SAN FRANCISCO: Growing Numbers of Elderly, Homeless Dying Alone
In the "boomtown" of San Francisco, a growing number of residents are dying alone, the New York Times reports. Officials to speculate that a large elderly population and "urban stress" may be responsible for the trend. City officials said that so far this year, 290 people in the city have died alone, compared with 300 similar deaths per year during the previous decade. The phenomenon may be due in part to San Francisco's unique demographics: 19% of the city's population is over age 65, compared with 14% in other major metropolitan areas. Households in the Bay Area also are smaller than other cities, averaging 1.29 individuals each. Another explanation may be the high number of people in the city who have lost their partners to AIDS. But with the economy booming and the area's "surreal, Silicon Valley-fueled housing market," elderly residents also may be dying from "urban stress." Ricardo Hernandez, the public administrator responsible for settling the estates of city residents who die alone, said, "You have a lot of old people worried that they're going to be evicted from the apartment they've lived in for 30 years. We think that at least in some cases this is shortening people's lives." The number of homeless deaths on the streets has risen in recent years as well. Last year, 169 homeless people died on the streets of San Francisco; in 2000, 78 of the 290 people who have died were homeless. The number of homeless deaths, city officials believe, is growing "as affordable housing throughout the San Francisco Bay area becomes harder to find" (Nieves, 6/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.