AAI interviewed member Teri Dowling, Chair, Commission on Aging (back row, third from the left). She talks about the Commission’s role, goals and impact; the importance of collaboration, and how to achieve an age-friendly Marin.
What is the Commission on Aging (COA)? How you are involved?
The Marin Commission on Aging is a federally mandated advisory council to provide advice and assistance to the Marin County Board of Supervisors, working closely and in partnership with the staff of the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services, Aging and Adult Services.
It is comprised of 23 persons representing Marin County’s towns, cities, districts and two representatives from the California Senior Legislature.
I was appointed by the Town of Ross to serve on the Commission. I’ve served the past five years as Commissioner and for the last two years as the Chair.
How did you get into this kind of work?
I’ve always been interested in older adults and aging issues. Starting with my grandmother. She was a wonderful influence. During my years as a Peace Corps volunteer, I lived in the home of a kind and interesting older woman in Ghana. While in graduate school, I served on the Berkeley Commission on Aging and the Gray Panthers. I also managed the San Francisco Senior Information and Referral Line for many years. I still work for the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
When the Town of Ross sent out a notice five years ago that there was an opening on the Marin Commission on Aging, I jumped at the chance to get more involved in aging issues in my own county…especially since I am now an older adult.
How does the COA work?
The COA provides information about attitudes, needs and opinions of older adults to the Board of Supervisors and the department of Aging and Adults Services that helps influence policy and planning on behalf of older adults in the county.
The Commissioners who serve on the Commission actively promote the needs of older adults in their communities.
The COA serves as a forum and a strong advocate for the needs of older adults in the county: testifying at town council meetings and at the State Legislature, writing letters of support, organizing and supporting Marin Villages and Age Friendly towns and cities, etc.
The COA provides and works with other organizations to provide information and education that is relevant and critical to the health and well-being of older adults: End of Life seminars, workshops on economic security, and hosting the annual Healthy Aging Symposium.
What are the benefits or successes of the COA?
Please note that both Commissioners and Aging and Adult Services staff worked together to create these successes:
- Record and broadcast the program portion of the monthly Commission on Aging meeting for local government TV and on livelonglivewellmarin.org.
- Established a senior representative on the Mental Health Services Act Advisory Board.
- Conducted a successful county-wide older adults needs assessment in 2015/6 and Live Long Live Well media campaign.
How does the COA directly help our older adults?
We produce four publications a year of the Great Age Newsletter distributed widely through the county, conduct a series of workshop on End of Life issues, and collaborate with the Marin Women’s Commission to provide information to the public about economic security for older adults in Marin.
Tell us about the Live Long, Live Well: Marin County Area Plan for Aging. What are the goals and objectives?
Every four years the Commission and the staff of Aging and Adult Services conduct a county-wide needs assessment and develop an area plan that is approved by the Commission and the Board of Supervisors. Each year, during four years, objectives are developed and approved to help meet the priority and goals of the four-year plan.
The goals for 2017-2020 are:
- Enhance quality of life, safely, and security for older adults
- Support and promote local efforts to create livable communities for all
- Improve visibility and usability of information, services and resources
- Encourage innovative approaches to policy and services though community collaboration and advocacy
The staff’s and commissioners’ influence on the Department of Health and Human Service’s 5-Year Strategic Plan will be critically important in order to address one or more of the five top concerns identified by Marin County’s older adults: dementia, end-of life planning, falls, financial security, and isolation and depression.
Following, tracking and advocating for local, state and federal legislation to support the needs of older adults is critical this year….as it is every year.
Expanding Age Friendly Communities county-wide, is also an important goal.
To read the Area Plan for Aging, click here.
Tell us about your involvement with Aging Action Initiative (AAI):
I heard about Aging Action Initiative through the Director of Aging and Adult Services and presentations made about the work of AAI at Commission meetings. My participation has been limited due to my current responsibilities as Chair for the Commission, but I am looking forward to getting more involved after July, when my term as Chair ends!
How does collaboration help the COA do its work? Specifically, the relationships and partnerships in or out of the AAI network.
The COA has many partnerships with groups and organization in Marin County. Because there are 23 members, each Commissioner representing their own community and interests, the list is extensive. There are also a number of committees and task forces of the Commission which include and encourage people representing other groups and organizations in their membership.
The COA committees and task forces include Housing and Transportation, Health and Nutrition, Planning, Legislative, and Communications.
The strength of the AAI’s collaboration and partnerships will present opportunities we did not have previously. The opportunities for innovation and making a difference for member agencies are extensive. The more agencies in Marin collaborate, the greater the benefit to all older adults in this county.
With so many important and good things to accomplish, through the AAI network we can together join forces and achieve more together than we could every do while working separately.
What is your vision of an age-friendly Marin?
A county where the needs of older adults are integral and essential to the health and wellbeing their community; where neighbors of all ages are concerned and care about each other; where resources and services (housing, food, in-home care, transportation, etc.) are available and affordable to help all older adults live independently in their community for as long as possible.
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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