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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Counties, Cities, Communities: Livable for All Ages

By Lee Pullen, Marin County Aging & Adult Services Director
Jenay Cottrell, Area Agency on Aging Program Manager

When you imagine an age-friendly community, what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s a place that works for residents of every age by providing elements of adequate housing, mobility options, safe outdoor spaces, access to health and social services, good communication, and opportunities for civic engagement and participation, with respect for all its residents.

This is how the World Health Organization and AARP define an age-friendly community. Cities, towns, and counties — and even states — that wish to work toward these quality of life elements can become designated as Age-Friendly Cities and Communities.Ten out of 11 incorporated cities and towns in Marin County have done just this and are in various stages of making their communities more livable for people of all ages.  

To help complete the picture, the County of Marin has also received designation by making a commitment to develop and implement plans within its county departments and for its unincorporated areas to address these factors. Creating an age-friendly County of Marin will not only support current older adult residents, but will help to prepare for the needs of and recognize the contributions of younger generations as they move into older adulthood. 

This past year, an advisory committee consisting of community residents and department leaders from the Department of Public Works, Community Development Agency, Marin County Free Library, Marin County Parks, Cultural Services, Marin Transit, Marin County Fire and the offices of Supervisors Sears and Rodoni has been advising the development of this plan. To date, work has included community-wide surveying, focus groups in unincorporated areas, and interviews with residents and organizational leaders.

With 83 percent reporting they wish to remain living in their own residences and stay in Marin, it’s no surprise that there are concerns for the ability to maintain and afford their current residence, have flexible transportation options, be prepared for natural disasters, and have community connections to reduce social isolation and its adverse effects on health.

All the information collected from the assessment phase is being consolidated as of this writing. Recommendations will come forth in early autumn with an expected report to the Board of Supervisors in late October. In the meantime, if you have questions, please contact Jenay Cottrell, manager of the Area Agency on Aging, at jcottrell@marincounty.org or by phone at 415-473-6947. You can also attend our monthly Commission on Aging meetings where updates are given on what’s happening throughout Marin to be more age-friendly and livable.

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Reflecting on a century of women’s suffrage

By Linda M. Jackson, AAI Program Director

This summer 100 years ago, three states were in a race to be the first to ratify the 19th amendment: Wisconsin (#1), Illinois, and Michigan voted to ratify on June 10, 1919. State support came in over the next year (California ratified in November). The drama continued until August 18, 1920, when the 19th amendment was passed, making women’s suffrage legal in the U.S.

The story of women’s suffrage, led by women working into their 80s, illustrates just how hard change can be. 

Let’s start with the summer of 1848, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902) and a few other ladies decided over tea to host a women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, modeling it after a recent abolitionists’ convention.

Over 300 people attended the convention to consider a “Declaration of Sentiments,” which described the “injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman.” The Declaration of Sentiments statement supporting women’s suffrage passed by a slim margin, just the first of narrow victories in the decades to come.

Susan B. Anthony (1820 – 1906) met Stanton two years later. They became one of American’s sharpest political duos – with Stanton doing the writing and thinking, and Anthony doing the speaking and travelling, a collaboration lasting for the next half century.

Change requires more than just supporters: it requires enough energy to change a system. The women were up against powerful forces. The liquor and brewery interests were fearful of the growing temperance movement, corporate interests were worried about the successes women were having in speaking out about the dismal working conditions for children and women, and the men in power were afraid of the potential electoral power of the black voter.

At the end of the Civil War, Stanton and Anthony were hopeful for universal suffrage when they saw the Republicans’ early draft of the 14th amendment stating that the vote was for “all persons.” When the phrase was changed to “male citizen,” Stanton, Anthony, and Stone protested loudly and bitterly. 

When it became clear that the 14th amendment wasn’t enough to protect the black man’s vote, Congress considered the 15th amendment, which states: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude”.

Stanton pleaded to add “sex” to the list and thus enfranchise everyone. When denied, she and Anthony worked against the 15th amendment, which passed in 1870.

Women supporters of the 15th amendment, devastated by the failure of Stanton and Anthony to back the franchise for black men, formed the American Woman Suffrage Association, which pursued a state-by-state campaign to grant women the right to vote.

Meanwhile, Stanton and Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Association which worked for a constitutional amendment and other social justice changes.

The split in the suffrage leadership was so deep that the coalition would not be reunited for another 30 years. Those were the dark years. Little progress was made on the surface. However, Stanton and Anthony worked into their 80s, building political expertise and a political structure to support essential connections and communications.

By the First World War, the two organizations had reunited. Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947), in her 60s, emerged as leader. She inherited a board of directors of skilled organizers and a political strategy with leadership in each state to track supporters and votes.

And so it came that 100 years ago, in the summer of 1919, the U.S. Senate passed the “Anthony Amendment” by a margin of just four votes. States began debating the ratification of the women’s vote amendment soon after. A year later, the last needed ratification vote came down to the legislators of Tennessee.

The drama of the Tennessee vote included free alcohol plied to opponents of suffrage, assurances that white women would outnumber black voters, and a final successful vote of 49 – 47.

Today, after 70 years of advocacy and another 100 years of voting in the midst of gerrymandering, poll taxes, and literacy tests, let’s celebrate the vision of universal suffrage. Think of how your organization can recognize this vision and what it means for the people we work with every day.

Let us use that vote for a better future for the older people of Marin ~

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