With Santa Clarita Valley summer temperatures soaring above 100 degrees, and seniors being particularly susceptible to heat-related illness and death, the SCV Senior Center in Newhall has been a life-saving resource for the local elder population.
“The SCV Senior Center has been designated as a Cooling Station by Los Angeles County; that means anyone can come in here, a senior or anyone else, to come out of the heat,” said Kevin MacDonald, SCV Senior Center executive director. “We have water if people need it and we’re open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.”
That access is especially important for the SCV senior population, McDonald said.
“As we age, our bodies become less able to self-regulate temperature – and that means that seniors, in particular, are at increased risk for heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and associated death,” he said.
“People 65 and older are actually several times more likely to pass away due to heat-related cardiovascular disease than the rest of the population,” said Christopher Avelino, MD, Chairman of Medicine for Facey Medical Group and SCV Senior Center board member.
“When a younger person walks outside during Santa Clarita’s summers, they may be uncomfortable – but for seniors, extreme heat like the temperatures the SCV experiences can not only lead to dangerous heat-related illnesses but also contribute to strokes and heart attacks,” Avelino said.
“We know that heat is the nation’s leading weather-related problem – but we also know that deaths caused by high temperatures, especially in the senior population, can be prevented with community support,” said SCV Senior Center New Building Campaign Co-chair Peggy Rasmussen.
“The SCV Senior Center has provided respite from heat waves for more than 40 years,” Rasmussen said. “When temperatures climb, the SCV Senior Center is the first responder for our local seniors, providing them with a safe, cool place to wait out the hottest part of the day. While they’re at the Center, many enjoy a healthy, nutritious meal; take a fitness or art class; and visit with friends. The Center staff and volunteers are incredible; they provide all of these services in a space that is limiting.”
Demand will only climb since local studies estimate a dramatic increase in the SCV’s future senior population.
“We need a place to stay out of the heat,” said Maria Lopez, age 60. “It’s just way too hot out there for a lot of us. We need a place to socialize, which is what we have here [at the current Center], but there aren’t places to sit and talk. We need more seating, more space, more rooms for classes, a place to sit and have coffee with our friends. Right now, right after lunch at the Center, we have to go so they can use the space for something else. It will be wonderful to have a new building with a big room to just relax, stay cool in the summer, and talk to our friends.”
“When we experience increased demand like we are now, the need for the new SCV Senior Center building becomes all the more obvious,” McDonald said. “The new building will have dedicated communal space – we’re calling it ‘the living room’ – where seniors can casually relax and take a respite from the weather while developing their social relationships. Instead of having seniors sitting in hallway chairs struggling to hear their conversational partners, we’ll have couches, lounge chairs, tables and plenty of space to be comfortable and stay cool.”
“All of this becomes possible when we conclude our fundraising campaign for the new building,” Rasmussen said. “Right now, we have $1.75 million remaining that needs to be raised before we can break ground. We’ve come so far from the original $11.4 million required and we’re now looking to the community for support to close the gap. Our seniors need to be comfortable, safe and healthy year-round and the new building will play a vital role in achieving that.”
The SCV Senior Center New Building Campaign is currently soliciting donations and community partnerships.
Donations can be made online at www.NewSeniorCenter.com; by writing a check to SCVCOA-Building Fund (Memo: Capital Campaign) and mailing it to 22900 Market Street, Santa Clarita, CA 91321; calling in a credit-card donation to the SCV Senior Center (661-259-9444); or working with Executive Director MacDonald to arrange gifts of stock, securities and more (661-259-9444, extension 123).
Building naming opportunities, commemorative plaques and more are available, and donations are tax-deductible.
About the New SCV Senior Center
The 2.5-acre site of the new SCV Senior Center building can be found on Golden Valley Road in Santa Clarita and will serve SCV’s growing senior population and those who love them. Exciting additions to the new center include an expanded adult day program, a health & wellness center, employment and financial centers; a culinary arts kitchen; multi-purpose rooms; a “living room” with fireplace and socialization area; and much more.