Wednesday, May 13, 2009
About 500 elder San Franciscans gathered in Civic Center Plaza Tuesday to protest city budget cuts to health and social service programs. The speaker above is Vera Haile, a retired agency manager who has been speaking out on the effects of the economic crisis on old people. She wanted the assembled crowd to understand that, though elders have many friends in City Hall, this year they are no longer "golden." Services really will be cut.
With the city getting squeezed by the state's dysfunction, dozens of programs are being chopped from health, housing and social services. Many less meals will be available; in-home help will be more expensive and sporadic; and crisis intervention more difficult. Perhaps as bad, the nonprofits that enable elders to navigate the maze of potentially available assistance are all getting slashed.
San Franciscans know how to put on a good rally. It was nice to see the folding chairs provided. The last time I saw that courtesy provided to elders at a rally was by the African National Congress in South Africa. As the "Silver Tsunami" rolls over the country in the coming decades, perhaps we'll get used to such amenities so more can participate?
Bobby Bogan of Seniors Organizing Seniors called on folks to help each other. He has organized elders to share their food supplies with the homeless.
And the homeless were there too.
As is true in the city in general, the largest ethnic group was people of various Asian origins.
Organizers made sure everyone who wanted one got a box lunch.
Folks from the 30th Street Senior Center singing group led choruses of "If I had a hammer," "De Colores," and "You are my sunshine."
Does all this raising a happy ruckus do any good? It certainly puts politicians on notice that there is an organized, voting constituency out there watching them. They know they'll take heat for failing the elders.
The Coalition of Agencies Serving the Elderly (CASE) which sponsored the rally fears that, on top of the direct cuts, the effect of current budgets will be to dismantle the intricate "continuum of care" we have collectively has created to meet elder's needs -- just as the Baby Boomer wave begins to rise. The need is great and will be greater. They point out that by 2030, demographers believe that one in five San Franciscans will be over 65. One in three people age 75 or older in San Francisco lives in poverty; 28 percent of San Franciscan elders speak English "not well" or "not at all."
We are challenged to maintain our community in hard times.