Parents exiting city in droves, leaving older relatives on their own 

click to enlarge The number of elderly people is growing as the number of children drops. - S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner File Photo
  • The number of elderly people is growing as the number of children drops.

The City’s inability to keep families from fleeing San Francisco also is impacting its growing population of seniors.

The 2010 census revealed San Francisco has the lowest proportion of children of any major city in the United States, at just 13.4 percent of the population.

“For seniors, this means that many of their adult children cannot afford to raise their families in the city where they grew up, and their aging parents remain behind without the informal support of family members,” a new report from the San Francisco Human Services Agency said.

Dan Kelly, director of planning for the Human Services Agency, said the loss of families “has enormous consequences for older persons,” including creating “a tremendous sense of isolation among seniors in San Francisco.”

And these shifting demographics are posing new and significant challenges for The City’s safety net for seniors, since the children of seniors customarily act as their de facto caregivers.

According to testimony during a Monday hearing of the Board of Supervisors City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee, San Francisco’s senior population is increasing at a rapid rate and forcing city government to rethink planning neighborhoods around an older population. Supervisor Christina Olague of District 5 requested the hearing.

The number of San Franciscans aged 60 and older increased from 136,369 in 2000, or 17.6 percent of the population, to 154,730 in 2010, or 19.2 percent of the population. During the past two decades, the population of those aged 85 and older increased by 44 percent.

“Due to the higher prevalence of chronic illness, dementia, mobility and self-care limitations, these ‘oldest seniors’ are more likely to need long-term-care services,” the report said.

Troubling statistics also were presented at the hearing by Anne Quaintance, a senior director with Meals on Wheels of San Francisco. She said 12 percent of The City’s seniors, about 19,000, are living below the poverty line, which is $10,830. And 27 percent of seniors are living below 150 percent of the poverty line, which is $16,245. These seniors, she said, must make “painful choices” about rent, food and medications every day.

By 2020, seniors are expected to compose 22.6 percent of The City’s population.

Increased planning is under way among city departments to handle the increasing senior population.


Senior population rising in The City

Year      Senior Population         Percentage of total city population
2000                     136,369                17.6
2010                     154,730                19.2
2020*                  185,418                22.6
Source: Human Services Agency
* projected

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