Throughout San Francisco, dedicated neighbors volunteer their time to help seniors and people with disabilities get the resources and support they need to age and thrive in their own homes and neighborhoods. We will be featuring some of their stories each month.
Glenda has lived in San Francisco’s Cayuga neighborhood for 45 years, but with her dedicated work as a Presbyterian minister and founder of SafeHouse in the Tenderloin, she hadn’t had much time to get to know her neighbors. When she retired, she turned her energy and talents to increasing connections among her neighbors. “I realized that I was going to retire, but that didn’t mean I was going to sit in my house and retire from life,” she said. “I looked around the neighborhood where I had lived for so long…and there were a lot of people living here who didn’t know each other, including me, and I just though we should get to know each other.”
Together with Patti Spaniak, Glenda and her neighbors have grown their intergenerational network to over 85 people. The Cayuga Community Connectors get together three times a week for Always Active senior exercise classes, hold potlucks and tag sales, bring in speakers on healthy aging, organize emergency preparedness workshops and supplies, and much more. They’re doing what Glenda set out to do: “turning strangers into neighbors, and neighbors into friends.”
Just recently, Glenda fell ill. A neighbor saw the ambulance and offered to ride with her. She ended up taking Glenda’s dog to her home. Another neighbor started calling other Cayuga Connectors. Over the next two weeks, various neighbors sat with Glenda for hours in ER; visited in the hospital; did several loads of laundry; took turns caring for her dog; brought soup, pasta and special casserole dishes; drove Glenda to her follow-up doctor visit; organized a beautiful get well card from the exercise class; and accompanied her on walks as Glenda regained her strength. This is just the most recent example of Cayuga neighbors helping each other with little kindnesses that have a big impact. As Patti says, “Cayuga Connectors is working!”
Studies show that for people to age in their homes, about 20 percent of what they need comes from formal services. The other 80 percent comes from family, friends, and other community members. Fostering these supportive connections and friendships is at the heart of what the Community Living Campaign does. With all of our activities, our goal is to create opportunities for participants to strengthen the friendships and neighborhood supports they need to age and thrive in their own homes.