About 30 of La Jolla’s older residents gathered at La Jolla Community Center on Feb. 20, 2020 for an age-friendly listening session designed to give them a chance to voice to the City how life could be better in La Jolla for senior citizens.
Kristi Fenick, district manager for the San Diego Parks & Rec Department, said the listening sessions (eight were held thus far in other sections of the City) came out of an Age-Friendly City & Community Grant from the San Diego Foundation, in partnership with the San Diego State University Social Policy Institute and AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). San Diego would be the third county municipality to earn the “age-friendly” designation after Chula Vista and La Mesa, joining 450 such cities nationwide.
Fenick explained that through surveys previously collected and now the Listening Sessions, older residents are being asked to state their needs in eight domains of livability: transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, work and civil engagement, communication, community and health services, and outdoor spaces and public places.
The La Jolla session began with a group discussion and words from San Diego Foundation Age-Friendly manager Peggy Pico, who remarked on the need for the initiative: “By 2035, there will be more people over the age of 65 in the United States than there are under the age of 18.”
Attendees responded to the question “What makes La Jolla great?” with answers that ranged from “centers like the LJCC,” to “it’s safer than many other places,” and “cultural activities.” To the question about what would make the community better, several mentioned “more transportation options,” “better congregate meal services for seniors,” and “to be more connected to neighbors.”
For the breakout sessions, during which City employees facilitated discussions and recorded responses, residents continued to offer feedback on community improvements. Most subsisted of ways to improve transportation and community access for seniors or outreach to connect older residents to neighborhood activities. Some of the remarks provided insight into how seniors experience life in La Jolla: “If you have gray hair or a cane, you’re viewed differently,” one participant said, to nods of agreement.
LJCC Board CEO Ruth Yansick said the Listening Session was important because it aligns with the Center’s mission to help seniors “age gracefully — especially those who find themselves isolated.”
“This was a learning experience,” she added, “that will help us provide programs that develop friendships and promote wellness for the rest of people’s lives.”
The responses garnered will be used to draft an action plan for the Age-Friendly initiative, and the action plan will eventually be presented to the City Council for a vote. Those in attendance at the La Jolla session are hopeful for what follows. Said one participant: “It’s nice to be heard.”