Unlikely Collaboration Provides Solution for Marin’s Aging Population

Joe O'Hehir Photo.9.27.16By Joe O’Hehir
CEO, Whistlestop
Chair, Steering Committee, Aging Action Initiative

Several years ago, when Whistlestop set out to develop and build a new healthy aging center with affordable senior housing, little did we know that it would take a strategic collaboration with a multi-billion dollar rare-disease biotech company to make it happen.

In addressing the challenges of the SMART downtown location, Whistlestop embarked on a redevelopment plan for its existing property and site. The redevelopment plan proposed a rebuild of our current location at 930 Tamalpais Avenue (next to the Bettini Transit Center) to include the addition of senior affordable housing units combined with a new, state-of-the-art Active Aging Center. We partnered with Eden Housing, a notable nonprofit housing organization to develop, construct, and manage the housing component of the project. Whistlestop and Eden Housing submitted a formal application to San Rafael’s community development department for the redevelopment project in July 2015.

Unfortunately, our project plan was met with resistance, primarily from a vocal minority group of community members. City officials encouraged us to find a different location in downtown San Rafael for the project. Therefore, in February 2016, BioMarin, Whistlestop, and Eden Housing signed a memorandum of understanding to form a strategic collaboration to work together and develop a co-application for the 999 Third Street property which had been recently purchased by BioMarin.

The result of these two years of collaborative effort was the recent submission of a formal project application on October 5, 2018 for the 999 Third Street property. In the application, BioMarin is proposing to provide a section of the currently vacant lot, on the northwest corner of the property at Third Street and Brooks Street, for the development of a new 18,000 square-foot Whistlestop Healthy Aging Center and Eden Housing’s 67 units of affordable senior housing.

Why is this unlikely strategic collaboration working? Simply put, it’s about mutually beneficial goal alignment. Whistlestop and Eden Housing needed to find a more suitable location to build a modern healthy aging center combined with as many affordable senior housing units as we can build, given the growing community need. BioMarin wants to demonstrate that they are providing an important community benefit and that they are good corporate citizens to the city of San Rafael as they plan to expand and grow their downtown corporate campus.

The moral of this story is to be open minded about choosing collaborative partners. You never know who might be in a position to help your nonprofit organization achieve its mission!


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The Impact of Family Caregiving

MD Head Shot

By Michelle D. Javid, MSW
Manager of Business Development, Seniors at Home-JFCS
Member, Steering Committee, Aging Action Initiative

In the United States today, there are approximately 44 million family members caring for a person who is aging, disabled, or seriously ill, according to the AARP. At some point in our lives, most of us will care for an elderly parent, spouse, partner, or friend. Initially, we feel rewarded and eager to help our loved one, but as the demands of caregiving increase, so do the stress and exhaustion. With a majority of family caregivers juggling paid employment, childcare, and other responsibilities on top of caregiving duties, it is common for family caregivers to be at higher risk for anxiety, depression, and increased use of alcohol or other substances.
As the aging population in Marin increases, we are seeing more families stepping into the caregiver role. The “sandwich generation” refers to middle age adults who provide physical, financial, and emotional care to both their aging parents and their own children. According to a 2013 Pew research report, nearly half of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent aged 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a child age 18 or older.
The demands of balancing work and caregiving duties can have a significant financial impact on family caregivers, especially on women. According to a 2011 study from MetLife and Family Caregiver Alliance, a woman who leaves the workforce to care for an aging parent stands to lose more than $324,000 in wages and benefits over her lifetime. More significantly, with an increase in college-age children living at home and the unbearable costs of in-home care and assisted living, many report bearing financial responsibility for both their children and their aging parent. This can affect their own financial future and well-being.
Luckily, local resources are available to help ease the burden on family caregivers. Here in Marin County, the Family Caregiver Support Program (FCSP) provides grants to eight nonprofit organizations that provide education, support, and respite to family members caring for an aging loved one. With funds provided by the Marin County Aging and Adult Services from the National Family Caregiver Act, FCSP is administered by the Alzheimer’s Association and has proven to be a successful network of reputable organizations working together to coordinate care and provide much-needed support.
Seniors At Home, a division of Jewish Family and Children’s Services, is one of the organizations providing caregiver support through FCSP. We offer a wide range of support for older adults and their family caregivers including respite in-home care, dementia care consultations, care management, counseling, and more.
For more information on the FCSP collaborative and available services downloadable here or you can call Seniors At Home at 415-449-3777 to learn more about our supportive services.

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Collaboration: It Starts With Application Assistance and Ends With Empowering Older Adults

By Michelle Nochisaki
Program Coordinator, Green and Healthy Homes Initiative
Member, Steering Committee, Aging Action Initiative

Older adults are the foundation of our families, and the safety and integrity of their homes is important to them aging well physically, mentally, and emotionally. Far too often, many of the nation’s older adults struggle to stay in their homes simply because they are unable to afford even the simple modifications necessary to avoid injuries, not to mention major health and safety issues that need to be addressed. Even those who are eligible for government or nonprofit home rehab programs often have difficulty finding and applying for the appropriate assistance.

How can we solve this? Collaboratively!

In Baltimore, the combination of an aging population and aging housing stock prompted government, philanthropy, nonprofits, and healthcare providers to join forces. In 2015, Housing Upgrades to Benefit Seniors (HUBS) was formed through grants by the Leonard & Helen R. Stulman Foundation and Hoffberger Family Philanthropies. The grants allowed social workers from five “HUBS,” each geographically assigned to a different part of the city, to provide application assistance for homeowners above the age of 65 seeking home rehabilitation, weatherization, and home safety modifications. Due to the success of the program, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation funded a capital grant with a match from the city of Baltimore, allowing the home repair partners, Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI), Civic Works, Neighborhood Housing Services of Baltimore, and Rebuilding Together Baltimore to provide more extensive services.

“Sometimes we don’t realize how much the little things matter, like a simple handrail,” said Bryan Koerber, housing intervention and services manager, about the work he does through GHHI’s Aging in Place program in Baltimore. “We’re able to provide handrails, motion lights, non-slip carpet treads, and exterior entrance railings to prevent falls, and also incorporate additional funding to install new furnaces. Now they have a working heat source and are able to live in their homes comfortably. When we’re able to deliver more holistic services, we’re able to change lives.”

As a HUBS partner, GHHI utilizes its holistic home assessment to identify slip, trip, and fall risks as well as health hazards and energy inefficiencies. It then braids together local housing programs to provide the necessary interventions for its clients and delivers education materials that promote good medication practices, healthy eating, and regular exercise routines to ensure that the older adults they help receive a holistic approach to achieving a healthy home.

Locally, GHHI Marin, an initiative of Marin Community Foundation, is a network of providers working together to improve the health, safety, and energy efficiency of Marin County homes. With many of its clients being seniors, Age Friendly Sausalito, Community Action Marin, County of Marin: Health and Human Services and Community Development Agency, MCE Clean Energy, Marin City Community Development Corporation, Marin Housing Authority, Marin Center for Independent Living, Strategic Energy Innovations, and Whistlestop make up the collaborative partnership working towards mimicking Baltimore’s collective success.

GHHI Marin is a housing modification program for income eligible applicants. Interested clients can submit a housing form via the Contact page of its website: www.greenhealthyhomesmarin.org.


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Climate Change Inspires Collaborative Action


From AAI Program Director Linda Jackson:

The largest fires ever. The blistering heat. The drought. The rain deluge. The floods.

My cousin writes from Sweden that this summer is the hottest in 200 years. That was not a typo. And the end of summer is still over six weeks away.

This past month, I experienced 100+ degree weather in Portland, Oregon, and drove through the dense smoke of northern California.

While all this is alarming, I am comforted knowing that people from all arenas are addressing the problem. The path of global warming is increasingly documented by scientists of every field. Researchers are exploring carbon sequestration. Most national governments are moving toward the carbon goals set by the Paris Accord. Car companies are developing more efficient vehicles and innovators are creating new batteries. The state of California, the fifth largest economy of the world, is a leader in setting emissions standards. And major world religions, inspired by leaders like Pope Francis, are embracing the imperative to reduce carbon emissions as quickly as possible.

The motto “Think globally, act locally” has never been more meaningful than today. Here in Marin, we have at least a dozen organizations tackling sustainability. We have to save the planet as it is the only ship we have.

In many ways, climate change activism is a model for our work in the Aging Action Initiative. We are building bridges, tunnels and walkways between the silos we work in – between public agencies, nonprofits, and the health sector. We have goals: to share our knowledge and expertise and findings, to advocate for policy changes, to create innovative approaches that change our work for the better.

One of those innovations is an Inform & Connect workshop happening this month. The workshop is the inspiration of the Marin Interfaith Council. It is the first of an Inform & Connect workshop tailored to specific interests, in this case, of Marin faith leaders wanting to answer the call for help from members of their congregations.

Another innovation is highlighted this month’s newsletter: the collaboration behind the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative. Making our homes more energy efficient is vital to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. GGHI is a collaborative effort that intersects safety and energy retrofits to adapt homes for older adults and to make them more energy efficient. The GHHI network shows how much can be achieved when people come together to do something new in a different way.

These summer months are a chance to slow down, look around and think. As the climate crisis shows us, we must come together to create new and more effective solutions to the challenges we see around us. Our work is essential to helping older people sustain their well-being.

We cannot give up. Our future depends on us doing this work.

~ Linda

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Trees: the Best Medicine?

July newsletter pic

By Lisa Santora, MD, MPH

In 2015, I relocated my family from Los Angeles to Marin County for trees. Yes, trees. There were two moments that crystallized my decision to move: watching my son touch his first earthworm when he was 4 years old, and hearing my 3-year old daughter exclaim, “It’s a farm!” when we landed at Philadelphia International Airport. I realized that I couldn’t stay true to my purpose of nurturing a healthy, joyful family in the concrete jungles of LA. My family and I needed nature in our lives.

Nature is scientifically proven to improve our health and well-being. But when most people are diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, their next stop is often the pharmacy. For many of us, the next stop shouldn’t be picking up a new prescription, it should be visiting one of our many parks or open spaces to walk, bike, hike, or shinrin-yoku. Since the 1980s, shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing”, has become the cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japan. Forest bathing has been shown to reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels, lower blood pressure, and moderate nervous system activity. It measurably, objectively and subjectively, improves your health.

The County of Marin strives to make its parks and open spaces accessible for all in Marin. On the first Saturday of every month, Measure A Day, you can enjoy free entry and free parking at all Marin County Parks. Marin County Parks has an Inclusive Access Plan to ensure visitors can use its 16,000 acres of marshland, forests, creeks, and rolling hills according to their own abilities. Now, “other power-driven mobility devices,” like mobility scooters, can be used on trails by individuals with mobility disabilities. Marin County Parks has also partnered with Marin Health and Human Services and community partners, including Marin City Health and Wellness Center, to promote the Parks Prescription Program.

Next time you see Mt. Tam rise majestically before you, think of it as a reminder that it is time to shinrin-yoku.

More resources to help older adults enjoy the outdoors:

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