Election Day Approaches!

Linda headshot new

From AAI Program Director Linda M. Jackson:

This is the month to get ready to vote! There are numberless reasons to do so, beginning with the need to have leaders who will protect the planet’s natural resources that give us life. We also know that last year’s tax cuts will mean budget cuts next year, very likely in fields that are critical in our work of supporting older adults.

What’s at stake is the long-term viability of social security and Medicare, access to health care and affordable prescription drugs, security of pensions, and help for caregivers. We need elected officials who are willing to ask questions, seek solutions, and work together to find the path forward.

Beyond determining budgets and policy, our government officials set the tone for public discourse. September’s events caused many of us to stop in our tracks. Many women, including myself, had the unwanted reminder of moments when we were alone, startled, and attacked. While older women are particularly bolstered by the voices of younger women in the #metoo movement, they may not have access to tools to help them process trauma. Think of Marin’s older women living alone, haunted by these resurrected memories. Often, resources for victims are geared toward younger women, and may use images or language that alienate older clients.

Luckily, you in your work are in a place to help older women understand that assault — whether it took place last month or 50 years ago — was not their fault. How can we help? By being present and listening. Telling a story is healing. If a person wants to talk with a professional, they can call the RAINN sexual assault hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673). The National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life also has resources for victims, professionals, and advocates.

The Aging Action Initiative speaks up to ensure that all the people we work with have the support needed for a healthy, safe, and engaging quality of life. I witnessed the power of showing up and speaking up in the realm of housing just this last month. After a roomful of speakers asked the San Rafael City Council to deny an appeal of their Planning Commission’s approval of assisted living, the councilmembers voted unanimously for the new housing. And after receiving a stack of letters and hearing from half a dozen speakers, the Ross Valley Sanitary District unanimously approved a fee reduction for the affordable senior rental housing Victory Village in Fairfax.

You have a voice. Mail in your ballot or go to the polls on November 6. Call your family and friends in other states and wish them a successful vote day. Vote as if the health of your next year depends on it.

Looking for information on the propositions and elections?

  • The California Alliance for Retired Americans recommends voting yes on Proposition 1 and Proposition  2 for affordable housing.
  • The League of Women Voters is a resource about the process of voting and the propositions and candidates. The Marin LWV recommends voting yes on Measure AA for local transportation funding.

Double check that you’re registered in Marin by visiting www.marincounty.org/depts/rv/voter-registration/register/am-i-registered or calling (415) 499-6456 before October 22.

~Linda

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Religious Leaders’ Gathering

RLG Flyer Aug 2018

In partnership with the Aging Action Initiative, the Marin Interfaith Council will be holding a Religious Leaders’ Gathering on resources and supports for older adults in Marin. All are welcome.

Thursday, August 23, 2018
9am–12:30pm
The Dominican Sisters Gathering Space
1520 Grand Avenue, San Rafael

REGISTER HERE

Feel free to share the flyer below with coworkers, friends, and interested parties. There is no registration fee, just a suggested donation at the door.

RLG Flyer Aug 2018 FINAL

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Finding Happiness in Community

linda-jackson-headshot

From AAI Program Director Linda Jackson:

For many of us, summer is the season of visiting new and favorite places, and seeing old friends and distant family. It’s also the time we head out to open spaces, enjoying the fresh air and green and gold vistas. I’m accompanied by my summer reading, all about happiness.

My research into ‘happiness’ has several roots. As one of the indicators influencing mental health, isolation affects the ability of older people to age successfully in their community. As we get older, many of us will lose someone closest to us: our spouse or partner, friends and neighbors, work colleagues, and family members. People who live in suburban homes find that when they stop driving, it is much more challenging to do necessary outings for food and time with family and friends. Being “in community,” however we individually define that, is essential for our mental health and our happiness.

A second factor is the understanding that community is a privilege not all of us are fortunate enough to have. The news about families arriving to ask for asylum only to be locked up in separate facilities moves one to despair, the opposite of happiness. In Marin, we stand concerned about our immigrant neighbors. Some of Marin’s immigrants are the clients of AAI partners. They are grandparents, worried about their own citizenship and the precarious situations of their family members. Many AAI partners employ immigrants for administrative and professional support in healthcare and care-giving. One of our partners recently contracted with an immigration attorney to provide consultations for their employees. What a benefit to help their workers have information needed for some peace of mind.

The last source of this deep summer dive into ‘happiness’ is from my own roots: my mother’s parents were from Sweden. I have long been intrigued by the comfortable and happy lives of my cousins and others living in northern Europe. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the greatest life satisfaction is in Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, and Finland. Other northern European countries are close behind. (The U.S. ranks #15.)

Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute (yes, there is such a place!), identifies six components to happiness: togetherness, money, health, freedom, trust, and kindness. Our work in AAI aligns well with these components. We value collaboration, compassion, and respect. We advocate for aging-in-community and economic security. We innovate to improve communication across sectors and address inequities.

This month we highlight a facet of life in northern Europe that we enjoy here in Marin, with our abundant open space. As Dr. Lisa Santora explains this month, “a walk outside” is therapy. Even better is a walk in the woods. To be in nature, in natural habitat, breathing fresh air and experiencing a different setting — together this creates well-being, and yes, happiness.

Check out our greatly-expanded Resource webpage this month. You’ll find research done in Marin and beyond about older adults, and about organizations working with diverse populations. For example, and in honor of being outside, see what the County is planning for its parks in its “Inclusive Action Plan”. Bookmark this site, and use it to find pertinent facts for your grant applications and announcements.

I recently was on a unique walk, on a hunt for a grave marker in the enormous and lovely Graceland Cemetery in Chicago. It was just me and three maps (two from the hand-drawn era), wandering the lanes and gravestones, searching in the heat and shade, hiking over the rises and vales of the landscape, for an elusive stone. With what must have been a dozen restarts, and a pursuit that involved crawling under a bush the size of an elephant and brushing off the pine needles to uncover a granite marker in perfect condition after 83 years, I reached a serendipitous ending. There was my Swedish grandfather’s marker.

John Young

I sat there in the silent shade under the branches for a while, sitting with the memories of stories about this man who died ten years before I was born. With some fruit and water and rest, I was ready for the hike back to the entryway, ready to rejoin the vibrancy of urban Chicago. And, yes, I was happy!

Wishing you the same, and hope to see you on the trails ~

 

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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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Our Families with Memory Loss

Senior Access

By Dana Pepp and Jim Ward

Everyone knows someone with dementia. It is estimated that up to 8,000 adults in Marin County are currently diagnosed with memory loss, and that number is growing rapidly as our population ages.

Luckily, Marin has various supports for families with memory loss: two high-quality adult day programs — Marin Adult Day Health Center and Senior Access — as well as many home care providers, including JFCS, that provide dementia care.

We say “families with memory loss,” because this journey really does affect the whole family, including friends and neighbors. In a recent survey, we asked respondents how many people are affected by their loved one’s memory loss. One caregiver responded: 24. Twenty-four people directly affected by one person’s diagnosis and journey into memory loss!

This journey is really challenging! There are lots of unknowns: daily ups and downs, plenty of stress and loss, but also plenty of laughs. At Senior Access, we support the caregivers by providing daily respite and support groups. We support clients by creating a loving, fun, engaging, social, and stimulating environment. We have created a program and a culture in which love, respect, compassion, and fun are valued.

Senior Access’ day programs as well as other family support services help loved ones age in place for as long as possible. The challenge we often face is that many families wait a long time — too long — to connect with respite and support services. Denial, resistance, and feeling that a loved one isn’t “old enough” or “ready enough” are common refrains. But the sooner families can connect with support services, the better for all involved.

The community-based programs and medical providers in Marin strive to work collaboratively to provide families with a menu of opportunities for loved ones. We meet quarterly to share best practices, build relationships, and streamline referrals. Through the Family Caregiver Support Program, administered by the Alzheimer’s Association, clients are provided free opportunities to try various support services throughout Marin. There are also currently researchers in Marin, including Drs. Bredesen and Ornish, working on lifestyle protocols to prevent and reduce symptoms of dementia.

Next time you speak with a friend, neighbor, or family member who is concerned about memory loss, please encourage them to visit their doctor for a neurological exam. And know that there are plenty of supports in Marin County for families with dementia.

Senior Access is celebrating 45 years supporting families with memory loss in Marin County. Please check out our video and website at www.senioraccess.org.

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