Aging in Marin: It’s a Whole New Scene

kate-sears-2016

From Supervisor Kate Sears:

On August 7, the Board of Supervisors voted to approve the submission of the County of Marin’s application to join the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities, and also to join the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities. We are delighted to be launching this Age-Friendly County of Marin Initiative.

Currently, 27 percent of Marin County’s population is 60 and older, with one in three Marin residents are projected to be in that age group by 2030. These demographics underline the importance of making our communities livable for residents of every age and ability by focusing on adequate housing, transportation, safe buildings and outdoor spaces, access to health care and social services, good communication, and opportunities for civic engagement and participation, with inclusion and respect for all.

The Board of Supervisors is committed to advancing the age-friendly movement in Marin County and I hope you will join with us, learn more, be engaged and support the various activities, events, services and programs available through our Age-Friendly programs.

County departments are already implementing age-friendly services and programs. For example, the Parks Department offers regular “Senior Strolls.” The Marin County Free Library brings books to people throughout the county via its mobile library, benefiting those who may be homebound, of advanced age, frail and/or who live in rural and unincorporated areas. Cultural Services, which brings arts and entertainment through offerings at the Marin Center and County Fair, recently curated the “80 Over 80” exhibit of 80 works of art by artists 80 years of age or older. This exhibit, professionally juried, showcased the extraordinary talent of local artists, most of whom were present for lively conversation and appreciation at an opening night reception. The annual County Fair, with the inclusive theme this year “All for One and Fun for All”, offers music, art and activities for all ages.

Celebrating the contributions of older adults, while recognizing that more needs to be done, the Board of Supervisors proclaimed 2018 as the Year of the Older Adult. This proclamation represents the culmination of several initiatives, organizations, community policies, programs and services, described further below, that together form a strong foundation on which to build the Age-Friendly County of Marin Initiative.

The Aging Action Initiative (AAI) – A collective impact endeavor formed to promote an age-friendly environment through education, policy advocacy and service coordination. Representatives from more than 100 local nonprofit, public and private sector organizations participate in the AAI.

The Marin Commission on Aging– A highly engaged 23-member advisory council to the Marin County Board of Supervisors. Its mission is to promote the dignity, independence and quality of life of older adults through advocacy, information, programs and services. Commission members, appointed by each of Marin’s incorporated cities and towns as well as the County, are using their skills and talents to reshape our notions of aging and living long and well. The Commission’s leadership has helped Marin County earn a well-deserved reputation as a national forerunner in the age-friendly movement.

Age-Friendly Cities – Six of Marin’s 11 incorporated cities and towns — Corte Madera, Fairfax, Mill Valley, Novato, San Rafael and Sausalito — are members of the WHO and/or AARP age-friendly networks with Sausalito being the first age-friendly city in Marin and one of the first in California. The other five incorporated cities and towns are exploring or preparing to request membership in the networks. Local age-friendly city leaders have formed the Marin Age-Friendly Network to share ideas, opportunities and best practices, discuss challenges and otherwise support each others efforts.

Marin Villages and Sausalito Village – Marin Villages is an alliance of local villages with one central office that focuses on administration, funding and program development, assisting members from around the county. Sausalito Village offers supportive services and volunteer opportunities, as well as educational, cultural, fitness and social activities to help members live independently and actively in the community. Anticipating the need for mobility, Sausalito Village initiated the Call A Ride for Sausalito Seniors (CARSS) program, giving older adults in the community a network of volunteer drivers to help get them where they need to go.

The Marin County Area Agency on Aging – Planner, funder and advocate for older adults in Marin. More than 20 programs are provided directly or through community-based organizations, including assisted transportation, case management, congregate and home-delivered meals, family caregiver support, and senior center activities.

Community-Based Organizations – Dozens of community-based organizations provide services to older adults, their families and caregivers in Marin, including 15 organizations contracted by the Area Agency on Aging. Together, they form a strong service network for Marin residents.

Join Us! If you find yourself with a little extra time and are interested in learning more about any of these organizations, please call my office at (415)473-7331 and let us help you invest yourself in making Marin an even better place for all ages. These are exciting times for older adults here in Marin and I hope you will join with us.

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Categories: AAI

Complexities of Care

From AAI Program Director Linda Jackson:

linda-jackson-headshot

The light is changing, the sky is full of streaks of clouds, and the leaves are looking ready to call it a day. Fall is here. At AAI, we are getting ready for our 2018 leading-edge workshops all about resources for older people in Marin. The first Inform&Connect workshop, about basic resources for older people, will be Tuesday, October 2, and a second workshop, about resources for people 85+, will be Wednesday, November 7. Both workshops are for anyone who works with older people: front-line staff, volunteers, board members, and community and neighborhood leaders. Both workshops are free, include morning and afternoon sessions, and will be at Homeward Bound in Novato.

Inform&Connect is not just about resources. It’s about meeting colleagues in the field from different sectors. Participants tell us that “networking” is the number one reason they enjoy our workshops. We look forward to seeing you there!

AAI Steering Committee member Michelle Javid is a member of the workgroup that produces the Inform&Connect workshops. In her article this month, we learn about caregiving resources in Marin. I am struck by the complexity of our community’s system of caregiving. The process of finding the right care at the right time is different for each of us, and may include:

  • The joy of caregiving and the reward of being present in a unique time of life. When time together is short or tender, these precious moments can be brilliantly unforgettable. As the novelist Ursula K. Le Guin wrote, “It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
  • The loneliness factor. Feeling isolated can be bad for your health. The recent Economist article “Loneliness: Alone in the Crowd” is a look at the spread of loneliness internationally and at some of the innovations and approaches to alleviate it, such as “social prescribing.” The article even mentions Homeshare, which we have in Marin. Homesharing can “disrupt loneliness” by matching older people with rooms to spare with young people looking for a place to live.
  • The array of caregiving available: IHSS providers, nonprofit support, faith-based community members, private-hire and/or family members. There is no one right approach to care, as we are a diverse population in income, background, and household. With the range of options, entering the world of caregiving is overwhelming at first, comforting once connected to the right assistance, and stressful if help is hard to find. Through our network we can help people know their options that best fit their situation. And if we don’t know, there’s always 415-457-INFO to find out more.
  • The importance of home. Because of the shortage of housing in Marin, many of the people caring for older people in the county have commutes of over an hour each way to their homes in Contra Costa and Sonoma counties. Public agencies, nonprofits and healthcare providers all face challenges in recruiting and retaining caregivers to come work in Marin.

AAI is working on a JADU fair this winter to help homeowners create a junior accessory dwelling unit. A JADU can provide extra income, a companion, or a place for a caregiver. I lived in one as a newlywed. Our landlady was my mother. She lived in the ‘big house.’ We lived in the apartment over the garage. She had a little more income, a lawn mower, and someone to share a cup of tea; we had a built-in dog-sitter and someone to watch the Giants games with at the end of the day. With JADUs across Marin, we can help older people stay in their homes longer!

Each month I attend the Marin’s Commission on Aging meeting, (check out our calendar: first Thursdays at 10am). Last week, the Commission met in Marin City and heard about the importance of storytelling. It is through stories that we learn anew, successfully advocate for change, and remember people and places. Do you want to tell a better story about your mission? Check this out!

In writing this, I think of one caregiver in particular: my brother who is caring for his wife with a variety of difficulties. It’s time to give him another call, to simply say ‘thinking of you.’ Sometimes all we can do is be present, and sometimes that is all that’s needed.

Here’s to a brilliant fall, a bit of rain, and time with the ones we care about.

~ Linda

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Categories: AAI

Religious Leaders’ Gathering

RLG Flyer Aug 2018

In partnership with the Aging Action Initiative, the Marin Interfaith Council will be holding a Religious Leaders’ Gathering on resources and supports for older adults in Marin. All are welcome.

Thursday, August 23, 2018
9am–12:30pm
The Dominican Sisters Gathering Space
1520 Grand Avenue, San Rafael

REGISTER HERE

Feel free to share the flyer below with coworkers, friends, and interested parties. There is no registration fee, just a suggested donation at the door.

RLG Flyer Aug 2018 FINAL

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Finding Happiness in Community

linda-jackson-headshot

From AAI Program Director Linda Jackson:

For many of us, summer is the season of visiting new and favorite places, and seeing old friends and distant family. It’s also the time we head out to open spaces, enjoying the fresh air and green and gold vistas. I’m accompanied by my summer reading, all about happiness.

My research into ‘happiness’ has several roots. As one of the indicators influencing mental health, isolation affects the ability of older people to age successfully in their community. As we get older, many of us will lose someone closest to us: our spouse or partner, friends and neighbors, work colleagues, and family members. People who live in suburban homes find that when they stop driving, it is much more challenging to do necessary outings for food and time with family and friends. Being “in community,” however we individually define that, is essential for our mental health and our happiness.

A second factor is the understanding that community is a privilege not all of us are fortunate enough to have. The news about families arriving to ask for asylum only to be locked up in separate facilities moves one to despair, the opposite of happiness. In Marin, we stand concerned about our immigrant neighbors. Some of Marin’s immigrants are the clients of AAI partners. They are grandparents, worried about their own citizenship and the precarious situations of their family members. Many AAI partners employ immigrants for administrative and professional support in healthcare and care-giving. One of our partners recently contracted with an immigration attorney to provide consultations for their employees. What a benefit to help their workers have information needed for some peace of mind.

The last source of this deep summer dive into ‘happiness’ is from my own roots: my mother’s parents were from Sweden. I have long been intrigued by the comfortable and happy lives of my cousins and others living in northern Europe. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the greatest life satisfaction is in Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, and Finland. Other northern European countries are close behind. (The U.S. ranks #15.)

Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute (yes, there is such a place!), identifies six components to happiness: togetherness, money, health, freedom, trust, and kindness. Our work in AAI aligns well with these components. We value collaboration, compassion, and respect. We advocate for aging-in-community and economic security. We innovate to improve communication across sectors and address inequities.

This month we highlight a facet of life in northern Europe that we enjoy here in Marin, with our abundant open space. As Dr. Lisa Santora explains this month, “a walk outside” is therapy. Even better is a walk in the woods. To be in nature, in natural habitat, breathing fresh air and experiencing a different setting — together this creates well-being, and yes, happiness.

Check out our greatly-expanded Resource webpage this month. You’ll find research done in Marin and beyond about older adults, and about organizations working with diverse populations. For example, and in honor of being outside, see what the County is planning for its parks in its “Inclusive Action Plan”. Bookmark this site, and use it to find pertinent facts for your grant applications and announcements.

I recently was on a unique walk, on a hunt for a grave marker in the enormous and lovely Graceland Cemetery in Chicago. It was just me and three maps (two from the hand-drawn era), wandering the lanes and gravestones, searching in the heat and shade, hiking over the rises and vales of the landscape, for an elusive stone. With what must have been a dozen restarts, and a pursuit that involved crawling under a bush the size of an elephant and brushing off the pine needles to uncover a granite marker in perfect condition after 83 years, I reached a serendipitous ending. There was my Swedish grandfather’s marker.

John Young

I sat there in the silent shade under the branches for a while, sitting with the memories of stories about this man who died ten years before I was born. With some fruit and water and rest, I was ready for the hike back to the entryway, ready to rejoin the vibrancy of urban Chicago. And, yes, I was happy!

Wishing you the same, and hope to see you on the trails ~

 

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Our Families with Memory Loss

Senior Access

By Dana Pepp and Jim Ward

Everyone knows someone with dementia. It is estimated that up to 8,000 adults in Marin County are currently diagnosed with memory loss, and that number is growing rapidly as our population ages.

Luckily, Marin has various supports for families with memory loss: two high-quality adult day programs — Marin Adult Day Health Center and Senior Access — as well as many home care providers, including JFCS, that provide dementia care.

We say “families with memory loss,” because this journey really does affect the whole family, including friends and neighbors. In a recent survey, we asked respondents how many people are affected by their loved one’s memory loss. One caregiver responded: 24. Twenty-four people directly affected by one person’s diagnosis and journey into memory loss!

This journey is really challenging! There are lots of unknowns: daily ups and downs, plenty of stress and loss, but also plenty of laughs. At Senior Access, we support the caregivers by providing daily respite and support groups. We support clients by creating a loving, fun, engaging, social, and stimulating environment. We have created a program and a culture in which love, respect, compassion, and fun are valued.

Senior Access’ day programs as well as other family support services help loved ones age in place for as long as possible. The challenge we often face is that many families wait a long time — too long — to connect with respite and support services. Denial, resistance, and feeling that a loved one isn’t “old enough” or “ready enough” are common refrains. But the sooner families can connect with support services, the better for all involved.

The community-based programs and medical providers in Marin strive to work collaboratively to provide families with a menu of opportunities for loved ones. We meet quarterly to share best practices, build relationships, and streamline referrals. Through the Family Caregiver Support Program, administered by the Alzheimer’s Association, clients are provided free opportunities to try various support services throughout Marin. There are also currently researchers in Marin, including Drs. Bredesen and Ornish, working on lifestyle protocols to prevent and reduce symptoms of dementia.

Next time you speak with a friend, neighbor, or family member who is concerned about memory loss, please encourage them to visit their doctor for a neurological exam. And know that there are plenty of supports in Marin County for families with dementia.

Senior Access is celebrating 45 years supporting families with memory loss in Marin County. Please check out our video and website at www.senioraccess.org.

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