San Francisco Senior Center (SFSC), the oldest non-profit senior center in the United States, opened its Aquatic Park location in 1947. An innovator, Florence Vickery, who believed that isolated seniors would benefit by centers that offered recreational programming and services in one place, founded SFSC and served as Executive Director from 1947 to 1967. Since then, diverse seniors from the San Francisco Bay Area have benefited from the expanding list of programs and services. To better serve the seniors of the inner city, who often face more severe health and economic challenges, SFSC opened its Downtown location in 1966.
The SFSC Downtown location was the first senior center in California to receive funding from the Older American Act. In the late 1970’s, the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development awarded the Downtown location a grant, allowing it to relocate to a larger facility and better meet the needs of the neighborhood’s senior community.
In November 1985, the Downtown Location relocated to 481 O’Farrell Street, tripling its space for programs, social services, and offices.
In 1990,the SFSC Downtown location began two innovative services. First in February, the Computer Learning Center opened with assistance from Pacific Bell and SeniorNet (the center later relocated and expanded to the Aquatic Park location. In July of 1990, the Chinese Outreach Program began in response to the changing ethnic composition of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Area.
To help seniors stay fit, SFSC has offered physical fitness classes at both locations. In 1997, a unique group of ten rowers, The Salty Sages, began cruising the Bay in a whaleboat. They row every Wednesday morning.
In 1998, with funding from the Koret Foundation, SFSC began the Senior Literacy Project, which provides free help to seniors for improving basic reading and writing skills. The program also serves émigré seniors who speak English as a second language. This program is tailored to the individual needs of each participant and provides one-to-one, tutor-to-student instruction.
To assist seniors in transition from emergency hospitalization back into their homes, the staff at the SFSC Downtown location partnered with the City of San Francisco in 1999 to establish The Homecoming Services Program, which assists frail seniors returning from hospital care to their central San Francisco homes. Often, seniors face this difficult transition alone. The Homecoming Services Program connected seniors with temporary and ongoing supportive services to ease them back to independent and healthy living. Now called Transitional Care, the program has expanded to be a referral-based city-wide program utilizing partnerships with The Department of Aging and Adult Services, Community-based organizations and hospitals to stabilize seniors’ post-hospitalization in a 60-day period.
Today, SFSC continues to innovate and answer the call for powerful programs and outstanding opportunities for seniors in the San Francisco Bay Area.