Ten things I learned at the Aging in America Conference

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From Program Director Linda Jackson:

Our network was in luck this year: the Aging in America Conference, hosted by the American Society on Aging (ASA), came to San Francisco at the end of March. This full immersion into the world of learning about and advocacy for older people across the United States met all expectations. General sessions covered tantalizing topics such as technology reinventing aging, community-based organizations (CBOs) at the forefront for health interventions, ending senior poverty, and innovations in Alzheimer’s.

Marin had a high profile at the conference. The Aging Action Initiative hosted a peer group discussion on successful approaches to advocacy, education, and service coordination within a collaborative network. Shirin Vakharia of the Marin Community Foundation was one of the five co-chairs on the Conference Leadership Committee and moderator for the “Creating and Sustaining CBO Business Partnerships” session at the Managed Care Academy Boot Camp. A.A.I.’s Steering Committee chair Joe O’Hehir was a highlighted speaker at that Boot Camp. The Buck Institute for Research on Aging sponsored a tour of its I.M. Pei-designed Novato campus. And, Erin McAuliffe of Marin Transit and I volunteered for the world cafe discussions at the Second Annual Summit on Livable Communities, which focused on age-friendly planning.

Here’s my top 10 list of things I heard or learned at the ASA conference:

#10 Over 50% of older people are on Facebook! Older people are increasingly using Facebook to connect with each other and with services, and to learn about opportunities to advocate for change.

#9 The program Silver Sneakers allows eligible adults to access thousands of gyms and fitness classes at no cost. Check it out: www.silversneakers.com.

#8 “We’ve added a decade to our lives, but we are likely to need help in that decade, with more and higher health care costs.” Medical facilities are realizing that when people go home with access to community-based supports, there are fewer readmissions, health care costs go down, and employee satisfaction goes up. As more people grow older in Marin in the next two decades, A.A.I. collaborations can play a pivotal role in ensuring that people can age and die at home, rather than in the ICU or an institution.

#7 “Five percent of the older population are ‘complex patients’ accounting for 58 percent of medical costs.” CBOs need to be mindful in health care partnerships about the time and staff needed to provide services to patients with multiple physical and mental illnesses.

#6 Health = 80% social determinants + 20% genes. Many speakers noted how social determinants of health (poverty, race, immigration status, etc.) are coming of age as a common theme nationwide. This leads us to #5 . . .

#5 “Under the new administration, money is going to tech startups and not CBOs. Funding is going to the disruptors who are not as aware or capable as CBOs in partnering for health care.” Arggh! Keynote speakers pointed out that to reduce emergency room visits, readmissions, and the length of hospital stays, health care institutions need to look for “social practitioners.” CBOs already know about the needs of their communities. They know what it means to be poor, hungry, or an immigrant. The greatest potential today to transform medical care is to partner health care institutions with CBOs and the public sector for more responsive and cost-effective health care.

#4 “Health care happens in the home.” No surprise here: most health care is at home, where people are most comfortable. As I checked out the Exhibition Hall, I came across these fun no-maintenance responsive pets: https://joyforall.hasbro.com. There is a wealth of technological innovations making it possible for people to stay at home for as long as possible.

#3 Alzheimer’s researchers are looking for people for clinical trials. We can help spread the word: https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/clinical-trials

#2 “We are moving from working individually to working collaboratively.” Several speakers celebrated that the recently-adopted budget in Washington included an increase in funding for older Americans, despite an original budget that cut funding. Working together, advocates were able to not just stop cuts to Meals-on-Wheels and others, but to convince elected officials to approve an increase in funding!

#1 We must stop using language that triggers negatives, creates a fear about aging, and repels potential supporters.” The collaborative Reframing Aging project by eight of the leading aging organizations in the U.S. has the goal to reduce ageism through changing public perceptions about growing older. It provides a wealth of resources for you to use in your organization. Check out this online toolkit. At AAI’s 2018 Convening, we introduced ‘reframing,’ and you will hear more from A.A.I. about this transformative approach this year.

I came back to Marin and our lively 2018 Convening on April 3. Over 100 people came this year! We had a lovely day in Tiburon. In this newsletter, we have A.A.I. Steering Committee member Teri Dowling’s inspired reflection on words from Buddha. In case you missed the Convening, here’s your peek into what we talked about: https://www.ted.com/talks/ashton_applewhite_let_s_end_ageism (Ashton Applewhite TED Talk about ageism). I promise that A.A.I. will share more about this transformative approach in upcoming months.

See you around Marin ~

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A Flash of Lightning

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This existence of ours is as transient as autumn clouds.
To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking
at the movements of a dance.
A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky,
Rushing by, like a torrent down a steep mountain.
-The Buddha
from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, by Sogyal Rinpoche

At the 2018 A.A.I. Convening, Steering Committee member Teri Dowling shared her reflections on these words from Buddha, as part of the “Listening In” at the beginning of the day.
A Flash of Lightning

This year in August, I’ll be 73 years old.

I’m going to retire on June 30 after 44 years of employment with the City and County of San Francisco. This is a happy retirement. I love my job and the people I work with. It feels like a gift to leave this phase of my life on a high note. Looking back, I’m aware of how quickly the time has gone by — like that flash of lightning in the sky. I honestly have few regrets in life and feel so grateful for the many experiences in my past that got me to this place. Last week when I met with the retirement office, I learned that because I have worked for so long, my retirement is calculated based on how much I’ve put into the retirement system and actuarial data — how long I’m expected to live. I looked up the actuarial life data published by Social Security, which says I will live an average of 14.34 years more! A strong reminder that life is much shorter moving forward into this next chapter of life.

I really welcome this next chapter of my life. Right now, my husband Mal and I are in relatively good health and I want to spend more time with him and our family and to be more spontaneous — go to Carmel on a Tuesday for lunch, watch a movie at the theater in the middle of the day, drive to Portland on a whim, fly to Rome to drink coffee at a local cafe. And, as I have always done, I want to try new things, make new friends and stay actively involved in my community. I feel very much alive with energy to spare.

I’m also aware that life is finite. In my 50s I had Stage 2 breast cancer and had to come face to face with my own mortality. The fear of death I felt at that time has faded, but the experience helped me put death in perspective. Now in my 70s, my parents are no longer alive, a few of my friends have serious health issues including memory loss, and a few have died. I know that sickness and death will happen to me and the ones I love, but I honestly don’t think about it often. I think about now and the future, the years I have left, to live my life fully for as long as I am able.

Yes, time seems to speed up now that there is less ahead. Even these last few months at work have been speeding by faster than I ever thought possible. I’m now, at 73 years of age, facing the future with optimism and an openness to new adventures, love, joy, gratitude, the inevitable sadness of loss, and, hopefully, acceptance.

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Register Now for AAI’s 6th Annual Convening!

REGISTER NOW

Join us for the Aging Action Initiative’s 6th Annual Convening on April 3, 2018. We will meet at The Lodge at Tiburon in downtown Tiburon from 9am to 4pm. Representatives from public agencies, nonprofit organizations, and the health sector will gather for a day of education, advocacy, and collaboration as we work together for an age-friendly Marin.

Sessions include:
– AAI 2018: Rallying for Change
– Lens on Aging Equity: Insights for Change
– American Society on Aging Conference: Bringing Home More than a T-shirt
– Advocacy: A Place to Live, Aging in Community, Economic Sustainability, and Transportation
PLUS networking to strengthen our community

Please register by March 28 to reserve your spot!

Lunch included. Coffee and pastries at 8:30am.

Please contact sami@agingactioninitiative.org with any questions.

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AAI SPOTLIGHT: Reframing Aging

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Reframing Aging: A New Strategy to Shift Attitudes and Policies

March 1, 2018 | Want to make real progress in promoting active aging? Change the conversation about it. If we experts and advocates strike the right themes and use the right language, we can reach the public in new ways, we can shift attitudes and we can create new policies. This is the conclusion of Frameworks Institute, an award-winning nonprofit comprised of cognitive and social scientists. As the research partner for the Reframing Aging Project, an initiative of Leaders of Aging Organizations, Frameworks has intensively studied how our communications and outreach can drive more informed conversation and policies about aging.

Changing language will change minds

Frameworks is the research partner for the Reframing Aging Project, an initiative of Leaders of Aging Organizations: AARP, the American Federation for Aging Research, the American Geriatrics Society, the American Society on Aging, the Gerontological Society of America, Grantmakers in Aging, the National Council on Aging, and the National Hispanic Council on Aging.

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Frameworks has intensively studied how our communications and outreach can drive more informed conversation and policies about aging. Among Frameworks conclusions: stark disparities divide expert and public views of aging. For example, while experts decry rampant ageism, the public has yet to acknowledge it. Experts regard aging as a continuous process, sometimes difficult, but often rich and rewarding, but the public tendency is to view aging fatalistically, as a period of decline and deterioration.

In viewing aging as something that happens to others rather than to all of us, the public regards aging challenges as matters of personal moral responsibility. If some seniors can run marathons and swim oceans, others older can conquer lesser challenges. By contrast, experts and advocates recognize the social determinants of aging and look to policy changes – new workplace practices, Medicare reform and more—to improve the aging process for everyone.

We should use more neutral phrasing such as “older people”

How can we better align public and expert views? According to Frameworks, changing language will change minds. We should be inclusive in our phrasing, saying things like “as we age” or “what we need when we’re older.”  We should avoid using words like “elderly” or “senior citizen” that reinforce negative stereotypes. Instead, we should use more neutral phrasing, such as “older people.”  In addition, we shouldn’t lead with scary statistics or demographic shifts—the silver tsunami, for example—because these will perpetuate the fatalism and negative perceptions associated with aging.

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To shift attitudes and preferences, we also should embed in our communications several Frameworks—tested “frame elements” or themes. For example, sounding a theme of JUSTICE rather than trying to elicit empathy will more likely move people on issues like social isolation. Using a BUILDING MOMENTUM metaphor will reinforce aging as time of possibility and counteract the negativism perpetuated by military metaphors like fighting or battling aging. Similarly, calling on INGENUITY to address aging challenges will resonate with the spirit of American innovation and agency that has spawned societal solutions in other arenas.

Aging related agencies around the country are working hard to digest and incorporate Frameworks’ guidance. Among them is the Community Living Campaign (CLC), a San Francisco-based nonprofit started by long-time community leaders devoted to making the city world class in its inclusion of seniors and adults with disabilities. CLC recently launched a new program, SF ReServe, which provides older adults and people with disabilities paid, part-time work with nonprofits and public agencies.

Many of us in the field have known for a long time that older people want what we all want: to be respected, to connect, to contribute.

CLC has incorporated Frameworks’ themes of justice, ingenuity and momentum into SF ReServe marketing materials.  For example, to distinguish SF ReServe from just another jobs program or handout, SF ReServe flyers and fact sheets speak to opportunity, using headlines like “Tapping a Reservoir of Talent.” The materials underscore the irony that despite San Francisco’s reputation for social reform and innovation, “many of those (older people) who helped create our vibrant city are unable to find work and make ends meet.” They go on to describe older workers as representing “a vast pool of experience, wisdom, insights and relationships.”

Logo_MYotOACLC’s Executive Director, Marie Jobling, welcomes incorporating Frameworks’ guidance into SF ReServe materials, and, hopefully soon, all of the agency’s communications.  According to Jobling, “many of us in the field have known for a long time that older people want what we all want: to be respected, to connect, to contribute. We’ve been working hard to combat negative images of aging and to call people on their biases, but we’ve needed a more disciplined, effective way to talk about what we do. Frameworks provides potent tools that aging experts and advocates can wield to bring about change.”

You can access Frameworks’ Aging Communications Toolkit here , and to see an example of putting theory into practice, read about SF ReServe here.

–Diane Krantz, Strategic Consultant and AAI Steering Committee Member


Aging Action Initiative (AAI) is a collective effort of more than 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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AAI SPOTLIGHT: 2018 Year of the Older Adult in Marin County

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On January 23, the Marin County Board of Supervisors proclaimed that 2018 is the “Year of the Older Adult”. Given that 27% of Marin’s residents are 60 or older–making Marin the oldest county in the Bay Area–and that this percentage is on track to be 34% in just 13 years, this recognition of older adults is timely.

January 23, 2018 Board of Supervisor Meeting: Agenda item to adopt a resolution proclaiming 2018 the Year of the Older Adult in Marin.
January 23, 2018 Board of Supervisor Meeting: Agenda item to adopt a resolution proclaiming 2018 the Year of the Older Adult in Marin.

Older adults are valued because of their contributions, vitality and wisdom leavened by changing times, circumstances and hard-won experience. Marin’s older adults are active as consultants and volunteers in agencies and organizations across the county. The cultural arts thrive with the creative ventures of older residents, and our local economy benefits.

Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, Joe O’Hehir CEO Whistlestop & AAI Steering Committee Chair, Lee Pullen, Director of Area Agency on Aging/Adult Social Services & AAI Steering Committee; Linda Jackson, AAI Program Director, Salamah Locks Commission on Aging Chair, Jim Monson Commission on Aging, and Supervisor Kate Sears.
Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, Joe O’Hehir CEO Whistlestop & AAI Steering Committee Chair, Lee Pullen, Director of Area Agency on Aging/Adult Social Services & AAI Steering Committee; Linda Jackson, AAI Program Director, Salamah Locks Commission on Aging Chair, Jim Monson Commission on Aging, and Supervisor Kate Sears.

At the same time, the growing population of people 60 and older presents challenges: people can fall down, worry about financial security, experience financial abuse, live in loneliness, or suffer from memory loss. Members of the Aging Action Initiative are drawing together to plan for how to best serve increasing numbers of people with varied needs, financial circumstances, and living situations. The Year of the Older Adult is our chance to focus on the vitality, contributions and challenges of being older in Marin.

What does this mean for your organization?

You can use the Year of the Older Adult logo and goals to highlight your programs and events. You can plan activities aligned with the themes for the months above. You can come to an AAI convening. And, you can attend the workshops and activities of others in the AAI network. We have a lot to learn and celebrate this year.

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The Year of the Older Adult comes with a calendar of activities throughout 2018:

Each month will feature an aspect of the diverse world of being older in Marin

February is Age-Friendly month, recognizing the dynamic work across Marin to create Age-Friendly plans for each of Marin’s 12 jurisdictions:

Age-Friendly Corte Madera Strategic Plan (2017)

Age-Friendly Fairfax Community Assessment and Strategic Action Plan (2017)

Age-Friendly Sausalito Community Action Plan (2016)

Nearly all of Marin’s other cities and towns have started their plans. The highlight in February will be an Age-Friendly presentation on Wednesday, February 28 as part of the monthly meeting of the Marin County Mayors & City Councilmembers. For more information email mccmcsecretary@gmail.com.

Other highlights this year are:

March Civic Engagement with the Commission of Aging on March 1
April Reframing Aging and Equity at AAI’s Spring Convening
May 80 Over 80 Art Exhibition (opens April 18) and Mother Lear (April 24 and May 8) both at the Marin Center
June Outside for All Ages, with Parks and Open Space
July County Fair “All for One; Fun for All”
August “Kick Up Your Heels” fun events across Marin
September Generations Together
October Marin Senior Fair
November/December Policy Summit at AAI’s Fall Convening

Check out the (startup) website, and share your Year of the Older Adult activities.

Affiliated with the year’s activities, AAI will host two convenings. This spring we will come together to talk about ‘reframing’ aging, and define the equity issues for older adults. To wrap up the Year of the Older Adult, AAI will convene a Policy Summit to look at next year. After a year of insight, reflection, celebration and awareness, the community will come together to identify what we must do to ensure that every older resident in Marin has what is needed to live long and live well.

The Year of the Older Adult goals are:

  1. Promote Marin as a great place to grow older.
  2. Bring all ages together to understand and celebrate the social, cultural and economic contributions of Marin’s older adults.
  3. Raise community awareness of ageism affecting the opportunities that an older population brings to Marin.
  4. Align and showcase collaborations between and among neighbors, businesses, government, education and community organizations to expand opportunities for older adults.
  5. Identify new strategies, programs, and resources to support and address the needs of Marin’s older population.

Thanks to the County of Marin for this opportunity to make the most of our collective work for older adults in Marin.


To receive updates on the activities and programs of the Marin Year of the Older Adult, subscribe to the AAI newsletter or visit marinyearoftheolderadult.org.

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