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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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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AAI SPOTLIGHT: Looking Forward

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jackson headAAI Program Director Linda Jackson shares highlights from Aging Action Initiative’s three-year strategic plan Moving Forward Together.

The AAI strategic plan was a major collaborative effort. At AAI’s Convening in Spring 2017, people did the initial work to define the values we hold dearest in our collective work. They also wrote out initial vision ideas of the network in 2020, and brainstormed actions of how the network can be successful. The planning dialogue continued with key community leaders in retreat late Spring, and again at the July 6th meeting of the Marin Commission on Aging. The AAI Steering Committee approved the final plan in October. The Steering Committee consists of representatives from:

To see a complete list of network participants click here.

The AAI Strategic Plan is built on the foundation of five values:

  1. Collaboration
  2. Equity
  3. Respect
  4. Compassion
  5. Communication

The AAI Strategic Plan contains two key strategies for 2018:

Coordinate and co-sponsor events, programs, and workshops with partner organizations.

A new project for AAI in 2018 will be “2018 Year of the Older Adult”. In January, the Marin Board of Supervisors will kick off a year-long program to promote Marin as a great place to grow older, celebrate the social, cultural and economic contributions of Marin’s older adults, raise community awareness of ageism affecting opportunities for older people, showcase collaborations, and identify new strategies, programs, and resources to support and address the needs of Marin’s older population. We’re looking forward to a year of programs highlighting the best of Marin, and advocating for changes so all in Marin, as the County says, “live long and live well”.

Lead the Countywide age-friendly planning and implementation efforts.

What is an age-friendly world? “Age-friendly” is a term used by the World Health Organization to describe its goals for communities facing demographic changes.

“It is a place that enables people of all ages to actively participate in community activities. It is a place that treats everyone with respect, regardless of their age. It is a place that makes it easy to stay connected to those around you and those you love. It is a place that helps people stay healthy and active even at the oldest ages. And it is a place that helps those who can no longer look after themselves to live with dignity and enjoyment.”

https://extranet.who.int/agefriendlyworld/about-us/

This international initiative helps cities and communities taking steps to address physical and social barriers that persist around the world. In the United States, AARP operates the age-friendly movement under the auspices of the World Health Organization.

The age-friendly movement has arrived in Marin, full speed. In 2018, the County of Marin will begin work on an age-friendly plan for the unincorporated communities and neighborhoods in the County. At the same time, jurisdictions that do not yet have an age-friendly plan will be encouraged to complete their own plans. The early adopters, Sausalito, Corte Madera and Fairfax, are models of what can be achieved through this community-building effort.

In 2018, the Aging Action Initiative will also work on expanding organizational capacity, to better serve as a resource hub and identify service gaps.

We’ll be highlighting four issue areas in our advocacy:

  • Housing (a place to live)
  • Aging-in-Community (at-home resources, social isolation and mental health)
  • Economic security
  • Transportation

The fires in the North Bay have made our own housing crisis all the more urgent. Older renters are losing their long-time homes, the number of seniors who are homeless (“I’ll just live in my car.”) is increasing not just in Marin but around the Bay Area, and caregivers increasingly find the cost of living in Marin unsustainable.

People want to stay at home, but isolation can be an enormous problem when it’s no longer possible to drive. People on Social Security are worried about potential cutbacks, and older people continue to face ageist discrimination.

What is AAI’s vision of the future?

The Aging Action Initiative is an effective organizing network that promotes a healthy, safe and engaging quality of life for all older adults to thrive in Marin County. Comprised of members from the non-profit, government and healthcare sectors, we are proud to represent the diversity of Marin’s older adults. AAI is spearheading an age-friendly Marin through education, policy advocacy, and service coordination, focusing on aging equity issues in Marin County.


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: Emergency Preparedness

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 Marin County CERT Coordinator Maggie Lang shared about emergency preparedness, special considerations for older adults, and how collaboration is everything in her vision for an age-friendly Marin.

Maggie Lang 2015What kind of work do you do?

I am the Coordinator for the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program for the County of Marin and also work with the Get Ready program. CERT is a national program under FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Association) with more than 600,000 CERT-trained emergency volunteers.

In Marin, we have 10 CERT classes a year in five different locations, including Novato, San Rafael, Central Marin, Southern Marin and West Marin. Residents from 14 – 90 years of age take the classes with an average age of 52. Classes are about half men and half women. We partner with local fire departments to put on the CERT classes. The classes cost $45 to cover the cost of class materials. We also offer scholarships.

Triage AreaIn the last few weeks during the Sonoma and Napa County fires, CERTs worked at the Civic Center and Terra Linda High School shelters, assisted Mill Valley staff in a shelter set up at Tam High (which was not needed in the end), and set up and maintained a site at the Strawberry Seminary for fire fighters in Sonoma to come here to rest and breath some clean air.

The Get Ready program started in Tiburon 10 years ago. Get Ready is a free county-sponsored two hour training, facilitated by local fire departments and community volunteers. The Get Ready program teaches people what they need to be prepared to take care of themselves and their families. For more information or to see the class schedule, click here.

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How did you get into this kind of work?

My background is in nursing. I was a nurse practitioner in pediatrics. I started volunteering and teaching first aid classes in my kids’ schools. In 2011, the County received a grant for a countywide training program, so I’ve been coordinator now for almost seven years.

How does someone sign up for CERT classes?

You can find info, classes or contact us through the Ready Marin website. Registration is offered online through PayPal or by printing the registration form and mailing a check for $45.00.

What are the benefits of the CERT and Get Ready programs?

We provide people with information and safety skills for disaster preparedness. It can feel overwhelming – I have three kids, and used to worry about what I needed to have to take care of them for 5-7 days if a disaster occurred. We need to have water stored up first, and camping gear is helpful for people who want to shelter in place.

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Following a disaster and depending on advice from our public safety professionals, residents will either need to stay at home or leave their home for a safer location. If families are able to shelter-in-place at home, they need to have enough supplies of food and water for five to seven days. Before Katrina, it used to be for only three days, but this has been expanded to a week.

Older residents benefit by knowing what to have on hand to be able to take care of themselves for up to a week after a disaster.  For example, they need to have food and water, a first aid kit and medications. They also need extra glasses, batteries for hearing aids and any mobility assistance. We are there for people to reach out about their personal situations, and we help people take advantage of the information resources so that they can be prepared.

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In what ways does your work/organization help our older adults?

Our CERT classes are open to all residents and seniors are welcome. We have had several active 90-year olds take classes! We don’t teach any differently for older residents, and we are able to teach our classes to people that may have limitations.

The sad take-away from the Northern California wildfires is that a number of the people who died were older residents with mobility issues. The speed of the fire and that it occurred at night made it very difficult for people to help each other.

We emphasize that disaster preparedness is about being prepared and about neighbors helping neighbors. Neighbors can check on their older neighbors, give people a ride, or help people who have difficulty getting out.  Firefighters are fighting fires and doing what they can to assist with evacuation but it’s important for older residents to have a plan with family members and neighbors to assist them if necessary. Our Ready Seniors program offers guidelines and resources to help seniors plan and prepare for an emergency.

Please share one of your favorite stories:

I have two stories, both about women who took our CERT classes. They were able to utilize the skills they learned in the classes to put out small fires that would have become big fires if they hadn’t known what to do.

older-adult-putting-out-fireThe first woman told me about a fire that started in a frying pan while she was cooking. She had never used a fire extinguisher before and, because of her CERT training, she was able to use it to put out the fire before it became a larger fire.

Then, during a class last spring, a woman told us about a fire that had started on the hillside behind her house. She grabbed her fire extinguisher, and knew enough to be able to put out the fire. She called the Fire Department, and they came out and said great job!

Both felt empowered enough to understand the situation and used the skills they had learned in the class to put these fires out.

Tell us about your/your organization’s involvement in Aging Action Initiative:

I stay informed through the website and newsletter. I enjoyed reading last month’s newsletter!

Specifically, tell us about your relationships/partnerships in the AAI network:

We work with the whole community! We worked with the Canal Welcome Center to establish a community emergency plan for the Canal neighborhood in San Rafael and Marin City. I personally attended the meetings with the Canal Emergency Preparedness Council and Marin City Disaster Council.

We also work with businesses, such as AutoDesk and Whole Foods, and non-profits such as Senior Access and Mill Valley Village. The members of the AAI network might like know about a business ready program we offer to help them be prepared. It’s called The Marin Business Emergency Readiness Program.

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We have many community partners. A big partnership is with Marin County Medical Reserve Corps, which is a national program. It’s for people trained in medicine, public health, safety, logistics, project management, behavioral health, and other support areas to be part of a response team when needed.

What is your vision of an age-friendly Marin?

An age-friendly Marin is one where neighbors are aware of all the people in their neighborhood and are assisting people who are older. This includes people who may have mobility or language limitations, so they can be recognized and part of the community and not be isolated. An age-friendly Marin is one where neighbors are helping neighbors so everyone is included in everything.


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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