By Doug Curlee
La Mesa wants to become, as much as possible, sort of a haven for older citizens to live, and live well.
The city is already a ways down the road to making that happen, and other cities and regions in San Diego County are joining in that effort.
La Mesa’s “Livable La Mesa” plan, which began earlier this year, is an effort to see that people of a certain age — 45 on up — would find in the city better reasonably-priced homes, closer stores and restaurants, walkable sidewalks, better public transportation, and social activities geared to their age group.
With the help of the World Health Organization (WHO), AARP, the San Diego Foundation and other sources of grant monies, there are now plans to spread La Mesa’s effort to San Diego, Chula Vista, Carlsbad and other cities across San Diego County.
All have expressed serious interest in setting up a system to see what needs to be done in their areas.
At a May 13 press conference held at the La Mesa Adult Enrichment Center and hosted by safe transportation mobility advocacy group Circulate San Diego, La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis pointed out the fairly obvious.
“People are aging much differently today than they did in the past,” he said. “We need to recognize this and plan to help make their senior years happier and easier for them.”
La Mesa is well down the road here.
Residents gave a lot of input at Livable La Mesa community meetings over the past three months and La Mesa, with the help of San Diego State University, put that input into a plan that the city will try to implement — and the other jurisdictions are watching the process closely, planning to learn from it.
“Creating places where people can age in place is vital for San Diego’s future,” said Maya Rosas of Circulate San Diego.
Along with WHO and local and national non-profit funding, various departments from other communities are taking on the efforts.
For example, the San Diego effort will primarily operate through the auspices of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
San Diego Parks and Rec supervisor Kristi Fenick said it’s only appropriate.
“Our 56 rec centers already offer to seniors some of the same things La Mesa is implementing, so it’s a logical step for us to take,” she said.
La Mesa plans to have a concrete set of proposals to take before the City Council by the end of the year for funding. Mayor Arapostathis said he doesn’t think the council will have any trouble approving the requests.
Peggy Pico, representing the San Diego Foundation, said all the members of the San Diego City Council loved the concept when it was presented informally to them.
She points out that there will be interest in formally supporting the plans to make life better for our older citizens, because of one factor every politician knows by heart.
“Seniors are known for one thing above all. They vote,” she said.
Yes, they do.
To read a summary of the Circulate San Diego report on aging, visit bit.ly/2WjzSp8.
— Reach Doug Curlee at firstname.lastname@example.org.