By: Wendy Greuel
Our seniors are some of our most precious resources. I have always felt that as an elected official it is my responsibility to bring services to the seniors in my district and across the San Fernando Valley. As part of my ongoing work to protect and provide for older adults, I have spearheaded two programs that I am particularly proud of and I believe can be replicated in communities throughout Los Angeles: Senior Friends and Senior Action Fairs.
The first is my Senior Friends initiative that I launched during the summer. Under this program, younger Angelenos are paired with needy seniors to ensure that they are safe and have the necessary supplies such as food, water and a fan or air conditioner to keep cool during the hot summer months. This program can and will be extended year-round. In a study and survey recently released by Los Angeles County, 29% of seniors reported social isolation and desire for greater interaction. The senior friend program not only can provide care and safety for our seniors, but also can give them the human connection that can occasionally be missing.
In November, I partnered with WISE & Healthy Aging to host a Senior Action Fair in my Council district. This event focused on self-empowerment for seniors and acquiring the tools to protect oneself from fraud and abuse. The featured speakers at this event focused on topics such as identity theft, scams, medical fraud, and social security. These presenters addressed the concerns of the 25% of seniors in the L.A. County survey who reported worrying about identity theft, and the 18% that cited concerns about Social Security benefits, as well as many other issues. Twenty organizations, such as the Social Security Administration and the Department of Water and Power provided literature and resources, and had representatives on-hand to answer questions. The feedback we received was largely positive, with seniors commenting that they learned valuable information and enjoyed themselves as well.
We also made the event an attractive social experience for seniors by providing lunch after the presentations and handing out lots of giveaways. Every senior center or community organization should consider hosting this type of event to make the seniors in their area more aware of the dangers they face and how to protect themselves from becoming victims. Though the main target audience was senior citizens, we also reached out to younger people and caregivers who will be able to use the information they gathered at the event to protect their loved ones. Often, outreach to caregivers is overlooked, and including them in events and programs is vital to keeping our seniors healthy and safe.
By 2030, Los Angeles County will be home to about three million residents 60 years and older, according to the recent study. Our elected officials, city and county departments and non-profit agencies cannot wait until 2030 to begin to the address the issues of senior citizens. Now is the time to engage our current and future seniors and educate them about current resources, as well as to develop programs to prepare for the influx of aging baby boomers in coming years. My previous programs address a few of the needs highlighted by the County survey and are a good start. I will continue to work hard to provide for our
seniors and implement the findings of the study so that our region is adequately prepared for the influx of older adults we will see in coming years.
Controller, City of Los Angeles