Senior Spotlight

Senior Spotlight: Self-Help for the Elderly


By Judy Goddess

Self-Help for the Elderly operates three centers on the west side: one in the Richmond District and two in the Sunset District. The largest of their west side programs, the Jackie Chan Senior Center at 5757 Geary Blvd., is open six days a week: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Its longer day allows for a rich menu of programs, from table tennis to Tai Chi, Qi Gong, line dance, singing, arts and crafts, field trips, bingo, card games and karaoke.

line dancing West Portal

Line dancing at the West Portal Senior Center. Courtesy photo.

The two Sunset District centers – the West Portal Senior Center and the South Sunset Senior Center – are only open on weekdays, 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m., and do not offer a Saturday program. During renovations on the West Portal Clubhouse and playgroup, the West Portal Senior Center is meeting at 280 Claremont Blvd. The South Sunset Senior Center meets at 2601 40thAve. Both Sunset centers offer line dancing and exercise classes, games, field trips, music and karaoke.

Self-Help for the Elderly provides meals at many senior centers, including all its own centers. Lunch is available weekdays at all three centers; the Jackie Chan Center also offers dinners during the week, and lunch on Saturday. A $2 donation is requested for each meal, although no one is turned away for an inability to pay.

In addition to meals and onsite programs, participants are encouraged to take advantage of the support services available at the main office. Often, the center managers call when someone seems to be having a difficult time.

John Nguyen, who coordinates the support services, discussed three of their more recent cases.

“Some problems,” he said, “stem from our clients’ limited English skills. One older gentleman suddenly started getting billed for international calling, which he never used. The customer service rep. was so rude, he eventually gave up and continued to pay the bill. Another was harassed by his landlord who wanted him to move. In one case, after a woman with cancer gave her sister temporary power-of-attorney, the sister emptied out her bank account.

“Once we start looking at a problem, we find much more than that initial problem,” Nguyen said.

I visited the West Portal Senior Center this month and spoke with Kelly Wong, the new manager. Wong explained that some seniors attend every day, while others attend only two or three times a week.

“The Monday and Wednesday line dancing classes are our most popular activity – with the exception of lunch, of course,” Wong said.


“Uncle Sam” at the West Portal Senior Center. Courtesy photo.

When I stayed for lunch, Wong seated me at a table with two English-speaking gentlemen, Sam Shum and Benjamin Lee. “Uncle Sam,” as he likes to be called, previously owned the auto repair/gas station on Ocean Avenue. Uncle Sam is a daily attendee, and is, as many people explained to me and as I experienced, “an extremely generous man,” liberally handing out red envelopes. Lee and his wife attend two days a week. Lee, an engineer with Intel before he retired, co-leads some of the line dances. “We come to socialize, and we like to dance. It’s a happy place for seniors, we’re like a family here,” Lee said.

For more information on Self-Help’s westside programs, contact Lance Ma at the Jackie Chan Senior Center, (415) 677-7571.


The Inner Sunset Community Connectors (ISCC) program recently celebrated its one-year anniversary and the launch of its new Tuesday afternoon fitness program. Always Active exercise program is offered by the ISCC on Mondays and Thursdays from 1:30-2:30 p.m., followed by an hour for socializing and scheduled activities, such as arts and crafts and health talks. Two activities share the Tuesday 1:30-2:30 p.m. slot. Chair Yoga is offered on the first and third Tuesday, and Dance for Strength on the second and fourth Tuesday.

The program meets in the community hall of St. Anne of the Sunset. The entrance is on Funston Avenue between Irving and Judah streets. Like all ISCC programs, there is no charge.

Contact Marina Lazzara for more information: 415-524-3922


On Dec. 12, 2019, Senior Power will have a change of venue to celebrate the holidays. Instead of meeting at the Taraval Police Station, the group will meet at 10 a.m. at the Far Out Gallery (FOG), a local art gallery, to view their latest show and hear an art lecture by artist and owner, Anne Herbst. They will then walk down the block for an early lunch at The Sunset’s Best Seafood Restaurant. FOG is located at 3004 Taraval St.; the restaurant is at 3060 Taraval. Both venues are reachable by the L-Taraval streetcar which stops at 40th and Taraval.

Sign up in advance is requested for the lunch and participants are asked to contribute $10. Contact Margaret Graf at (415) 652-4751 or


North East Medical Services (NEMS) recently opened a new medical clinic at 3431 Taraval. The new clinic is staffed by two medical providers and a licensed vocational nurse who can speak Cantonese, Burmese, Mandarin, Taishanese and English. The clinic offers internal medicine, pediatric care, laboratory services, and limited gynecological services. The clinic is open Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. It closes for lunch from noon to 1 p.m.

“We opened this clinic because there was a great need for services on the west side,” explained Jessica Ho, government affairs and community liaison.

The NEMS network of clinics offers comprehensive medical care for people of any age. Because no clinic provides a full menu of services, NEMS provides taxi vouchers and van service for patients needing services from other NEMS clinics. NEMS welcomes patients with medical insurance as well as those without insurance.

“We provide care for people who can’t receive care elsewhere. No one is turned away,” said Ho.

NEMS is one of the largest health care providers serving Asians in the United States.

To make an appointment, call (415) 391-9686 ext. 8150, or stop by your neighborhood clinic. You can find a list of clinics and their hours at:

Judy Goddess is a reporter with SF Senior Beat. For more information, please visit or contact Judy at (415) 759-1994 or by email at





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