Wellness Hub Helps Seniors Embrace Technology, Build Friendships
Mar 28, 2024
Ashley Boarman
Two seniors from San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood embrace while looking at an iPad

If you’ve ever watched “Golden Girls,” you know (and love) Blanche, Dorothy, Sophia, and spacey Rose. The silly foursome exude energy and curiosity about the world around them, serving as poster children on how to embrace one’s later years with confidence and enthusiasm. If filmed nowadays, you may expect Rose would have her own viral podcast, Blanche would be swiping right on Hinge, Dorothy would be filming YouTube tutorials about online bill pay, and Sophia would be hosting a Zoom happy hour with her pals from “the old country.”

Like these golden girls, for people aged 65 and older, there’s a deep desire to connect with society and keep current, all activities that are now largely aided and driven by technology. The problem is that many older adults simply need to be taught how to be digitally fluent. And, in the absence of engaged adult children or grandchildren who can teach them these skills, that can be a tall order. That’s what makes intentional community spaces like the newly completed Curry Senior Center Tech and Wellness Hub + in San Francisco such a vital resource for senior residents in the city’s Tenderloin District.

Here, in this brightly lit, safe, and modern building in the city’s heart, seniors can learn the ins and outs of tech basics, ask questions, and get help while also combating social isolation. Curry Center’s Hub + opened fully this week as community leaders held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours of the finished space. Sutter Health, which supplied a community health investment of $150,000 to support the project’s construction and tenant improvements, was on hand for the event.

“Sutter Health has been a strong partner of Curry Senior Center for more than a decade,” said Nicole Murphy, Curry Senior Center development associate. “Sutter’s investment allows older adults in the Tenderloin to have access to healthy living and nutrition programming, technology classes, and assistance with phones and tablets, as well as a community space where they can gather with friends. Sutter’s contribution to the Tech and Wellness Hub + affirms the organization’s commitment to supporting the needs of older adults in San Francisco.”

Hub + serves about 60 to 70 seniors a day. With its cathedral ceilings and sleek interiors constructed using sustainable materials like reclaimed wood and concrete, the space could easily be mistaken for the latest Gen Z co-working spot in downtown San Francisco. The Curry Center’s corner building includes open conference rooms and neon-colored furnishings. In everyday use, the site will be brimming with activations and programming for older adults on how to use mobile phones and tablets to access the essentials of daily living such as connecting with their doctors, ordering medication, paying bills, and communicating with loved ones. And if they want to learn how to send memes and emojis, make a Spotify playlist, or stream the latest show on Netflix, there are lessons for these things, too.

Beyond tech teachings, Hub + is also a remedy for loneliness. Some 14,000 older adults call San Francisco’s Tenderloin home. Of this group, most live in SROs, single-room occupancy hotels, where individual rooms are rarely bigger than eight feet by 10 feet. Many of these older adults do not have support networks and may also struggle with chronic illnesses. These factors can lead to feelings of social isolation and depression, all of which research has linked to higher rates of high blood pressure, heart disease, cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, even death, among countless other mental health and physical ailments. Care teams at the nearby California Pacific Medical Center and CPMC Acute Care for Elderly Unit see these health impacts firsthand.

“The CPMC ACE Unit refers discharged patients to the Curry Center to provide follow-up services including housing, meals, behavioral health, primary care services, and case management, and now technology and wellness programming,” said Anu Kirupananthan, nurse practitioner and geriatric clinician and educator with CPMC’s ACE Unit.  “We are so proud of our longtime collaboration and their team’s tremendous impact on the local community.”

As the digital age has brought forth a wealth of opportunities for older adults to connect, learn, and entertain themselves, spaces like the Hub + are a vital bridge for this older generation and have San Franciscans saying, “Thank you, Curry Center, for being a friend.”

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