Dear Editor,

My name is Teresa Williams León. I am writing on behalf of my 84-year-old father, a Veteran of the Armed Forces, who served 21 years in the U.S. Air Force and another 20 years afterward as a U.S. Navy civilian. This past Memorial Day we honored those who died serving our country, giving the ultimate sacrifice. There are many Veterans today, those among us who are still living, and should not be forgotten. My father lived in Santa Monica for the past several years and goes to WISE & Healthy Aging in Santa Monica (on 4th street).

I have been an adjunct faculty member at Santa Monica College since 1991 so my family’s ties to the beautiful community of Santa Monica are strong. I write to you today as an advocate for my father and for his peers, as many of our elders do not have access to voice their concerns.

During this difficult period, I understand how budgetarily and economically city councils across our state are having to make tough choices. I am writing to make a strong plea to urge the Council *not* to cut social service programs — especially for our elders/seniors, those like my father.

My father has suffered from major depressive disorder, as a result of his service in the military and sacrifice. One of his joys in life since he can no longer play his beloved softball or drive has been to go to WISE & Healthy Aging in Santa Monica, to participate in their well-planned, well-researched activities, to enjoy their healthy meals, and to dance and sing with the kind and caring staff and other seniors. WISE & Healthy Aging has been an amazing program for those like my father.

Our elders, our seniors and our Veterans have served and contributed to our communities and our society at large. It is no wonder our elders of this generation have been termed,”The Greatest Generation!” My father served in Korea, Japan and Vietnam and has the emotional scars to show for his service. As our elders are growing older and living out the last years and decades of their lives, I strongly believe, we owe it to them to make their lives just a little bit warmer, kinder, and meaningful. That is the *least* we can do. WISE & Healthy Aging is one such program and facility that offers our elders the respect, the kindness, the joy, and the meaningfulness in their lives they so deserve –with sound, solid, well-rounded programming.

As my father has aged, I see this once strong and fearless former Air Force Technical – Sergeant (USAF TSGT) and skillful softball player become more weary, doubtful and scared of the world he lives in. During the Covid-19 pandemic, *all of us* regardless of our age and profession are feeling afraid and experiencing uncertainty, but the most vulnerable among us are feeling this fear, uncertainty and doubt in a more intensified and heightened way. And so having a place like WISE & Healthy Aging is a gift for our elder parents and grandparents. This is why I was compelled to speak out, to ask that there be no cuts to funding programs for our elders and seniors who deserve to spend their remaining time on this earth with care, love, and dignity. Thinking of my father and the other vulnerable elders –especially our Veterans– who are at risk, I cannot stay quiet.

We need to protect these social service programs with ample funding so those doing this work (i.e. care-taking and creating restorative programming for our elders and their well-being) — truly the work of angels– can continue and thrive.

My honest plea is to urge the City Council to “increase” funding and expand programming, not to cut it. However, I understand, the looming economic crisis this pandemic is causing. So, if the Council can not increase the funding for programs for our elders and those who most need it, at the least please keep this funding and programming as is without cutting any of them. I am reminded of the Dalai Lama’s poignant statement, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

Please don’t hurt those like my 84-year-old father by cutting social service funding to programs such as WISE & Healthy Aging. I plead and urge the City Council, at the least, to keep these “safety net” programs funded.

Teresa Williams León, PhD

Adjunct Faculty in Sociology, Santa Monica College

and Professor, Department of Asian American Studies & Department of Central American Studies, College of Humanities, California State University Northridge


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