeper into poverty, increasing their reliance on community-funded programs, as most are single or widowed with little or no familial support.

Helping Seniors Stay Healthy, One Meal at a Time

Fortunately, many of the chronic diseases older adults face are preventable through healthy eating. Since its founding in 1970, Serving Seniors has served more than 11 million nutritious meals, developed in partnership with a registered nutritionist and optimized for the nutritional needs of older adults, and has seen first-hand the beneficial effects of reliable access to healthy food. Between nine congregate dining sites and delivering daily meals to 500 homebound seniors, we serve nearly 2,000 meals daily, every day of the year.

The meals we serve accommodate a variety of dietary needs, including low-sodium and low-fat diets, and are often the only source of food for San Diego seniors who would otherwise go hungry. And the benefits of a healthy diet are profound: increased mental acuteness, resistance to illness and disease, faster recuperation after illness and medical procedures, higher energy levels and more.

So Much More Than Meals

Serving Seniors’ nutrition program provides much more than food and senior-specific nutrition education – it brings seniors, most of whom live alone, together for camaraderie. This socialization is invaluable to our clients. In almost every case, our seniors tell us that they keep coming to our Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center for the companionship as much as the meals, and that the combination of friendship and healthy food has helped them remain healthy, active and independent. They join walking and hobby groups, take fitness classes, attend cooking demonstrations, play games, learn how to use computers and much more.

You (and Your Taxes) Benefit From Healthy Senior Neighbors, Too

Healthy people use fewer expensive public resources, such as ambulance transport and emergency room care. According to American Medical Response San Diego, the cost of an ambulance transport is about $1,800; Medicare pays only about $434 and Medi-Cal pays only $118. For roughly the same cost as an ambulance ride, Serving Seniors can feed a senior for an entire year. When nutritious food has been proven to be as important as medicine, especially for older adults, it makes financial sense to help our elder neighbors stay healthy in the first place. After all, as a supremely wise man once said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

In honor of National Nutrition Month, please consider supporting Serving Seniors’ nutrition program.

Celebrating the Past, Shaping the Future

March 5, 2018 - Paul Downey

You and a guest are cordially invited to

Tuesday, March 20, 2018 • 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.
Reception at 5:30 p.m. • Program at 6:15 p.m.

Serving Seniors’ Gary & Mary West Senior Wellness Center
1525 Fourth Avenue • San Diego, CA 92101

Please join us for a special evening! Serving Seniors’ President & CEO, Paul Downey, will give an update on the organization’s accomplishments over the past year, a panel of experts will discuss the future of aging well and what that means for you, plus we’ll hear directly from one of our senior clients on how our services changed their life.

There is no cost to attend but seating is limited and reservations are required.
Please RSVP by Friday, March 16 to 619.487.0701 or

What Serving Seniors is Doing About the Flu Outbreak in San Diego

January 12, 2018 - Paul Downey

The 2017-2018 flu season is being described as the deadliest flu season on record in San Diego, with more than 10,300 cases and 91 deaths reported so far. And it’s not just elderly people dying from flu-related complications, like pneumonia: in California, 27 people younger than the age of 65 have died this year, compared to 4 last year.

With the number of flu-related deaths having doubled (from 45 to 91) in one week, County officials recommend that everyone get a flu shot. Officials report that 70% of flu-related deaths in San Diego were people who had not been vaccinated. The vaccine is 40% effective and more than 600,000 have been administered across the county this season.

The Flu and Seniors

It’s important that seniors protect themselves and not underestimate the seriousness of the flu, as it’s especially contagious and can be life-threatening, especially for older adults, people with chronic medical conditions and people with compromised immune systems.

According to the CDC, “people 65 years and older are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu compared to young, healthy adults because human immune defenses become weaker with age.” Flu shots are covered by Medicare.

Early detection is important for seniors, who are encouraged to seek medical treatment at the first sign of symptoms. If caught early, the flu can be treated with a prescription of antiviral medication, which helps shorten the duration and lessen the symptoms of the illness.

How Serving Seniors is Combating the Flu

  • Our nurse case management team has developed a pamphlet to educate clients and staff about the flu and how to prevent it, including effective hand washing.
  • Infection control and communicative disease training has been provided for staff.
  • We have a nurse case manager available onsite at our Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center Monday – Saturday, with walk-in hours and appointment availability.
  • Serving Seniors has partnered with SHARP HealthCare to provide flu education and vaccinations in our facilities.
  • Staff with flu symptoms are encouraged to stay or return home to prevent spreading illness.

Flu Symptoms Include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue/confusion
  • Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea
  • People may be infected with the flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever

How to Protect Yourself and Others from the Flu

  • Get the flu vaccine. Find out where
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often
  • Use hand sanitizers
  • Stay away from sick people
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Regularly clean commonly touched surfaces with antibacterial solutions
  • If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others, especially older adults, young children, people with chronic medical conditions and people with compromised immune systems
  • If you start to get flu-like symptoms, seek medical attention immediately

Honoring Our Veterans

November 14, 2017 - Paul Downey

On Friday, November 10, 2017, Serving Seniors held a very special Veterans Day celebration to honor our veterans and their spouses. We welcomed two Girl Scout troops, six active duty Navy representatives, a Navy Captain, five WWII veterans, dozens of veterans from the Vietnam, Korean and Gulf wars, some peace-time veterans, the Serving Seniors Singers and local media.

Special Guests

Girl Scout Troops 4344 and 4823 led us in the Pledge of Allegiance and thanked our veterans, then the Serving Seniors Singers performed “America the Beautiful.”

Paul Downey, President and CEO of Serving Seniors, and Captain Brien W. Dickson, Commanding Officer of Naval Base Point Loma, delivered remarks honoring and thanking our veterans. Mr. Downey shared a poignant first-hand experience of coincidentally meeting a WWII veteran at Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial during his travels in France a few years ago.

We honored all the veterans present by playing the “Salute to the Services” and asking them to stand for applause during their service branch’s song. The veterans were also presented with hand-made thank-yous from the Girl Scouts, and certificates of appreciation from Serving Seniors.

“They Deserve Our Gratitude 365 Days a Year”

Paul Downey summed up the cause for celebration and suggested we honor our veterans by treating all people with dignity and respect:

“Nearly 25% of our clients at Serving Seniors are veterans. They are diverse in their backgrounds, cultures and walks of life, but they have at least one thing in common: they all answered the call to be part of something bigger than themselves, which transformed them from ordinary to extraordinary citizens.”

“Let us honor them today, and every day, by upholding the admirable American values they fought, and died, to defend: liberty, equality, individualism, diversity and unity. Let us honor their service by treating all people with dignity and respect, even when we disagree with them. Let us show our gratitude to our veterans by remembering, respecting and appreciating the bold ideals that this country was built on, that they defended, and treating each other accordingly.”

“As They Served Our Nation and All of Us, Let Us Now Serve Them”

When the formal program concluded the veterans and Captain Dickson came forward to cut the ceremonial cake, then the Navy representatives and Girl Scouts served lunch. There were smiles all around and it was a beautiful, meaningful event – thank you to everyone who came out to honor our veterans with us!

View all the photos from the celebration on Facebook >







We’d like to thank Balloon Guru for generously donating the balloons!

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