SALSA Initiative

Successfully Aging and Living in San Antonio (SALSA) is the Area Foundation's latest initiative to create a community where older adults are respected, thrive and enjoy connected lives.


In 2015, using extensive research and conducting more than 50 interviews with community thought leaders, policy makers, and non-profit providers, the Area Foundation explored 14 potential focus areas. Through a process of strategic inquiry, the Area Foundation narrowed its focus to three areas, child welfare, cradle to career, and older adults’ welfare. Bexar County’s anticipated growth of its older adult population—an almost doubling in size in the next 20 years, followed by similar growth rates through the year 2050, provided the impetus to focus the Area Foundation’s next strategic initiative resources on older adult welfare, and created Successfully Aging and Living in San Antonio, or SALSA with the support of its board.

Since that time, a Steering Committee was formed in 2016 to create a governing structure that would shape and inform the strategic direction. Workgroups were also created and met throughout 2017 to focus on developing shared outcomes based on what was learned from older adults’ quality of life desires. Nearly 40 organizations are represented in the structure of the steering committee and workgroups, providing a broad cross-section of community engagement, all focused on older adult needs as this population segment grows substantially. By the end of 2017, a roadmap grounded in Results Based Accountability (RBA) was adopted and will guide the work moving forward.

The Area Foundation, which has intentionally invested time, talent and funding in the progress of this strategic initiative, will now begin integrating the work of SALSA into its seniors’ grant making processes in 2018 and beyond. Reports concerning this work are included below.

Our vision

A community where older adults are respected, thrive and enjoy connected lives. 

Our mission

To transform our community by advancing practices and policies that improve the quality of life of vulnerable older adults in Bexar County. 

Our guiding principles

  • Embrace aging as a gift - Older adults are vital citizens, capable of providing significant contributions to the community and the economy throughout their life. Our work will reflect respect for older adults. 
  • Plan with the older adult – We value the lived experiences of all older adults. Our work will include and engage older adults in our planning, decision-making and implementation processes. 
  • Advocate and ensure equity – Multiple systems in our community can create barriers to equitable outcomes for all older adults. Our work will incorporate an awareness of the positive and negative influences that impact all older adults. 
  • Connect the community – When we collaborate, we are more effective. Our work will coordinate and advocate for, plan, identify, provide, and leverage opportunities and resources across our community. 
  • Improve quality of life – SALSA will make a difference. Our work will have a demonstrable and positive impact on the lives of older adults. 

Summary of Barriers and Solutions to Senior Housing

SALSA, LISC, and Merced Housing Texas commissioned a report of multiple studies and community planning initiatives from sources such as the City of San Antonio, HUD, AARP, and Harvard University. Key findings include: 

  • An "Age-In-Place" strategy is needed to allow older San Antonians to remain in their homes. 
  • The strategy should include approaches for home revitilization and wrap-around social supports.

Download Report

Elders' Summit

In 2016, the San Antonio Area Foundation partnered with the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, University of Incarnate Word, CI: Now, Moriarty Consulting Group and SA2020 to bring together over 100 older adults from across the city. Together they imagined and shared what an age-friendly San Antonio could be. We intend to incorporate their voices into our SALSA initiative and ground our goals in their experiences. Read about their visions in the following report: 

Download the Elders' Summit Report

The Case for Change

Senior population is growing dramatically

The senior population in the San Antonio area is growing dramatically and vulnerable subgroups within it are falling through the cracks.

Currently, there are approximately 315,000 seniors (65 and older) across Bexar and surrounding counties. Two-thirds of this population lives in Bexar County. Bexar County is expecting dramatic growth in its senior population—almost doubling in size in the next 20 years, followed by similar growth rates through at least the year 2050.

Propelling this “silver tsunami” are not only aging local baby boomers with expanding life spans, but also the fact that San Antonio is becoming a desired retirement destination for veterans and others who enjoy its economic prosperity, low-cost of living, cultural amenities and warm climate.

Certain subgroups of seniors face particularly difficult hardships in aging while lacking access to needed resources. They include:

  • Seniors in poverty, especially Hispanic, African-American and immigrant seniors, who are statistically more likely to have low incomes.
  • Seniors age 85+, whose health and financial well being is most at peril.
  • Veteran seniors, who have retired and make up a significant proportion of “Military City USA” and whose health and mental needs may be more complicated due to their service.
  • Rural seniors, who are even more isolated and disconnected than their urban counterparts.

Seniors lack access to necessary services to age successfully

The following is a summary of the pressing needs of seniors in the San Antonio area that surfaced from the San Antonio Area Foundation's in-depth interviews and research.

  1. The medical issues of seniors--including chronic diseases, nutritional deficiencies and falls--are much greater in incidence and more severe than the general population’s.
  2. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to mental health problems—especially depression, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and suicide.
  3. Seniors need to get to medical appointments, stores and socials, but lack transportation to get there.
  4. While desiring financial independence, many seniors fear and face economic insecurity; and with spiraling medical costs and inadequate insurances, they run out of money.
  5. Seniors are targets and victims of elder abuse and fraud.
  6. Seniors need companionship. Social isolation hurts, and can lead to depression and safety risks.
  7. Seniors wish to “age in place,” but many lack adequate housing: low and fixed income seniors in particular struggle with mortgages/rents as well as home maintenance or needed modifications; and when not able to live at home, long-term care options can be cost-prohibitive.
  8. Seniors have caregivers who suffer from burnout-- they are overworked, over-stressed, and make great sacrifices—and they need greater levels of support and respite.  

These needs are not unique to San Antonio—they are problems of many American older adults—yet we found many gaps locally in responding to them:

  • We heard a dire need for more public awareness and education for seniors on how to prevent medical, mental and financial problems.
  • While some direct services do exist, too many seniors are unaware that help is out there or they do not access them due to cost, long wait times, lack of transportation, or lack of motivation or mobility.
  • In terms of isolation, there are also gaps in the provision of community engagement services and senior companionship programs as there are not enough volunteers.
  • Finally, both the public and political will to bring affordable housing options to seniors are beginning to surface in San Antonio.

System-level gaps in leadership, collaboration and funding

There are few organized efforts to draw attention to, to plan for, or to prepare for the impending stress on the systems of health and human services, housing and transportation due to the impending growth of the senior population in the San Antonio area. In almost every interview, we heard that there needs to be more system leadership, coordination and convening in this sector. Our research into philanthropic giving showed a significant funding gap as well: over the last decade, a small amount of funders have engaged in responsive grant making for senior welfare.

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