Older population in Richmond District creates unique health issues

Home to a disproportionate number of elderly residents, the Richmond District will be the focus of a San Francisco Health Commission meeting Tuesday to discuss neighborhood health concerns.

The oceanside neighborhood shares many similar health statistics with San Francisco as a whole, however the Outer Richmond in particular has a slightly older population than San Francisco’s average.

Vision Zero, San Francisco’s traffic safety strategy, recently released a report highlighting the disproportionate traffic dangers the elderly face. According to the report, while the elderly make up only 15 percent of San Francisco residents, they account for 50 percent of pedestrian deaths.

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer said she is working to make the district’s streets safer for seniors, who are the fastest growing demographic in her district, she said

“We’ve had some serious accidents in my district. I have been working with the community and we extended the time to cross the street,” Fewer said. “We need to actively reduce fatalities.”

The Outer Richmond also sees a higher proportion of deaths from Alzheimer’s disease, which is the third leading cause of death in the district and the fourth leading cause of death in The City. Colon and rectal cancer are also more common in the neighborhood, according to a report from the Department of Public Health’s population health division.

Fewer is working to improve living conditions for seniors in her neighborhood by working with organizations such as the Golden Gate Senior Center to build community among the elderly who sometimes live alone.

“We know that people are living longer now.” Fewer said. “I’ll take any opportunity to make their lives more active and lively.”

Fewer also noted that her district struggles with food insecurity. Under 25 percent of retailers in the Outer Richmond accept CalFresh benefits, a system that allows low-income individuals and families to purchase groceries. On average, 40 percent of retailers across the City accept CalFresh.

One in four households in the Outer Richmond pay 50 percent of their income to rent, slightly more than the city average. To avoid future residential displacement the San Francisco Planning Department has formed a Housing and Community Stabilization program to rework the approval process for affordable housing and build a new framework for community planning in vulnerable neighborhoods, among other initiatives.

The homeless population in the neighborhood decreased by 12 people between 2015 and 2017 to 57, according to the Population Health Division report. However, more than 300 unsheltered homeless people were counted in Golden Gate Park in 2017, which serves as the southern border for much of the district.

The meeting will be held at the Richmond Recreation Center at 251 18th Ave. at 4 p.m.

Full Health Commission meetings are held the first and third Tuesday of each month at 101 Grove St. at 4 p.m. Meeting agendas are available on the Department of Public Health’s website.

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