Santa Clara County working to improve welfare of senior residents

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A special meeting Wednesday night, by Santa Clara County's Children, Seniors and Families Committee (CSFC) and the Finance and Government Operations Committee (FGOC) looked at the welfare of senior citizens.

County Supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez, and other County leaders were present to hear from panelists relating to several issues impacting older residents.

Don Eberhard, a long-time San Jose resident, told ABC7 News the conversation with County leaders is a crucial step toward building a better Bay Area.

"There are a multitude of issues facing seniors," Eberhard explained. "And I found, as a retired executive and volunteer in the area that does work with seniors, that there's really not a central voice for their concerns."

Concerns addressed Wednesday night included elder abuse, mobility and transportation, support services and housing, among others.

With the growing threat of wildfire in the region, a new challenge highlighted by the County was PG&E's Public Safety Power Shutoffs and the impact to seniors.

"Really making sure that we do a really good job of helping people understand what happens when those outages happen, what are the resources available to them, and make sure they have the support and that they're safe during that time," Supervisor Chavez said about the shutoffs.

"Because what we don't know is how long the outages will be," she explained. "We know we'll have them, we just don't know how long."

Chavez told ABC7 News, "I remember hearing someone once say, 'There are two things you can't help: dying and paying taxes.' Well, the truth of the matter is there's a third thing: we all age."

Chavez said the goal is for people to grow old in Santa Clara County, near their families and all they're familiar with.

"Anything we can do to make their golden years easier and less cumbersome," resident Eberhard said about his biggest hope for seniors. "Through either getting them linked up with people that can help them with nonprofits or getting their concerns communicated to representatives as we're doing tonight. Through a number of sources, it's a plus."

Eberhard said he'd like to see something happen soon. He pointed out, for the older residents, time is of the essence.

However, Supervisor Cortese explained there is no room for error.

"I think that the bottom line is everybody realizes that if you make a misstep, if you don't calculate things right, as quickly as the senior population is growing and as big as the issues are becoming... there's real pain involved," he said.

Cortese continued, "There's no margin of error. There's no net underneath the high-wire here. So we have to get it right."

He said the growing senior population is going to nearly double in the next ten years. Adding, with the growth comes plenty of issues.

Still, Eberhard remains eager.

"I am a senior and I know I'm not going to live forever," he told ABC7 News. "But I know the challenges of healthcare, going through the bureaucracy of deductibles and drugs, and all these other things. Seniors can't do all that."

The conversation continues.

Supervisor Chavez instructed panelists to assist in organizing the most actionable items presented Wednesday night. The goal is to prioritize areas and eventually bring recommendations to the Board to Supervisors to be approved.

Chavez hopes to bring recommendations to the Board before the end of the year.

Next week, the County will address parcel tax exemption for its seniors.

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