Downsizing to where?

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From Program Director Linda Jackson: 

We decided to downsize this year. Our family home, long an empty nest since our youngest ones flew away, is simply too large for two people. There were rooms we didn’t go into, parts of the yard that we never saw, and decades of stuff that seems to reproduce when we weren’t watching. Most of all, we had a home that deserved to be full with a new, happy family.

The challenge was: Where would we move to in Marin? We wanted a smaller place in a neighborhood where we can walk about, close to restaurants, shops, and the movies. After months of searching, we found what may be be very last new unit in Marin. With little new housing being proposed in Marin, others will find it even more challenging to downsize to a smaller place.

No doubt about it, the process of downsizing is daunting.

It took months of sorting, a moving crew of millennials, and many boxes to give away and donate the things we don’t need anymore. It’s been a sweet good-bye journey, leaving the house we called home the past 28 years. It’s also been great fun to explore our new neighborhood near downtown San Rafael.

I can’t help but wonder how much harder it would be to do this if we were in our 70s or 80s? What options are there for older people in Marin as their lifestyles change? Will there be enough resources for people who want to grow older in their home and community? For those facing dementia or declining health, will they have what they need for safety and companionship?

The question for Marin is: what percentage of residents are going to choose to stay in San Rafael as they grew older? According to a national survey by AARP in 2012, about 90% of older adults intend to stay in their own homes for the next 5 to 10 years.

Have you heard of NORCs, which are a “naturally-occurring retirement community”? The parameters vary in the field, but I like this simple one: if 50 percent of a community’s residents are over 50, then the town is considered a “NORC.” Marin County hasn’t reached NORC status yet, although in 2010 the median age of Marin residents was 44.5, and there were 5,000 more people aged 75 and older than those five and under. There are some Marin places close to having a majority of residents over 50. In Belvedere, 41 percent of its residents were over 50 in 2010. A few communities in Marin have already reached NORCdom, such as the unincorporated community of Dillon Beach, where 62 percent of residents in 2010 were over 50! (You can look up fun census facts at factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/community_facts.xhtml#)

People working with older adults are aware of the issues facing people as they grow older. Will there be housing for others who want to downsize? Will there be enough housing for the people who work in Marin – those who are caregivers, healthcare managers, and homecare experts? What about low-income people who need affordable housing, or people who need extra care, like assisted living or memory care? The recent report Older Adult Housing in Marin: Planning for 2030 estimated that 7,000 of today’s older residents need affordable housing, and that there is a shortfall of hundreds of assisted living and memory care units to meet the 2030 demand.

One small part of the housing solution in Marin is to support, fund, and streamline the process to create more accessory dwelling units. The new units can be for a caregiver, a family member, the homeowner (who can then rent out the main house), or a close-by neighbor, and can provide extra income for the homeowner. In San Rafael, the number of new accessory dwelling units doubled last year, and the city is on track to double that again. We need to do this across Marin!

This month, A.A.I. is working with our partners to ask local Councils and the Board of Supervisors to budget and prioritize funding, support, and streamlining for accessory dwelling units in 2018-19. Join us by talking this month with your elected leaders and challenging them to support this housing option for older people in Marin.

Working together, we can make a difference, starting with a place to call home.

Now, off to unpack some more boxes!

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6th Convening Recap!

MCF 6th Convening

Shirin Vakharia of Marin Community Foundation presents at AAI’s 6th Convening.

From Program Director Linda Jackson:

The highlight of last month was the Aging Action Initiative’s 6th Convening.

We had a full room, dozens of new people, and beaucoup de enthusiasm for the sessions.

Our six Convenings have attracted nearly 500 people. They represent over 130 agencies, nonprofits, and organizations in Marin; 24 agencies have sent three or more people to at least one convening. Our reach is growing because people understand the value of what AAI brings to the work of an age-friendly Marin. Here are some “best parts” comments from this year’s evaluation forms:

  • I was inspired by the four individuals who opened the day. An entertaining and introspective start to the event.
  • So much concern & energy re. making Marin a healthy, secure, safe place to live.
  • Meeting new people; learning about what’s happening in community for seniors and how I can get involved more.
  • Opportunity to network; blend of public, community, and health perspectives.
  • Lens on Aging Equity — questions and discussions at our tables.
  • Reframing aging to be more effective in talking about issues facing older adults.

AAI educates! The morning began with ‘listening in’ to four Marin residents reflect on aging. Read Terri Dowling’s comments on growing older here.

Most of the day was dedicated to learning, thinking, and talking about equity. Laura Eberly of YWCA SF & Marin led two sessions about our own equity-related experiences and perceptions, and about the structure and outlook of our own organizations. You can learn more about the work and offerings of the YWCA at www.ywcasf-marin.org. This history lesson through the eyes of an African American is most insightful: www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw_mRaIHb-M

Shirin Vakharia of Marin Community Foundation moderated a session titled “Bringing Home More than a Tee-Shirt” about the just-concluded national American Society on Aging conference. Not all of us were able to attend the conference in San Francisco, so we brought it back with a panel discussion of highlights and table talks about what people learned. What did we talk about?

  • Livable Communities: housing, transportation, open space
  • Integrated health care models, social determinants of health, and LTSS + CBOs
  • Stigma-resistance and denial and the need to reframe public thinking for acceptance of supports and services for older people
  • “Solo aging” — people without kids who are now without family or spouse support
  • Isolation and health impacts
  • Caregivers: Housing and finding caregivers, workforce/immigration concerns, services in rural communities
  • Hospice/palliative care in home

In addition to equity and the ASA conference, we also talked about ageism and reframing, or revising the way we talk about older people, and the benefits and challenges of growing older.

AAI advocates! The last session of the Convening was all about the four issues we are focusing on this year: housing, aging-in-community, economic security, and transportation. Here are some of the inspirational protest signs made in the afternoon:

  • Work Here. Live Here. Stay Here.
  • End Social Isolation – Visit a Neighbor
  • Reframe our Game to Everyone’s Gain!
  • Livable wages for caregivers now!!!
  • Keep Older People Mobile

AAI promotes service collaboration! The whole day was about this — 74% of attendees reported making at least five new connections and a third of attendees met more than 10 new people.

Thanks to all who came and shared and connected! This is one of the reasons AAI came into being — to make the most of our connections so we can do the most for older people in Marin.

See you around Marin~

P.S. Miss the Convening? Email support@agingactioninitiative.org with your name and organization to request access to panel summaries and presentations.

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A Flash of Lightning

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This existence of ours is as transient as autumn clouds.
To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking
at the movements of a dance.
A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky,
Rushing by, like a torrent down a steep mountain.
-The Buddha
from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, by Sogyal Rinpoche

At the 2018 A.A.I. Convening, Steering Committee member Teri Dowling shared her reflections on these words from Buddha, as part of the “Listening In” at the beginning of the day.
A Flash of Lightning

This year in August, I’ll be 73 years old.

I’m going to retire on June 30 after 44 years of employment with the City and County of San Francisco. This is a happy retirement. I love my job and the people I work with. It feels like a gift to leave this phase of my life on a high note. Looking back, I’m aware of how quickly the time has gone by — like that flash of lightning in the sky. I honestly have few regrets in life and feel so grateful for the many experiences in my past that got me to this place. Last week when I met with the retirement office, I learned that because I have worked for so long, my retirement is calculated based on how much I’ve put into the retirement system and actuarial data — how long I’m expected to live. I looked up the actuarial life data published by Social Security, which says I will live an average of 14.34 years more! A strong reminder that life is much shorter moving forward into this next chapter of life.

I really welcome this next chapter of my life. Right now, my husband Mal and I are in relatively good health and I want to spend more time with him and our family and to be more spontaneous — go to Carmel on a Tuesday for lunch, watch a movie at the theater in the middle of the day, drive to Portland on a whim, fly to Rome to drink coffee at a local cafe. And, as I have always done, I want to try new things, make new friends and stay actively involved in my community. I feel very much alive with energy to spare.

I’m also aware that life is finite. In my 50s I had Stage 2 breast cancer and had to come face to face with my own mortality. The fear of death I felt at that time has faded, but the experience helped me put death in perspective. Now in my 70s, my parents are no longer alive, a few of my friends have serious health issues including memory loss, and a few have died. I know that sickness and death will happen to me and the ones I love, but I honestly don’t think about it often. I think about now and the future, the years I have left, to live my life fully for as long as I am able.

Yes, time seems to speed up now that there is less ahead. Even these last few months at work have been speeding by faster than I ever thought possible. I’m now, at 73 years of age, facing the future with optimism and an openness to new adventures, love, joy, gratitude, the inevitable sadness of loss, and, hopefully, acceptance.

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Register Now for AAI’s 6th Annual Convening!

REGISTER NOW

Join us for the Aging Action Initiative’s 6th Annual Convening on April 3, 2018. We will meet at The Lodge at Tiburon in downtown Tiburon from 9am to 4pm. Representatives from public agencies, nonprofit organizations, and the health sector will gather for a day of education, advocacy, and collaboration as we work together for an age-friendly Marin.

Sessions include:
– AAI 2018: Rallying for Change
– Lens on Aging Equity: Insights for Change
– American Society on Aging Conference: Bringing Home More than a T-shirt
– Advocacy: A Place to Live, Aging in Community, Economic Sustainability, and Transportation
PLUS networking to strengthen our community

Please register by March 28 to reserve your spot!

Lunch included. Coffee and pastries at 8:30am.

Please contact sami@agingactioninitiative.org with any questions.

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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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