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City looks to improve life for seniors

Doug Curlee | Editor at Large

La Mesa has been known as the “Jewel of the Hills” for longer than most people can remember. After all, it’s the official city motto.

People who live here think it’s one of the best places in the county to live. But could it be better?

There’s a concerted effort right now to answer that question, especially for those of a certain age group — 45-years-old and up.

The effort to improve life for seniors in the city is called Livable La Mesa. The is part of a national movement that looks at life for seniors in communities. There are some fairly heavy hitters working on this project, including the World Health Organization and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Back in April, both those organizations recognized La Mesa as an age-friendly community, which prompted grant money to fund the project from the San Diego Foundation.

Megan Howell, recreation supervisor of La Mesa Adult Enrichment Center, takes community input at a Livable La Mesa event. (Courtesy City of La Mesa)

In any project like this, there needs to be a major effort to ask people what they need to make their lives as seniors better.

Heading up the La Mesa effort is Sue Richardson, the city’s community services director, and Lori Clarke, chief program officer for San Diego State University.

“There are eight categories we need peoples’ feedback about,” said Richardson. “Buildings and outdoor spaces, transportation, housing, social programs, respect and social inclusion, civic participation, communication and information, and community support and health services. We’ve gathered much of that feedback through a series of community conversations and what are called ‘pop-up’ events, where we ask people 45-and-up what their biggest concerns and questions are.”

Lori Clarke says that’s the first step — knowing what the concerns are.

“When we have that feedback, we’ll then start committees that will come up with possibilities that can ultimately be taken to the city of La Mesa government for possible action,” she said.

Carole Hair, an attendee at one of the community conversation meetings, provided a good example of the questions citizens want answers to.

“My husband and I live just across the line, actually in Del Cerro, but we really want to move to a place like La Mesa. We’re empty-nesters now, and we need to get out of a four-bedroom home that’s just way too much for us. Things we need to know are things like: will there be good public transportation for us when we need to stop driving, which will come sooner than we’d like it to. Will there be good housing available for us to get into … access to stores, restaurants — the things most seniors worry about.”

The month of March will begin the process of breaking the gathered information into categories that can be worked on.

This is not a quick process.

It may take most of a year to outline the goals the research indicates are needed.

If you haven’t had a chance to attend one of the workshops in person, you can still offer input on the Livable La Mesa effort online at

No one is guaranteeing huge successes here, politics being what it is. But simply the fact that effort is being made should turn the heads of those who make decisions.

—Doug Curlee is Editor at Large. Reach him at

Source: La Mesa Currier

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