Brandi Orton has dedicated her life to working with elderly people in Los Angeles. She has seen firsthand the challenges this vulnerable community faces and has been working with agencies in the housing, homeless services and health care sectors to earmark the proper funding and programming to better serve this ailing population.

ANNENBERG MEDIA: WHAT IS A GERONTOLOGIST?

Brandi Orton: A gerontologist is someone who specializes in the bio, psycho, social study of aging. We look at the person within their physical body and their health, their mental health and their mind and spirituality. And then we look at the person within their physical environment, their social context. So it's a specialist who specializes in all things aging-related. I got my start in this field because of the relationship that I had with my grandparents and how close I was to them.

ANNENBERG MEDIA: AT WHAT AGE ARE YOU CONSIDERED A SENIOR CITIZEN IN LOS ANGELES?

Brandi Orton: We look at 60 and above as senior. But that number really varies. Sometimes funding dictates what that number is. You have multiple funding sources to provide different services and that funding source will dictate what a senior is whether it's 60, 62, 55, 65. I personally consider a senior really someone who's 50 and over who is beginning to age.

Brandi Orton was inspired to become a gerontologist because of the close-knit relationship she had with her grandparents growing up. (Credit Tracii McGregor/Annenberg Media)
Brandi Orton was inspired to become a gerontologist because of the close-knit relationship she had with her grandparents growing up. (Credit Tracii McGregor/Annenberg Media)

ANNENBERG MEDIA: WHY ARE WE SEEING SUCH A SHARP INCREASE IN ELDERLY HOMELESSNESS IN THIS CITY?

Brandi Orton: We operate three senior centers out of 15 in the city of Los Angeles alone and we're seeing five new seniors a month falling into homelessness just due to affordability. The average income of the person that we serve is twelve hundred dollars a month. How anyone in Los Angeles city can live on twelve hundred dollars a month is just astounding. How are they to provide resources for themselves when the landscape that they're living in is drastically changing but their income isn't? That has never been considered.

ANNENBERG MEDIA: WHAT DO YOU SEE AS SOME POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS TO THIS PROBLEM?

There will never be one solution that will fix this. There's the housing and homelessness issue and then there's the issue of aging and how much education needs to happen within our communities. We are an age denying society. We isolate and keep people from being part of community.

Our policy action team knew that this increase was going to happen. And sadly it needed to happen for government officials to really understand what we've been saying about these older adults who are vulnerable, living on the edge and hidden in society oftentimes.

Reporter: Tracii McGregor