Public health survey spotlights difficulties for senior residents, people with disabilities | News | San Luis Obispo

Bulbul Rajagopal

Being overlooked by physicians and insurance providers for their medical needs and being subjected to unaffordable and inaccessible caregiving and rural transportation services are some of the many issues San Luis Obispo County’s residents with disabilities and senior citizens face on a regular basis.

A public health survey conducted by the Independent Living Resource Center (ILRC) outlined these realities through the responses of 86 anonymous people from SLO, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties.

“Affordable senior housing in San Luis Obispo is nonexistent,” one participant wrote in the online survey. “The closest community I have found is in Arroyo Grande, and I am currently on a wait-list.”

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  • Photo Courtesy Of Independent Living Resource Center
  • EAGER TO CONNECT The Independent Living Resource Center has a monthly information booth at the downtown SLO farmers’ market in the summer and fall, and SLO residents can call (805) 462-1162 for resource help.

“I am now what they call ‘moteling,'” another respondent wrote. “Trying to get help paying for it. There are so many seniors and disabled at this motel, the Premier Inns where we stay mostly. This country has forgotten ‘The Greatest Generation that Ever Lived.'”

Covering three counties with 11 programs ranging from housing and peer support to being a resource center for the aging and people with disabilities, ILRC aims to help people be as independent as possible. Essentially, the resource center was built by people with disabilities for others facing disabilities.

“What prompted this study is … I’ve noticed during my research and time at the program I took my public health classes in that disability has not been, honestly, thought of at all, aside from being more of an afterthought,” resource center Public Health Advocate Emily Bridges told New Times on Jan. 9. “I created this study to do a needs assessment across all three counties on what people think about their health care concerns. … I wanted to bring it up to legislators and stakeholders and somehow inspire change.”

Bridges worked closely with Systems Change Coordinator Jacob Lesner-Buxton and Community Information Coordinator Jerry Mihaic on the study and identifying local issues prevalent in SLO County.

“In our county, there is also a difference between the level of how old that senior is,” Mihaic said. “This county has a lot of retirees who retired here in their 60s, maybe 70s, but they’re now in their 80s, 90s, and 100s. They have a different level of care.”

He added that SLO County is unique because of how “retirement-friendly” it is due to the weather and small community size, but accessing health care becomes a serious issue.

“Especially for an older senior population because there are no doctors really who specialize in geriatric care,” Mihaic said. “But the county is doing some things with fall prevention, healthy brains initiative, dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia.”

Bridges told New Times that although senior residents from three different counties took part in the survey, the issues they said they faced were uniform.

“There is an isolation and the need for ripple effect in terms of resources,” Bridges said. “People are honestly not aware that ILRC exists outside of our core consumers that we serve on a typical basis because people who use our services tend to drop off and come back as needed.”

Both Bridges and Mihaic called the resource center’s existence one of the “best-kept secrets” in SLO County. It’s a phrase an Adult Services Policy Council volunteer used when describing the available local resources for senior citizens, according to prior New Times reporting.

“We want to change that, we want people to know about us and call us to get the right guidance to services they need,” Mihaic said. “We work closely with the 211 service to make sure all the information is updated as well.” Δ

Bulbul Rajagopal News/News

2024-01-11 12:00:00 , New Times San Luis Obispo –

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