Skip to main content
Path: Home | Agency List | Agency Description

Self-Help for the Elderly

Self-Help for the Elderly's mission is to promote the independence, dignity and self-worth of seniors. This is accomplished by empowering seniors to help themselves and by providing a comprehensive range of multicultural and multilingual services. Self-Help for the Elderly is a non-profit community based organization that was founded as a War on Poverty Program in 1966 in San Francisco's Chinatown. Since then the agency has grown to serve over 25,000 seniors annually throughout San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties. Self-Help for the Elderly is a multi-service organization providing programs along a wellness continuum ranging from employment training and social activities for those who are more independent to in-home assistance and residential board and care to those who are more frail.

The Naturalization Program is one of the many programs at Self-Help for the Elderly. It includes sixteen ESL, Citizenship, and Civics Education classes, as well as intensive supportive services related to obtaining citizenship. The program serves approximately 500 Chinese seniors and adults per year. The average age of the students is 65 and half of them have less than seven years of education. With a few exceptions, the majority of the students have never studied English and often their ESL level is too low for them to be accepted into other programs. Therefore The program is tailored to meet the needs of older Chinese adults with little or no formal education. Regardless of these obstacles, over 85% of The students pass the naturalization exam and become United States citizens.

Self-Help for the Elderly considers its Naturalization Program a critical component of the agency. Not only has it assisted older adults to become US citizens, it serves as an opportunity to get them involved in the community. These students, whether citizens or not, have testified at public hearings, participated in rallies, and were instrumental in creating a senior meal site.

The program's success is due to several factors. The students are in the program because they choose to be and therefore they are hard-working and determined to reach their goals. Classes are offered throughout San Francisco and at a variety of times to meet the needs of the students. The instructors have various levels of teaching experience yet all are extremely patient and have the desire to see the students succeed. Not only are they instructors, but they also serve as support systems for the students. Teachers often identify students who need assistance with issues relating to their health, housing, or finances and are able to refer them to other programs within the agency that can meet their social service needs. This ensures that the students are receiving all the support they need, and ultimately this assists them in completing the naturalization process.

The Naturalization Coordinator, Martin Ko, is responsible for curriculum and staff development and student testing and assessment. Additionally he teaches five of the program's sixteen classes traveling daily between two sites. Self-Help for the Elderly has been fortunate to have him as staff for the past eight years. With over twenty years of teaching experience and a master's degree in education he is an asset to the program, assisting many students to become citizens and active members of the community.

Self-Help for the Elderly Web site External link opens in new window or tab.

Success Stories