- San Diego State University School of Social Work to conduct a needs assessment among elderly living in Mid City
- 1973 Mid City Senior Enterprises was created to respond to the needs
- 1974 Mid City Senior Enterprises received 501(c)3 designation
- The organization worked out of a church basement providing over two dozen programs with few staff and many volunteers
- During this period, Mid City Senior Enterprises undertook a deliberate effort to redefine its services and programs concentrating on what older adults needed most
- 1991 the organization changed its name to ElderHelp of San Diego
- ElderHelp continued to refine its service offerings and work with other community-based organizations to provide comprehensive services to the aging community
Leading the Way
ElderHelp’s reputation for offering quality affordable low-tech services began attracting attention and calls from people throughout the city. One reason was that the agency intentionally created a broad definition of the target population. There were no strict eligibility criteria based on age, income, geographic, ethnic, religious or health status. Although some funding sources specified a target population, ElderHelp viewed itself as a community resource, helping anyone in need.
Another factor accelerating demand can be traced to the lack of affordable housing in San Diego. Finding a suitable place to live became an increasingly difficult problem, particularly among those who faced life challenges including illness, lay off, divorce and lower paying jobs. ElderHelp had a model to address this issue because at the same time the community was experiencing these problems, a growing number of seniors were contacting ElderHelp in need of live-in caregiving assistance in order to remain in their own homes. Nearly a third of all calls to the agency came from people interested in ElderHelp’s innovative HomeShare Program, which helps senior’s trade space in their homes for income or services.
Care Management also became an increasingly important program during this period. Care managers are social workers with experience in answering questions, solving problems, and developing care plans. This program evolved as a result of the increasingly complex environment of public and private services, geographic differences in services available, and the growing number of seniors in managed care.
In 1993, the agency assisted over 3,000 people annually and for the next three years, the number of clients served increased 30 percent per year. This growth presented an overwhelming challenge to the organization. In simple economic terms, demand exceeded supply. Nearly 2,000 calls a year were logged for information and referral. The number of staff, volunteers, facilities and funding could not keep pace with the increasing number of seniors and the complexity of the issues they faced. By 1994, the Board of Directors began seeking other organizations who shared the vision of serving the older adult population in order to combine funds and expertise. The search was abandoned within two years when the Board’s due diligence review failed to identify a suitable merger partner.
It became increasingly clear the agency needed a proactive plan to address the dynamic pace of change in the external environment, and in 1995 ElderHelp took several critical steps forward to meet the challenge of serving a rapidly escalating senior population. The first strategy was to begin to position ElderHelp as a community resource in order to draw on the widest expertise available to improve services, expand education efforts, develop a marketing program and enhance our fundraising opportunities. The second was to address the growing need for high quality, low-cost services in other neighborhoods throughout San Diego.
ElderHelp formed a multi-agency collaboration called Senior Neighborhood Network (SNN). Partner agencies include Bayside Settlement House (Linda Vista), Chicano Federation (Logan Heights), Family Services Association (Encinitas), ElderHelp (Mid-City) and Jewish Family Services (Mid-City). The SNN was designed to offer a uniform set of basic case management services to seniors throughout San Diego, particularly in minority communities. With this step, ElderHelp acknowledged that it could not meet all of San Diego’s eldercare needs alone, but the model ElderHelp used to deliver services could be replicated by other organizations and communities.
Today, ElderHelp is an integral part of the spectrum of government, health care and community based providers that are focused on providing long-term care to seniors within the community. ElderHelp is one of the only agencies that is solely focused on providing quality services and programs to seniors within their own homes.
ElderHelp continues to provide an array of programs that still include case management and homecare services through the Concierge Club and live-in matching services through the HomeShare program. In addition, ElderHelp also provides tax assistance, legal help, benefits counseling and information and assistance. In 2014, ElderHelp helped nearly 5,000 seniors remain living in their own homes and communities.
The Concierge Club, now ElderHelp’s flagship program, is the evolution of ElderHelp’s core case management, information and referral and volunteer caregiver programs. These programs were reengineered and rebranded in 2008 to provide more accessible homecare and social supportive services to seniors. ElderHelp nearly doubled its membership for a second time in a row and also doubled the amount of volunteers and services provided to these members. ElderHelp is seeking new lines of business for the Concierge Club that would finance memberships for seniors who currently cannot access these services through Medicare or Medi-Cal.
In 2014, the HomeShare program matched over 60 seniors with individuals who are facing housing struggles but who can help a senior at home.
ElderHelp continues to be a dynamic, values based agency with a staff of 15 and dedicated corps of nearly 400 volunteers. Excellence is woven into our values which guide the organization’s operations and decision making enabling ElderHelp to create significant impacts in the area of community based solutions for seniors.