A New Approach to Aging Advocacy

Last month I visited my sister to celebrate her 80th birthday at her home in paradise (Hawaii!). She lives in a well-connected community of friendly ex-pat retirees. Even with the certainty that she has a wide circle of resources around her, it dawned on me on the flight home that I have again joined the universe of people who worry about the health and happiness of someone they love.  

I came home to some satisfying substantial collaborating. AAI has teamed up with the Marin Commission on Aging, Marin Age-Friendly, and Marin’s Area Agency on Aging (a.k.a. “AAA”) for intentional and extensive advocacy for the 71,000 people over 60 in Marin.

In reading Marin Health and Human Services’ recently completed Strategic Plan to Achieve Health and Wellness Equity, many of us were struck that in discussing the health and human service needs of Marin 250,000 residents, there were only two mentions of older people! We enthusiastically endorse the improvement in the outreach, sensitivity, and efficacy of services for people of color. At the same time, we are compelled to speak up about the physical, mental, and emotional health of older people of all backgrounds.

When we look through the lens of aging equity, we see that older people are treated differently, even though aging is something that everyone gets to do. As incomes from social security and pensions shrink and health and housing expenses increase over the years, older people in high-priced Marin face challenging decisions about where to live (some have no choice but their car), what to eat, and how to pay for health care. Combine these with the depression that comes from loneliness that can build up with the loss of families and friends, and we have a list of issues that Health and Human Services should focus on, along with their work to expand staff’s capacity in working with people of different backgrounds.

The new AAI/COA/AF/AAA alliance for advocacy stepped out at a couple of recent Board of Supervisors meetings (see Teri Dowling’s comments in this newsletter). We are all following up on the recent All. Together. Now summit about economic security for older people in Marin. And we are planning AAI’s 2019 Convening on April 30 in Tiburon.

The Convening is our signature event for the year. At our annual gathering, we will reconnect with each other for the next year. We will explore the intersection of equity and ageism. We will learn what’s new from the national American Society on Aging conference. And we will build our skill levels in advocacy for economic security, housing, aging-in-community, and transportation.

A new component this year will be afternoon tracks so people can dive deeper into two of three topics: Inform&Connect about difficult conversations, Age-Friendly Planning, and Economic Security about naming issues and exploring solutions. These sessions will all further our education, innovation, and advocacy work in the next year.

If you want to change the conversation and affect public policy to change practices, if you want to find partners to leverage your work to be more effective, if you want to advocate for policies and programs to improve the lives of older people, then you will want to join us.

If you want to make a difference for the older person in your life, be it a sister, aunt or grandfather, then you will want to be in Tiburon on April 30.

Sign up early to ensure a spot at the table! I look forward to seeing you there.

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