AAI SPOTLIGHT: Age-Friendly Novato

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AAI interviewed member Michael Hagerty, Ph.D., Professor emeritus at UC Davis and chair of Age-Friendly Novato. He talks about the Age-Friendly movement, the importance of collaboration, and how to achieve an Age-Friendly Marin.

Novato Age Friendly
Novato Age Friendlies with County Supervisor Judy Arnold. From left to right: Michael Hagerty, Judy Arnold, Gloria Dunn-Violin, Beth Livoti, Carol Ann Moore, Marianne York. Not shown: Jean Gunn.

Novato-AF-Logo-1What is the Age-Friendly Novato? How you are involved?
Age-Friendly Novato is part of a network of communities recognized for best practices in providing for the safety, health, and independence of all citizens of all ages. The Age-Friendly best practices are sponsored by the World Health Organization and by AARP in the US.

Age-Friendly planning often focuses on older citizens because of the many challenges and disabilities they have in later life, but we find that the same accommodations can benefit other citizens. For example, curb cuts that help an older citizen in a wheelchair will help a mother with a stroller just as much.

I began working for Age-Friendly Novato a year ago, and have recently chaired the task force.

How did you get into this kind of work?
For many years, I taught psychology at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, specializing in Quality of m-hagerty-headshotLife analysis. I wrote Assessing Quality of Life and Living Conditions to Guide National Policy (2002) with Joachim Vogel and Valerie Møller, about best “quality of life” assessment practices, focusing on European programs and successes. When I decided to retire, I found a wonderful senior community in Novato. As I have gotten to know my neighbors, I started to realize how health and economic issues affected their quality of life. We even lost some long-time residents due to financial and dementia problems. It was hard to see that.

When I first heard about the Age-Friendly movement from former City Councilmember Madeline Kellner, I knew it was something I wanted to bring to Novato. Marianne York, who now serves on the Marin Commission on Aging, recruited Jean Gunn, Beth Livoti, Carol Ann Moore and me to be part of Novato’s Age-Friendly Task Force, and I took over as chair when Madeline joined the Peace Corps. We are now excited that AARP will award Novato their Age-Friendly status at a City Council meeting this month!

What are the benefits of an Age-Friendly Plan?
First, although an Age-Friendly Plan is oriented to improving quality of life for seniors, it is really for all ages. All Age-Friendly plans follow the same basic framework and process developed by the World Health Organization, and implemented in California by AARP.

AgeFriendly8DomainsAs you can see in the graphic, an Age-Friendly plan looks into eight domains, or topics, with policy and program recommendations for a community. It all starts with an assessment. In Novato, I repurposed the County’s recent survey for its Aging Area Plan 2016-202 “Live Long Live Well.” I looked at the responses from around 500 Novato seniors. Task Force member Carol Ann and I also surveyed social workers in Novato to verify the County’s survey. Of the eight domains, there are two top issues for Novato’s seniors: housing and transportation.

The Age-Friendly planning process integrates our local efforts to address all the issues facing seniors. For example, the City of Novato does not manage transit or health programs, but we know that we need to advocate for better transportation and nutrition for seniors – we now have a planning framework for that advocacy.

What are some innovations we can look forward to regarding age-friendly environments?
I’m excited about self-driving cars! These will be a boon for seniors – they’ll be able to go out at night, and not worry about safety with door-to-door rides. I think we’ll start seeing these in five years. Another innovation are accessory dwelling units. Rachel Ginnis of Lilypad is Marin’s primary resource about building and financing accessory, and junior accessory dwelling units. This approach can help seniors stay in their homes, either in the little unit or in the main house. The Marin Housing Authority has a great program to help low-income homeowners keep their homes in repair.

Tell us about your involvement with Aging Action Initiative (AAI):
I first heard of AAI when Shelley Hamilton (CEO of MARINSPACE, the AAI support team) came to the Age-Friendly meetings to let us know about the startup of the Aging Action Initiative. I participated in the AAI Convening this past March and helped with action planning for AAI 2.0.

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How does collaboration help the Age-Friendly Novato do its work? Specifically, the relationships and partnerships in or out of the AAI network.
In Novato, we work with the Margaret Todd Senior Center, Episcopal Senior Services, and Novato Department of Parks, Recreation & Community Services.

Networks are hugely important to us. We have different silos of people trying to help seniors, but they aren’t very coordinated. A very valuable resource is the Marin County Aging and Adult Services Information and Assistance Line 415-457-INFO. This is the one of the best doors to resources in Marin.

Novato has the fourth and most recent Age-Friendly Assessment in Marin. Last March, Novato’s City Council committed to continuous improvement of Age-Friendly services.

In 2013, Sausalito was the first city in the Bay Area to join the network of Age-Friendly communities. Fairfax and Corte Madera have now also finished their plans, and San Rafael and the County of Marin are about to join the network.

We have benefitted so much from the advice of the countywide Age-Friendly community. It’s a great support group! Representatives from Marin Age Friendlies meet at 9:15am the first Thursday of the month—before the Commission on Aging meetings. Anyone interested in pursuing an Age-Friendly plan in their community is welcome to join this support group. There is also a Bay Area network starting up.

The Fairfax Age-Friendly community was instrumental in facilitating the approval of affordable senior housing, and in Novato, we have spoken in favor of senior housing proposed in Marin. This advocacy is needed to help address the need for more senior housing in Marin.

biking-in-novatoThe Aging Action Initiative gives me hope that we can integrate all the senior services across the county.

What is your vision of an Age-Friendly Marin?
My vision is of a Marin that ensures the safety, health and independence of all citizens.


Aging Action Initiative (AAI) is a collective effort of over 65 different agencies, grassroots organizations, commission and neighborhood groups, funded by the County of Marin and coordinated by MARINSPACE, collaborating for an age-friendly environment. For more information visit agingactioninitiative.org or connect with us on Facebook.

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