Transit Options for Older Adults

By Robert Betts, Marin Transit Director of Operations and Planning, and Joanna Huitt, Marin Transit Mobility Planner

Transportation connects us to work, education, medical needs, recreation, social engagement, and other important facets of day to day life. Many of us are fortunate to have the physical and financial means to be selective about how we travel. We may not think about what life would be like for us without the ability to drive, bike, or walk.  

Marin’s population is aging, life expectancy continues to increase, and more residents are considering their mobility options as they age. Fortunately, Marin residents have a wealth of transportation options for older adults offered by public transit, nonprofit, and private agencies.

The local public transit provider, Marin Transit, offers a suite of programs under the Marin Access umbrella of services specifically designed to meet the needs of older adults and persons with disabilities.

ADA paratransit requires proof of disability to use, while many others are available to anyone regardless of disability. These include subsidized taxi programs, on-demand micro transit, community shuttle fixed route services, dial-a-ride, and volunteer driver programs. For information on all of these program, call or email the Marin Access Travel Navigators at 415.454.0902 or travelnavigators@marintransit.org

Marin Transit recognizes that many older adults in Marin have limited financial means, especially those in need of transportation services. To address this challenge, Marin Transit offers riders over 65 a 50 percent discount on all shuttle and fixed route services. The per trip cost for these services is just $1.00. That low fare will take travelers to and from anywhere transit operates in the County. The fare for a door-to-door trip on paratransit is just $2.00, again anywhere in the Countywide service area. Additional subsidies are offered on paratransit for those who qualify as low-income. These low fares have not changed for over 15 years!

Marin Transit staff recognize the need to expand programs, invest in technological advancements, and update fare and eligibility thresholds.  The Board of Directors recently reviewed a draft proposal to revise fare policies and update eligibility criteria for Marin Access programs and the Low-Income Fare Assistance program for seniors and those with disabilities. The proposal includes simplifying eligibility thresholds for most programs to be uniformly age-based (65 and older). 

Other changes affect the low-income fare assistance program with a proposal to expand it to include those who qualify for Medi-Cal and grant riders $20 in ride credits per month for use on any Marin Access services and a free fixed route transit pass.

The final element of the proposal focuses on raising fares over a few years to match the cost of providing services at the premium level of service compared to offerings in the rest of the Bay Area.

On November 4, 2019, the Board of Directors will consider a request to set a public hearing on changes to the fares and to begin a formal public participation process. The Board will consider Board adoption of the final fare change proposal in January 2020.  If approved, new fares and eligibility thresholds will start on July 1, 2020. To learn more about the proposed changes and opportunities to provide comment, please visit www.marintransit.org/farepolicy2019.

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Inform&Connect: The Sunset Years

By Linda Jackson
AAI Program Director

At AAI’s Inform&Connect Basic Resources Academy earlier this month, I was struck that registration was higher than ever. I had thought that after four years, we would have reached most of those working closest with older adults in Marin. But, as a couple of speakers shared with me, Inform&Connect has become part of their agencies’ new employee training! To the academy speakers from the faith, service, public, health, legal, and transportation sectors, congratulations! AAI’s innovative workshop for cross-training and resource sharing is now embedded into the onboarding of the next gen entering the employment sector of services for older adults. 

AAI will have one more Inform&Connect Academy this year, on Tuesday, November 12. Register now!

The focus will be on resources, internal and external, for people who are working with people in their last year(s) of life. As one of the Inform&Connect workgroup members puts it, this Inform&Connext is for those who are bedside with clients who are passing away. 

I am always filled with bittersweet sadness when I think of the moments I was bedside — when I sat with my mother just after she had died and told her how she couldn’t leave me…and when I walked with my uncle as he died while being moved from one hospital room to another. Ram Dass calls it “walking each other home.” As precious as it was to experience the birth of a child, so it was to witness the passing of my mother and her brother. But with a little one, it’s a long process of saying ‘hello!’ as your child grows up. It’s an entirely different process to say ‘good-bye’ to someone you’ve grown close to.

We have some unique sessions planned for our Sunset Years Academy on November 12. For the second year, we’ll participate in a Death Cafe conversation. Death Cafe is a program that, as the website says, “Increases awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.” Marin Interfaith Council will host a panel about spirituality and dying. Speakers will cover helpful legal logistics needed for every client, services available for people staying in their home as long as possible, and residential options for those who want or need to move. The Sunset Years Academy is both a personal and professional gathering about how you can more effectively help a client walk that path home. 

Our Inform&Connect academies are the result of a unique and powerful collaborative network. We value the expertise of people from other sectors working in the same field. New employees of all ages are hungry to meet up and connect with mentors. Long-time employees come to learn about new resources in the community. And people in different sectors are inspired by each other to find new ways to look at their work.

I’m excited to see the new faces in AAI’s Inform&Connect program. I invite you all to join us in advocacy and in AAI’s Convening next spring. Our voice will be stronger with the enthusiasm and energy of new people joining us. Welcome! 

~ Linda

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Inform&Connect Fills Critical Need in Marin

By Fred Silverman
Inform&Connect Workgroup

About a year after the Aging Action Initiative was formed in 2015, the Inform&Connect workgroup came together to design a training about resources for older adults in Marin County. There are many wonderful services available to older adults in Marin, but it was clear that there was no ready way to understand how to provide referrals.

AAI decided to hold a one-day event that would provide basic knowledge about local agencies and the services they offer. The training was aimed at front-line staff and volunteers such as receptionists, information and referral staff, social workers, and others who might be asked about local services. Although all were welcome, the focus was on newer staff and volunteers unfamiliar with the landscape of care in Marin.

The first training was held in February 2016. Approximately 30 attendees spent a jam-packed day learning from local experts about housing, transportation, access to mental health services, opportunities for social interaction, and aging in place. In addition, attendees were led through a self-care exercise to combat burnout. The training was designed to be interactive with time allotted for questions and answers. Facilitators sat at each table to encourage discussions about the materials being presented.

Based on evaluations submitted by the attendees, the training was a huge success. Attendees reported leaving with a much better understanding of the scope of services throughout Marin. In addition, attendees praised the networking parts of the day. Several met face-to-face people they had previously only emailed. These connections were often rated the most valuable outcome of the day.

Based on the positive reviews, AAI decided to continue these workshops. Over the course of the next three years, the training, now called the Inform&Connect Academy, was presented five times, training over a hundred people in Marin’s public agencies, nonprofits and healthcare organizations.

In August 2018, AAI partnered with the Marin Interfaith Council to present a half-day tailored event for spiritual leaders in Marin in conjunction with the Marin Interfaith Council. Similar collaborations with targeted themes are in the works with other agencies that serve specific populations.

Last year, the Inform&Connect program expanded to address a compelling need. A new academy called “85+” was added to delve deeply into services for older adults with a high level of need. Renamed this year to the “Sunset Years,” the academy will explore needs specific to people in the last year(s) of their lives. This training includes a “death cafe” so attendees have a chance to explore in a safe place their own experiences and beliefs about death and dying. Other presentations include information about legal documents, palliative care and hospice, as well as ways to help people age-in-place, including housing options. 

This fall, AAI will present two academies. Register now before they fill up!

Inform&Connect Academy: Basic Resources for Older Adults, Tuesday, October 15 at Homeward Bound in Novato. 

Inform&Connect Academy: The Sunset Years, Tuesday, November 12 at Homeward Bound in Novato. 

Both events are free and include lunch prepared by Homeward Bound’s culinary academy. Looking forward to seeing you there!

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September Highlights

By Linda Jackson
AAI Program Director

September arrived with a potpourri of news to share. Open up your calendar and get ready to sign up, show up, and speak up:

Want to keep up with the Governor’s Master Plan for Aging? 

Governor Newsom ignited us with his call for a statewide plan to address the future of older adults and people with disabilities. A community meeting on September 20 in San Francisco promises to give us a peak at how the plan will be coming together over the next year. You can attend in person (I’m taking the ferry to the Hyatt on the Embarcadero — join me!) or online. Details here.

It’s AAI Academy time!

Calling all frontline staff; city and town safety, recreation, and library personnel; healthcare workers; and community volunteers who work with older people! It’s time to register for AAI’s fall academies about Marin resources for housing, transportation, community, and legal protection. “Basic Services features speakers from agencies and organizations. “The Sunset Years offers training as well as resources for those who work with people in their final year. 

Stop by our JADU Expo at the Marin Senior Fair 

The Marin Senior Fair on Wednesday, October 23, at the Civic Center’s Exhibition Hall will feature AAI’s JADU Expo! A Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (“JADU”) is an inexpensive way for an older homeowner to earn extra income and have the option for a nearby caregiver or companion. Speak with a planner, architect, and contractor to learn how to help your clients make money from their home investment.

Marin Transit is going to change its fares for older people.

Marin’s local transit services includes paratransit, fixed route transit, and a variety of innovative ride programs. Recently, Marin Transit staff announced that they are considering a different fare structure for older people who use. The headline says it all: “Marin Transit Mulls Free Bus Rides for Some Low-Income Riders.” See more information in this newsletter edition about opportunities to learn more and provide feedback on the proposed changes.

AAI’s Advocacy Alliance 

The AAI collaborative’s newest initiative, the Advocacy Alliance, is already having an impact. Marin’s Census 2020 project staff are now aware of how crucial and challenging it will be to count all older people in the county. Mental Health Services Act staff have a deeper appreciation of the mental health needs of older adults, represented by high suicide rates for older men and depression caused by loss and isolation. Elected officials now regularly hear from community members and staff of local agencies about the need for more housing (especially affordable housing) for seniors, caregivers, and healthcare workers. We are being heard!

Detect&Connect

Since the beginning of July, 50 people attended one of this summer’s Detect&Connect workshops in Marin City, Sausalito and San Rafael!  Request information about a free workshop for your staff, volunteers, board members, and/or clients by emailing ellen@agingactioninitiative.org.

Last, but not least: Welcome Ross to the Age-Friendly Network!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is unnamed.pngSuper congratulations to the latest member of Marin’s Age-Friendly community. Nearly all of Marin’s jurisdictions are now in the process of preparing an age-friendly plan. The result of all this planning work is that County supervisors, councilmembers, and city and town managers are becoming aware of the number of older people living in their communities and of the issues facing them as they age in their forever home. Grassroot planning by Marin’s age-friendly activists are going to make the difference so that Marin is a great place to grow old, as well as to work and raise a family. 

Happy September to you! 

~ Linda

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The Troisieme Age

By Linda M. Jackson, Aging Action Initiative Program Director

Last month, while at the Tattered Cover Bookstore at the Denver Union Station, I picked up Ageing: A Very Short Introduction. Rolling in the Amtrak car across the miles of Utah and Nevada, Nancy Pachana’s little book about the physical, mental, social, and economic aspects of aging laid out the field before me. 

The book had me at the first line:

“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” (Swedish proverb)

What a simple way to convey to younger people the mystery about the world they will someday join. It’s a world as distinct as being a high school student, which nearly all of us have been and remember. The difference is that the experience of being older is largely unknown to most people who aren’t working in this field. Hence the ageism, born of fear of the unknown, in the media and elsewhere that we daily endure.  

Pachana wrote about the different phases of life, looking through an international and historical lens. I particularly enjoyed her description of France’s division of life into FOUR distinct phases. As an American, where one is young, middle-aged, or old, the insert of a ‘troisieme age’ — the period after children have been raised — is a compelling concept. It’s a time for learning and enrichment, a time of activity before health challenges and life’s changes catch up with our desire to step out. The University of the Third Age has chapters throughout Europe. 

Many of the older people in Marin are in the troisieme age, travelling, volunteering, enjoying time with family and friends, exploring interests now that they have more time.

I entered the aging field just a few years ago as a planner and community organizer and have been learning the field through the eyes of Marin’s leaders in the ageing sector ever since. We are unpacking the dimensions of ageing in Marin that are entangled in a complex system, laid over a bayfront and hillside landscape, governed by a history of political decisions that affect today the ability of people to grow old well in the place they consider their forever home.

I hope you had a good book to read during a summer interlude. We need these literary journeys into what other people know and imagine so we can better reflect on our work. There is a lot coming up. There will be meetings about California’s new Master Plan on Aging. There will be elections in November and next spring. There will be initiatives that we can’t yet suspect. Let us be ready!

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