The following blog text is excerpted from an article written by John Kelly for The Washington Post as part of their Helping Hand initiative, in which SOME is a partner. Read the full article and see others in the series at WashingtonPost.com.
I hate to break it to you, but you’re not getting any younger. Your so-called golden years are inching closer with every ticking second. How you spend them will depend a lot on how much money you’ve been able to save.
If you grew up in a poor family and struggled during the beginning and middle chapters of your life, the last chapter of it may be tough. If you live in Washington, you may find help with So Others Might Eat. The nonprofit provides many services—from a soup kitchen to an addiction recovery program—but lately, it’s been putting a lot of effort into helping people who are 60 or older.
“We have a huge aging population,” said Brittany Kitt, director of SOME senior services.
She means among the clients that SOME serves, but she could also be talking about the nation as a whole. It’s estimated that between 2018 and 2060, the number of Americans 65 and older will rise from 52 million to 95 million. The share of the total population that is 65 and older will increase from 16% to 23%.
A lot of folks, Kitt said, don’t think about what this will mean for low-income people. It’s hard for them to age in place if they’ve had trouble affording housing, haven’t been able to manage their mental health needs, or have a chronic disease that has gone untreated.
“They’re more likely to be institutionalized,” Kitt explained.
SOME works to prevent that—especially in Wards 6, 7, and 8, the most disenfranchised parts of the District. The charity’s senior center in Kuehner House on Good Hope Road SE offers fitness classes, health seminars, visits from youth groups, field trips, and transportation to grocery stores and government offices. SOME’s telephone reassurance program makes sure each senior who is enrolled gets a weekly phone call to check on them.
The idea is to allow people to stay in their own homes as long as possible. For those who can’t, there is Kuehner House and Kuehner Place. (It’s pronounced “keener.”) They’re both actually in the same building, which opened in 2011 and is named for Monsignor Ralph Kuehner, who helped found SOME.
The people who live at Keuhner House include Lindajean Battle, 65. She worked for the General Services Administration as a painter, wielding brushes, rollers, and sprayers in federal buildings in and around Washington. She’s experienced tragedy in her life. One of her two sons was shot and killed in a robbery. When her mother died, Battle couldn’t keep up payments on the family home and was faced with eviction.
“I called around every place to find a place to get in,” said Battle. With the help of a lawyer from AARP, Battle was able to stave off eviction long enough to find housing with So Others Might Eat, in Kuehner Place.
In July, Battle moved into Kuehner House. She has a furnished room with a refrigerator and a TV. She shares a kitchen and bathroom with three other residents. She uses the senior center downstairs and goes on community trips, including to Ingleside at Rock Creek, a continuing care retirement community across town in Chevy Chase.
“You get back on your feet,” Battle said of what Kuehner House and SOME have been able to do for her. “You’re not by yourself. You got people to talk to all the time. That’s a big help.”
“You’re not in the streets. That’s the main thing. Those streets are a mess.”
How to Help
So Others Might Eat owns more than 700 single-room-occupancy units and efficiency apartments across the city. Almost 70% of the residents in the units are 55 or older, said Kitt.
“We’re actually looking for ways to expand services to people who came in [to SOME] when they were in their 40s and are now matriculating into the geriatric space and need more support,” she said.
You can help provide that support. SOME is a partner in Washington Post’s annual Helping Hand fundraising campaign. To make an online contribution, visit PostHelpingHand.com and click “Donate.”