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The Sarah Ralston Foundation Announces Successful Inaugural Year Funding Nonprofits that Serve Philadelphia’s Aging Population

Monday, January 29, 2024

Elders sixty and over represent 20% of Philadelphia’s population – a total of 316,478 aging men and women. Of those, 21% live below the poverty level, 29% don’t have social security, and 50% live alone. Additionally, 30% report ambulatory difficulty, 12% report cognitive difficulty, and 20% report difficulty living independently. These statistics, from the 2022 American Community Survey, illustrate the urgent need for resources and programs that provide care, housing, food support, programming, and advocacy for Philadelphia's elders, allowing them to age safely and with joy and dignity.

The Sarah Ralston Foundation is the first and only charitable foundation in Philadelphia that is solely dedicated to funding nonprofits that serve Philadelphia’s vulnerable elderly population. Spun off from the centuries old Ralston Center in 2023, the Foundation granted a total of $2M to nonprofits in its inaugural year. Their spring grant cycle provided twenty-eight nonprofits with a total of $750,00 in general operating support, and the fall grant cycle funded twenty nonprofits with a total of $1.25M for their innovative projects.

“The funding we provide will bring new energy and focus to the issues that impact older Philadelphians,” said Lynette Killen, Executive Director of The Sarah Ralston Foundation. “It is a demographic category that has traditionally been underfunded and underserved.”

Grantee partners include several nonprofits that specialize in housing support for seniors, ranging from low-cost housing to home repair services. Urban Resources and Development Corporation is one such organization. They connect elderly homeowners with financial resources, along with trustworthy contractors. Because this segment of the population is vulnerable to scams, URDC partners with churches, who have the advantage of being trusted by their parishioners. Together, they help identify elderly homeowners' needs and organize critical repairs. “We had two sisters in their 80’s who were lugging buckets of water up the stairs to flush their toilets,” said Joseph Waldo, Executive Director of URDC. “They paid a deposit to a plumber who then disappeared.” URDC helped them obtain funding from the City and secured a vetted, professional plumber to do the repair work.

Another issue impacting our elderly population is the hazards of loneliness and social isolation. Limited stimulation from the outside world can result in depression, confusion, a decline in general mental health, worsening of pre-existing conditions, a higher risk of falling, dehydration, and hunger. “Individuals who isolate are also more likely to ignore symptoms that need to be addressed by a healthcare provider,” said Killen. Several organizations received funding from The Sarah Ralston Foundation for their work combating this issue. Nonprofit partner, Connectedly (previously SOWN) addresses social isolation by bringing together communities of peers who are socially isolated. One such member, Charity, is part of a group that meets by phone every Monday at 3:00pm to discuss everything from recipes, to family, to health issues. “It gives you a sense of belonging. It gives you a sense that someone cares. Becoming a Connectedly phone group member was one of the greatest things that ever happened to me,” Charity said.

Several nonprofit organizations offer a variety of programming for our elders throughout the city. ARTZ Philadelphia, a General Operating Support Grant recipient is one example. ARTZ Philadelphia is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life and well-being for people living with dementia and their care partners through joyful interactions around arts and culture. They help to build caring, supportive communities that restore and preserve self-esteem and dignity. One program participant, a former physicist in later stages of dementia, enjoyed disassembling things such as unraveling knitted yarn. The activity had meaning for him even if it was something his care community didn’t fully understand. Executive Director Susan Shifrin recalled, “years later, in a program for men and women with advanced dementia, we used the lesson this man taught and asked the group to unravel a knitted swatch of yarn.  One of the tensest, most withdrawn members of the group suddenly grabbed the yarn and started to unwind. Two weeks later he was painting and specifically asking for yellow paint. There is no such thing as someone who is unreachable,” Shifrin said.

“It is an honor to work with these forty-eight organizations that are dedicated to improving the lives of the elderly in Philadelphia. Together with our nonprofit partners, The Sarah Ralston Foundation seeks to improve access to affordable, high-quality care for both mental and physical health, to food and housing, to advocate for their rights, and to prevent social isolation among our elders,” Killen said.

More information the Foundation’s nonprofit partners can be viewed at The application for the spring grant cycle for General Operating Support will open on February 15th and can be found at


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